A mobile revolution right at your fingertips

11th February 2000 at 00:00
Maldwyn Pryse is knocked out by the versatility and performance of Psion's latest range of palmtopsI and sees them as a major advance on the old Series 3

Psion has been in the education market since the days of the Series 3 palmtop computers, and I became heavily dependent on its Acorn Pocket Book II to organise my work as a head teacher. The Series 3 was re-specified to suit teaching staff's need and gradually the Series 3s filtered through to pupils, and indeed were offered as an option to all primary schools in Wales as part of the then Welsh Office multimedia portable initiative (WOMPI).

As a result, I was really interested to read of the three latest products from Psion - the Series 5mx, Series 7 and the brand new stylish Revo. Of the three I decided to look at the Revo and the Series 5mx - both were put to the test by myself and colleagues at the Powys LEA pupil and school support team.

We are now at the end of the trial period and are loathe to send the palmtops back. Why? Well, because they are easy to use and offer a practical, cost efficient alternative to a laptop. Indeed, the 5mx became my machine of choice over a laptop, especially during five-hour train trips to London. The two AA batteries that power the 5mx seemed to last forever, and its size and portability are a great asset as it can honestly be described as an office in your pocket.

Both the Revo and 5mx have a fully functioning word processor with standard formatting features, spell-checker and thesaurus. They also have a powerful spreadsheet with a sorting function and different zoom options which can display figures as a graph. Indeed the PC-compatible software included with both machines allows you to exchange files easily with Microsoft, Lotus, WordPerfect and Corel office suites. Many documents, memos and plans were produced during the trial period using the 5mx, and the fact that you could type anywhere, using the dramatically improved keyboard from the Series 3, was a big bonus - you could transfer the file to your PC or print directly from the machine or via a PC using the link provided. Also included with the applications is a drawing and painting package; standard and scientific calculatr; a voice recorder with playback facility; freeform database and a stress relieving game!

As if that was not enough, there is also a useful Agenda and Contacts facility. Agenda is a diary where you can also manage appointments, events, to-do lists and anniversaries. However, the real beauty lies in the ease with which you can synchronise this information between the Psion machines and your PC schedulers. The office can also keep tabs on your whereabouts if the software is loaded on to their machines and linked to the scheduler. Contacts allows you to organise your personal and business contacts enabling you to find, list and sort entries.

Both the Revo and 5mx can also connect to the Internet and send and receive emails using a mobile phone or modem. I preferred the solid feel of the 5mx to the Revo. On the other hand colleagues preferred the Revo because of its smaller size and weight.

To enable students to evaluate the computing options available to them, Psion has been actively targeting higher education students at freshers' fairs at Nottingham and Oxbridge universities this year. During these roadshows, discount schemes have been introduced to help increase the adoption of mobile computing technology. Indeed Nottingham University has now endorsed Psions as an officially approved product and is planning to install Psion's PsiWin PC connectivity software on some PCs to allow students to transfer files easily between the Psion and PC.

Now how about extending that offer to teachers, heads and advisers

Prices vary for both machines. The "normal" High Street price for the Revo is pound;299 and pound;425 for the 5mx. However if you visit the Psion website - www.psion.com - you will probably find links to cheaper retailers. Level 1 Marketing, for example, is a Psion reseller with preferred deals for universities and schools Tel: 0870 242 3344 or email on sales@level1.co.uk

5mx: ONLINE STAR RATING

Suitability for purpose *****

Ease of use *****

Value for money ****

Styling *****

Weight *****

REVO: ONLINE STAR RATING

Suitability for purpose ****

Ease of use ****

Value for money ****

Styling ***

Weight ****


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