It's not just the new wireless connection that makes the latest Dana an improvement on its first incarnation. WiStat, the network detection software is quite impressive, quickly finding a signal and linking me up to the internet within minutes of opening the box. The DanaWeb browser was easy to use and I was soon checking the news at the BBC. The monochrome, letterbox screen means that graphics lose their colour and you will do more scrolling than usual, but then you wouldn't use this tool if you were looking for images for a montage. This is for quick and easy mobile network access at a price that lets you spread machines more widely.
Its primary use will probably be word processing with the Microsoft Word-compatible AlphaWord. This has all the formatting options necessary for most documents along with a spell-checker and thesaurus. Like Dana's forerunner, the Alphasmart, you can then download to a desktop computer or print directly. Where it differs from its predecessor is in all the other applications available through the incorporation of the Palm operating system. Most common ones are included with over 10,000 others available.
What you'll find bundled are Documents to Go, which handles Microsoft Office files including text, spreadsheets and presentations, Palm Reader for on-screen books, and Sketchy, a simple graphics package. Enough to cope with the basic ICT demands of the classroom. You also get MarkSpace Mail to handle emails and Verichat for instant messaging.
Even if the screen seems a bit cramped and colourless, what this machine offers is breadth in access to the curriculum, local networks and the worldwide web.
Price: pound;309 + VAT (non-wireless Dana is pound;279)
Re-sellers listed at www.alphasmart.co.uk or from
1379 High Road
Whetstone, London N20 9LP
Tel 020 8492 3690
Fax 020 8446 7953
Fitness for purpose ****
Ease of use ****
Value for money ****