I've Got A New Psion 5, I Didn't Realise How Much I'd Missed This Top PDA / Palmtop!
Why? Well, up until now I've been using my trusty 3c 2mb for mobile data entry. Don't get me wrong, it's a great little unit, but the keyboard just isn't as good as on a Psion 5. You can practically touch type on the fives excellent keyboard. No missed keys or mistakes here, I can tell you. Another aspect about the keyboard for me is that I've broken my arm, so I'm doing all my typing with one hand, and the combination of a small but responsive keyboard of the Psion means that I can type one handed quite fast indeed.
For those of you not familiar with Psion PDA's, I'll do a quick recap. Psion are a British company who started off in 1984 with their Organiser and Organiser II. Simple PDA's, the size of old calculators, with limited functionality, nevertheless they were used as Filofax replacements for thousands of happy users. Two things made Psion stand out from other manufacturers at this point that would also ultimately lead to the situation we have today, were established way back then. (That is that Psion no longer make PDA's yet thousands of people still use them.)
The first point is the design of these Pocket PC's. Excellent build quality. I have a Psion II that is still going strong despite being 22 years old. Psion make these devices easy to use, yet with powerful applications that would still not be out of place on modern devices. I'm writing this article on my new Psion 5, using the Word Application. You can apply templates, choose your font and text size, embed images and other documents. It can spell check. If the Word application was installed on your PC you wouldn't really notice the difference to its Microsoft counterpart, and that's only the first of a whole suite of applications that come installed on your Psion. Instant On. When you switch your Psion on, it's ready to use straight away. No waiting for Windows or programmes to load. It's the same when you switch off. So you see that Psion devices were solidly made and did what they were meant too very well.
The second feature of Psions was how incredibly expensive they were to buy new. A Psion 5, like the one I'm writing this article on, would have cost £499, out of reach of most users. Plenty of Psion stalwarts continued to support the brand, but with the markets being flooded with cheap Windows laptops and even cheaper Palm PDA's, Psion's market share collapsed, and with the last hurrah of the Revo and 7 / Netbook, they bowed out of the Pocket PC market for good.
What this all meant was that the users who were really into their Psions kept using them, but importantly, those who moved on to laptops or Palms / Pocket PC's, didn't throw their old Psion's away, would you if you'd spent hundreds of pounds on one?
So this leads us to today's situation. Because of their excellent build quality and powerful applications, Psion's are still a viable alternative to modern devices for what most mobile users need. Plus there is still a supply of quality second hand units coming onto the market as people clear out their lofts and drawers and finally get around to selling their old units.
Phew! Back to this 5 review. The 5 is great for word processing / spreadsheets / diary & to-do management / organising your contacts, simply because of those great applications, how it syncs to your desktop pc, and that great keyboard and screen. Because the 5 runs off ordinary AA's with a button cell for memory back-up, you never have to worry about charging it up. Here's a quick video:
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Bad points? The processor could be faster and the screen have better contrast (buy a 5mx if that's important), but flick the backlight on in poor lighting and that's sorted. All the 5's do have an inherent weakness in the lead that connects the device to the screen, but if it breaks there are companies out there who will repair them for a reasonable fee.
The best recommendation about the five I guess is how I'm using it right now. Typing with one hand, sitting in a comfy chair in our lounge, listening to the radio. When I'm finished I just connect it to my pc and have a Word Document ready to be transferred to this website. No waiting for Windows to open and close. I can pop it in my jacket pocket then use it on the bus, train or plane without lugging around an expensive laptop.
Did I mention how good the keyboard is?
If you haven't tried a Psion 5, get on to eBay and bid for one now. I paid £43 (inc P&P) for this one, and it came with a leather case, pc serial lead and 64mb CF card. You will not be sorry, I promise
Comments / Questions:
i want to buy a Psion but i still need to know more on what the major selling point of this Psion is?
Best keyboard, best software.... but they are obsolete now.
i agree 100 % . i just bought another psion 5 off ebay 2 weeks ago after "upgrading" to a acer n300 pda and bluetooth keyboard.
I have a Dana Wireless for note taking and lots of other things. It has Palm operating system with calendar and all that.
Nice pages and review! I still consider to buy my first Psion mostly for agenda and taking notes/ideas (excellent keyboard and batery life) but wifi connectivity is missing. What about Shapr Zaurus? It has all features as PC (linux) though keyboard size is smaller compared to Psion 5. I read several reviews on Asus Eee which looks great but it has short batery life and I am not sure it is as instant as Psion. What do you think? Rosta.
Good question. Psions are great, but as you say their big weekness is wi-fi connectivity - unless you get a netbook / 7book. I don't know anything about the Sharp so can't comment.
Thank you for your excellent and informative site.
Let me think about this and do a little research over the next couple of days.
Thanks for your prompt reply - looking forward to hearing from you.
Ok, after extensive research and testing on my Psions, I've come to the following conclusions:
1. All Psions, 3c onwards, sync excellently with Outlook in terms of contacts / agenda / to-do's.
2. Series 5 and above Psions are best for transfering documents (MS Word, Excel) between desktop and Psion. Here's the guide.
3. If you want to view / send emails while on the move, Psions are just too complicated and difficult to set up, in terms of Software and hardware, I had a go, and couldn't do it. Here's the failed guide.
My advice? If Gmail is your email client, I'd look at an Iphone. It has the best display and internet browser by far, and Google have created custom web apps to suit its screen - check out this video. Use the iphone to check your mail and the Psions for your agenda / calender / to do's / contacts.
The alternative would be a laptop with a mobile phone / modem card - when they bring one out for the Asus that will be fantastic!
The iphone looks very, very cool though, if expensive, but you can go to the o2 shops and ask for a live demo - tell me how you get on.
Many many thanks for your time - and your informed advice. You refer to the Assus - I assume you mean the Eee PC 4G.However, the EeePC only runs on Linux - is there a way one can sync the email from this Linux OS to Outlook and back again?
Right, lets go back to our original specification:
I need to sync my calendar with Outlook. (And presumably tasks / to-do's)
I need to be able to download my emails from the gmail and then be able to sync both those received and sent back to the gmail account.
I need mainly the ability to use the office functions and PIM instant-on facilities.
I need to be able to sync easily with my PC.
So, we need a device that can sync easily with the PC, has mobile internet / email capability (phone and / or wi-fi) has office applications, will turn on instantly, a keyboard for easy data entry.
I think our best bet will be a Windows-based Pocket PC phone with slide-out keyboard.
I myself have an xda mini s, you can see it here.
These type of devices turn on straight away, sync easily with Outlook, have mini versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint. The keyboards are ok for thumb typing, and because they're also a phone you can access the internet, and email while on the move.
If you access your Google mail via a web browser on a Pocket PC you don't have to worry about all that uploading / downloading and synching of messages - you're accessing them as you would on your desktop in the office. Just set your mobile homepage to your gmail account, and when you turn Pocket Internet Explorer on it'll take you straight to your gmail account.
Now, the tricky bit. Which one to buy? I'm a bit out of touch with the Pocket PC scene, but these devices look good:
But we need a second opinion - so I suggest you check out (and post) on these forums and articles, these guys and gals seem to know what they're talking about:
So there we have it, hopefully some advice that will help you on your way, feel free to ask any more questions.
I'm off for a Turkey Sandwich, hope Christmas went well for you and your familly, sorry we couldn't get the Psions working the way you needed.
Hope you had an enjoyable New Year and all the best to you and your family.
Ok, the NEC 900c looks ok, nice keyboard, touch-screen, etc, but I don't think it will easily give us our most important feature: mobile access to e-mail / internet, plus Pocket Word / Excel are a little limited.
For the right thing my budget is unlimited - that is, bearing in mind that you can pick up a new laptop for a few hundred pounds nowadays, the only problem is that you don't get instant-on I would be prepared to go up to that few hundred if by so doing I would get what I want and need.
After hunting around there isn't really anything that competes with the Psion 7book / Netbook main points:
So we've got some choices to make - but each type of device has some sort of compromise.
I think the Windows Pocket PC (one with a keyboard) could be one option for you, because:
But they are quite expensive and have small screens!
Then there's the sub-compact laptops, but they're stupid money and don't offer much more than a laptop (apart from size).
If there was a Bluetooth Modem card for the Asus eeePC and an Outlook sync tool that would be perfect, but they don't yet either (yet), so that's out!
What would I buy?
If I had that sort of money to spend, and didn't already have a really good laptop with a gsm card (for mobile email / internet access), I'd get one of those and live with the slower start-up time because of the enhanced functionality of having all your office applications with you. I'd buy a nice case, spare battery, etc.
Alternatively I'd wait for someone to produce a gsm card for the Asus eeepc and an Outlook Sync tool - the Windows version of the eee should be out soon, so that looks like a definite possibility.
I wouldn't buy any of the second hand Jornadas / Nec etc, simply because they don't get that good reviews, and the rechargeable batteries are reaching the end of their lives by now, and Laptops are so cheap.
I've probably raised more questions than I've answered, but maybe hang on and look at that eee windows pc, or buy a very nice (fast and small) Laptop.
Thanks a million for your very prompt, concise and HELPFUL response to all of my emails.
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