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My New Psion Five

I've Got A New Psion 5, I Didn't Realise How Much I'd Missed This Top PDA / Palmtop!



Psion 5If you've been following my eBay diary you'll know that I sold my Psion 5's quite a while ago, but to be honest it was a bad idea and I've missed them terribly.

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:

If You Found This Video Useful,
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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.
the computer is unassailable . it is an amazing piece of kit and i could not find a replacement even though i have been looking at everything from pda's to smartphones to umpc's.
it is ahead by a great big leaps aswell , not by small steps. i can name these huge adavantages over anything else, and these are not trivial things but vital things ..
1. keyboard.
the keyboard gets the most praise from anyone for obvious reasons. im a thumb typist and it is perfect. i can get well over 50 wpm. you tap the keys like a real keyboard. its a great size and just a great keyboard.
2. instant on.
when i got my first psion in 2005 i was amazed at this. it just blew my mind that i pressed word and the document was there in 2 seconds. open the case and it turns on , close it , it turns off. stuff you typed a week ago is right there just as you left it so you can continue without having to go through a booting sequence or navigate menus.
 it really helps your work flow . its like the psion just gets out of your way unlike other devices. it doesnt present any needless technological red tape ...really..
3. battery life.
im going on holiday.. put a set AA's in the psion. should be good for a month ..unlike any other pda/phone/umpc . what else can you say
4. price
 i just thought of this while i was writing. i paid £26 the first time round. i gave it away to a friend who broke it , got my second one for £30 .
really... £30... yeah.. £30  ..

Psions rock.

I have a Dana Wireless for note taking and lots of other things.  It has Palm operating system with calendar and all that.
Monochrome screen, however.
Despite that, it is very  usable and syncs faultlessly with my PC.
It's really rugged too and does have WiFi capability which I don't actually need.  I just wanted an organiser and notetaker
I think we can get carried away by the latest (usually pricy) fads.  There is a new fad every day and something we MUST get  :) Freesparrow.

Too right.

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.
The Asus isn't instant on, but it's quick, and an official Windows version is on the horizon. Battery life needs improving, but why not just buy a spare battery?
Ps check out the new Macbook Air - fabulous!

Thank you for your excellent and informative site.
I have a 3a, a 3c plus two working series 7's (one a 7book) and a netBook with a sienna as well
and used to use the 7 and then the netBook for all my PIM and typing requirements until I exchanged my PC from a Win2K to an XP - then the difficulty of syncing using Psiwin 2.3.3 put me off using them as my primary imput machines.
However, my partner and another employee have recently started using a RIM Blackberry and an iMate to keep up to date with their email from our Google email site and I wonder whether I can do the same with the Psions.
In particular 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.
Do you think any of the Psions I have can do the job and do you have any suggestions as to how to set them up?
Do I need to buy a new Psion such as the 5mx to sync with Outlook 2003 and with the gmail website?
Would it be worth my while to sell 2 of the 7's I have and use the money to replace them with a 5mx?
Sorry to ask so many questions but I am really not impressed with the Blackberry nor with the iMate and if I have to be able to communicate then I would LOVE to be able to use the Psions.
One last problem: Which of the Psions can sync to the Calendar of the Outlook or Palm devices?
Looking forward to hearing your opinions and many many thanks for re-firing my enthusiasm for the Psions again just as I was dejected by the short-sighted planning of Psion-Tele? and David Potter in abandoning such a fantastic and enthusiastic user base as us Psioneers!!
BTW, do YOU really think the ASUS Eee Pc is the best replacement for the 7's and netBook? If not, which machine do you consider is a worthy repalcement?
Many thanks for your patience - and get well quick for your arm!!
Seasonal greetings!! Andrew.

Let me think about this and do a little research over the next couple of days.
I use Gmail too,and use outlook 2003 as my email client / contacts / calendar / tasks so I'll see how we can get it all to work together.
I've currently got a II, 3c, Siena, Osaris and 5, so we'll be able to see which ones work best!
Don't sell anything yet! (But you could give me first dibs on one of your 7's - dying to own one and not just borrow a colleagues!)
The Asus is a great sub-compact laptop, its about the only affordable small modern device that comes close to the functionality and usability of a Psion, plus it wireless, and when they release an xp / vista version it'll be unbeatable. (Maybe...)
Merry Christmas to you and your familly and I'll see what answers we can come up with....

Thanks for your prompt reply - looking forward to hearing from you.
Oh, BTW, other than access to my web-based email I don't really browse or use my computers for entertainment - I need mainly the ability to use the office functions and PIM instant-on facilities as well as to set up the Psions for automatic email download (via my cellphone?) and for that reason I need to be able to sync easily with my PC.
A Merry Xmas and a very Happy New Year to you and yours..............

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.
Here's a new guide I've written about syncing Psion with Outlook.

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?
Also, the Psions have the attraction and advantage that they are instant-on - is the Asus Eee PC also instant-on?
Sorry to bother you with these additional enquiries and thank you again in advance.

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.
The above rules out all laptops / sub-compacts because they all take time to boot up.

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.
Get one with wi-fi and it will connect to your local network and access the internet that way too.

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:

http://businessshop.o2.co.uk/phone_detail.aspx?id=118&groupid=4

http://www.t-mobile.co.uk/shop/business/mobile-phones/phones/pay-monthly/t-mobile/mda-vario-iii/overview/

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:

http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/forums/viewforum.php?f=14

http://www.filesaveas.com/pdachoice.html

http://msmobiles.com/news.php/6897.html

http://pdaphonehome.com/forums/pdaphone-get-ask-team/

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.
What do you think about a refurbished NEC 900C (details herewith)?
This is I believe instant-on and will be able to sync with my PC winXP.
Please have a look at these articles and when you have the chance let me know.
http://www.usedhandhelds.com/store/cart.php?m=product_detail&p=9
http://www.hpcfactor.com/reviews/hardware/nec/mp-900c/

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.
Reviews articles of nec 900c
http://www.hpcnec.com/cgi-bin/simpleforum.cgi?fid=12&topic_id=1143847159
http://www.rothberger.net/pages/reviews/me_nec900_english.shtml
Whats your budget so I can get a better idea of where we should be looking?

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.
I am convinced that it is only a matter of time until the form factor of the Psions with their instant-on capability comes back into their own again albeit in a MS OS incarnation.
So obviously the cheaper the better but if its right for the job then price (providing its not over say £1,000) would not scare me away.

After hunting around there isn't really anything that competes with the Psion 7book / Netbook main points:
Instant On.
Great keyboard.
Easy Synching.
Acceptable screen.
Great Battery life.
If someone just sold a Bluetooth GSM modem card to access the e-mail / internet on the move with a mobile phone we'd be laughing... But they don't. Damn!

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:
Easily syncs with Desktop Windows.
Pocket Word, Excel, Ppoint to review and create documents on the go, Tasks / Agenda / Calendar / Contacts / To Do's imported straight from Outlook.
Small, yet with usable keyboard.
Mobile email access, via wi-fi or the phones data connection - check your e-mail anywhere. Using Pocket Internet Explorer check / send googlemail anywhere, and because you're using a browser the mail stays at gmail for others in your organisation to see too.

Good Example:
T-mobile Vario II
http://reviews.cnet.co.uk/handhelds/0,39030064,49283880,00.htm
http://www.coolsmartphone.com/article701.html
http://www.t-mobile.co.uk/shop/business/mobile-phones/phones/pay-monthly/t-mobile/mda-vario-iii/overview/

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.
If I already had a laptop with gsm I'd buy a Windows Pocket PC Phone for the reasons stated previously.

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.
I think I'll take the bottom line and hangon for exactly what I want..
All the best for 2008 (and beyond!!)

No probs.

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