Contact Info:

Handspring Bottom Line:

The Price:
  • $200
The Pros:
  • Uses most Visor peripherals
  • Cool-looking casing
  • Fast Lookup in Address Book

The Cons:
  • Design starting to look dated
  • Reversing backlight Ratings*:

*Maximum Rating is FIVE (5) InfoPalms

Handspring Visor Neo Review
By Ed Hardy

The Visor Neo is Handspring's new low-end model. It has a monochrome screen and is basically a slightly updated version of the Visor Deluxe.

The Neo uses essentially the same size and shape casing that Visors have had for years. The advantage of this is it can use all the many, many cases and other accessories that have been designed for the Visor line over the years. The disadvantage is it looks a bit dated.

Handspring has alleviated this a bit by picking some good-looking semi-transparent plastics for the casing. The one I have is called Smoke. You really can see all the internal bits and pieces, especially through the back. The other two colors are red and blue.

The size and weight are decent, just barely small enough to carry in a pants pocket. It isn't really a candidate for the shirt pocket. It fits well in the hand, though it is a bit larger than I like.

The Neo has a decent monochrome screen, especially when you keep in mind that this is a low-end handheld. It offers good contrast and the background isn't too dark. In my opinion, this is the best screen available on a low-end handheld for viewability in a variety of lighting conditions.

However, I was disappointed to see that Handspring is still using the reversing backlight. This means that when the backlight is on, what was black becomes white and vice versa. Actually, what was black becomes blue-green. Anyway, while this works fine in very dark conditions, in dim light the screen is almost unreadable. Fortunately, there are hacks available that stop the reversing and I recommend them highly if you get a Neo.

Springboard Slot
On the top of the Neo is the slot for Springboards, Handspring's hardware expansion format. This allows any one of the over 50 Springboard modules to be plugged in. These include GPS modules, digital cameras, extra memory, and lots more.

The Springboard was the first expansion slot to appear on a Palm OS device, though no longer the only one. Other handheld makers have now taken a page from Handspring's book, though they still lag far behind.

The great strength of Springboards is that they are plug and play. This means that if you pop in, say, the VisorPhone, the application you need to use it will be immediately available without you having to mess around with drivers. You have to give Handspring credit for this, it just works.

The drawback to Springboards is most of the interesting or useful ones are a bit pricey. For example, the Thinmodem-plus 56K modem is $150. The HandyGPS Pro costs $230. A simple 8 MB Flash memory module is $50. Just a couple of Springboards can quickly add up to the cost of the Visor.

The Neo runs the 33 MHz Dragonball VZ processor, the fastest currently available for the Palm OS and more than twice as fast as the one on the Deluxe. It has 8 MB of RAM.

Operating System
One fact about the Neo that has already proved controversial is that it runs Palm OS 3.5.2H3, rather than the latest, OS 4. This is especially surprising in view of the fact that the main purpose of this model is to replace the Visor Deluxe, which still runs OS 3.1H. I put a bit of thought into this and I decided it didn't much matter.

The major new features in OS 4 are support for new hardware, including expansion cards, USB, and 16-bit color. Handspring has had its own expansion card system for years. The USB support that is in OS 4 was actually written by Handspring and is included in their version of OS 3.5. Handspring also wrote the 16-bit color support that is in OS 4 but the point is moot because the Neo doesn't have a color screen.

There are some minor features that OS 3.5 lacks but I don't think they are reason enough to pass on this model.

Like all Handspring models, the Neo lacks Flash ROM, which means the OS can't be upgraded, though patches can be applied. This is another reason why I think Handspring may have passed on OS 4. It is still fairly new and all the wrinkles haven't been ironed out yet. If the Neo had it, fixing the bugs would be much more complicated.

The next major operating system change is going to be the switch to OS 5, and that's really about support for ARM-based processors. At this point, I haven't seen anything about OS 5 for Dragonball-based handhelds.

Fast Lookup
The version of the Address Book that comes on the Neo has Fast Lookup. This allows you to use the hardware buttons to quickly find a name on a long list.

When this is enabled, names can be looked up by using the hard keys to specify if each letter in the name is in the first or second half of the alphabet. For example, to look up the name "Don", you would press the up arrow key to invoke the look-up function, then press the To-Do key to say that the first letter is in the first half of the alphabet, then press the Memo key to say the second letter was in the second half, then press the Memo key again to say the third letter was in the second half of the alphabet. Theoretically, this should give you a list of all the people whose name is "Don". It will also give you everyone whose name is "Ann" because that name also fits those criteria.

The process works the same for looking up last names except that you use the Date Book and Address Book buttons. You can combine looking up first and last names, too, so you can specify the first three letters of the last name and the first two letters of the first.

In practice, this works surprisingly well. I have a hundred or so names in my address book and, after a bit of practice, I can find a specific one quickly. It's really handy when you're standing with your handheld in one hand and your mobile phone in the other to not have to pull out the stylus to get the number you want to call.

The Neo runs off AAAs; It doesn't have a rechargeable internal battery. With its monochrome screen, it draws relatively little power, leading to long battery life. It is nice knowing that a new pair of batteries means you won't need to worry about running low for weeks.

I know some people prefer rechargeables but I'm OK with off-the-shelf batteries. Worrying about bringing a recharger on trips is a bit of a hassle, while you can buy AAAs almost everywhere.

On the front, under the screen, are the standard hardware buttons. These are silver plastic. The Up and Down buttons are separate and shaped like half circles. None of these seems to be unusually hard or easy to push.

The Neo has the same clip-on cover that's familiar to Visor users. I have to admit that I've never been a fan of the Visor's cover. It can clip on either the front or back and gives the serial port a bit of protection, both of which I like, but having to manually unclip it and then clip it back on is a bit of a hassle. I prefer a flip cover of one kind or another.

The included stylus could be the poster child for what a good stylus should be. It has a reflective silver metal shaft with a plastic top and tip. Unscrew the tip and you see a reset pin. Unscrew the top and you find a small screwdriver that lets you disassemble the casing. I can't think of another stylus that has that.

People have somehow come up with the idea that the Neo doesn't come with a cradle. This just isn't true. The cradle is completely clear, which is slick looking. I like it.

It uses a USB connector. Like I said before, Handspring actually wrote the USB code that is in OS 4 and included it in their versions of OS 3.

Below the buttons, on the left, is the microphone. As far as I know, this can only be used by Springboards. I've never heard of any applications that made use of it. You need it if you are going to get a VisorPhone, though.

On the left side is the infrared port. It's there because just about the whole top is taken up with the Springboard slot.

In addition to the standard Date Book, the Pro has Date Book+, an enhanced version that includes some extra features, like an improved weekly view, a yearly view, and a list view.

The Neo is a decent low-end model. At $200 it is a bit more expensive than its competition, though. If you aren't interested in some of the new bells and whistles, the Visor Deluxe is just $130 now. However, those bells and whistles are nice and so is the faster processor and cool semi-transparent casing.

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huggy @ 12/3/2001 1:13:12 PM #
first of all, I found no differences with Visor Deluxe apart from the casing and cradle color and the OS version...

Long ago I saw a thread in the forums asking for apps that could run the microphone, but I didn't know by then, so I'll post it here:
It's impossible to run an app that uses the microphone because there's no connection; The microphone is not connected to the Visor motherboard. There's a direct link to the springboard slot, so that only a springboard can use it.

-------------- huggy ---------------

RE: microphone
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/3/2001 1:22:36 PM #
The 33mhz processor is probably the biggest difference.

I think it's inaccurate to compare this model to the Visor Deluxe, because what it really is is simply a Visor Platinum repackaged in translucent plastic.

Oh, and it has the "Fast Look-Up" feature.

RE: microphone
huggy @ 12/3/2001 1:29:17 PM #
you, I forgot the 33MHz :)

As for the fast lookup, anyone had success in there? I really found it SLOW! I have about 400 contacts in my adress book... and I think the best way to find one is just typing the first two letters... Well, I'm good at that because I play the guitar and have long nails, so I don't have to take the stylus out just for a couple of letters... :-D!!!

-------------- huggy ---------------

O god ........

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/3/2001 2:13:12 PM #
I don't like transparent cases, I rather they use a black case. They are making my old PalmPilot Pro look great ...

Springboard support!

skoty @ 12/3/2001 2:50:06 PM #
For those of you (mostly Sony users) who bash Handspring about giving up on their springboard expansions, the release of this device (less than two months ago) should be proof enough that they haven't. True, the Treo doesn't have a springboard slot, but it's a different product line with different targeted users. This is a Handspring Visor, and Visors have always supported springboards.

Case closed.

RE: Springboard support!
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/3/2001 3:25:37 PM #
Good point about Springboard support. I think the Visor probably won't go anywhere, and Springboards will stay viable for another 1-2 years. BUT, Handspring's development of smaller expandable PDAs is stunted by the SB. That's why the Edge is a failure. It's also why HS is going more toward Treo. That's their "smaller" product.

On another note, it's no secret to people who frequent these boards that it's "mostly Sony users" who bash Handspring, Palm, Handera, or any other competitor of Sony for any variety of "sins." I don't know why the Sony-istas can't simply enjoy their Sony stuff and leave the rest of us alone. I guess it's an inferiority complex--they need to play "my PDA can beat up your PDA" to thump their proverbial chests and make themselves feel superior. It's one minor reason why I refuse to buy a Clie. I simply don't want to be associated with that "element."

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/3/2001 3:29:01 PM #

RE: Springboard support!
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/3/2001 3:53:59 PM #
Give me a break! You refuse to buy a certain make/model of PDA because of your blanket bias towards the 'element' of people who use them!!

That's the same logic that is used by those who try to justify racial or ethnic prejudice. Come on...EVERY Clie user is a jerk, so don't buy a Clie?!?!?

Fortunately, for those of us with a clue...there are as many different types of PDA users out there as there are PalmOS-based PDA's.

(By the way...I use a Palm Vx...but a co-worker of mine uses a Clie...and He is a very nice guy)

RE: Springboard support!
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/3/2001 4:17:52 PM #
(1) I took advantage of the $364 N760C Clie's from Dell.

(2) I returned it two days later.


(a) Screen takes WAY TOO LONG to "boot up."

(b) Images, though 16-bit and 320x320 look washed up.

(c) For $400, I'll keep my "old" IIIc. >>> Brighter . . . =), but no memory expansion . . . =(

(d) Besides, when they release the T-615C, I'll have felt much better.

Handspring bashing
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/3/2001 6:49:18 PM #
I believe all those Handspring Treo Bashing is due to those Sony Bashing about how the new MS modules not supported in S-Series Palm OS Device. And strangely none of those people who bashed Sony are Clie users. "I guess it's an inferiority complex" of those non clie users too.

Then those people start to praise how Springboard's supported in all models of handspring device. but they forgot that their latest handspring toy don't even have a springboard slot. isn't that ironic ?? then they start to say things like "Treo is a totally different kind of device" ... yeah yeah , say whatever you wanna say, all I know is that's a FACT that SPRINGBOARD is NOT SUPPORTED in the LATEST Handspring devices.

Hmm .... Let's see who started the bashing ......

RE: Springboard support!
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/3/2001 10:45:41 PM #
The Treo is not called the Visor Treo for a reason. It is a totally different product with a totally difference audience. When Handspring release their newest Visors next year your arguement that Handspring has abandoned the Springboard will be mute.

RE: Springboard support!
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/3/2001 11:40:24 PM #
"....I simply don't want to be associated with that "element.."

Don't cry ! I know you are sad ! Just go home and play with your sweet Visor baby (twin ??) ...That's all you can do, you only deserve that crap

RE: Springboard support!
skoty @ 12/4/2001 10:34:12 AM #
Well, this "I don't want to be associated with that kind of crowd" line seems pretty silly to me. I don't by Sony PDAs because they take the disposable approach to them. Memory Stick add-ons not working with the S series is only the tip of the iceburg. If you want your 710c to have all of the bugs fixed in OS 4.0, you've got to send it in to them to be fixed. They make you go PDA-less for a week or two. But, if you would've waited 1.5 months, you could have gotten the 760c and leap-frogged their disposable quickie. Apparently, they guy a few posts ago did something similar.

This is analagous to the reason I don't buy PDAs that have Microsoft's PocketPC on them. They lull you in with their "features", then they keep you from buying competitor's products by "not supporting them," when actually, they've altered the adopted standards. They actually encourage non-interoperability!

RE: Springboard support!
handspring @ 2/21/2007 8:07:36 PM #
Well... now that it's 2007...




Spell @ 12/3/2001 2:50:19 PM #
This is about the price point and "state of the art" level where I jumped in with a Visor Deluxe about 2 years ago. To be honest, this doesn't look like enough of a change from my green (transparent case) Deluxe to bother with an "upgrade," (I've never had any complaints on processor speed) but it looks like a fine unit to recommend for a new recruit not yet interested in one of those $400 color MP3 playing monstrosities.

RE: Eh
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/3/2001 4:15:02 PM #
Just another boring palm..I guess I am a troll now, because I sold my M505 and got a Compaq Ipaq. I was not unhappy with my palm so to speak, except for the color. However I am very happy with my PPC. I think palm is an excellent planner. The same as a Geo Metro is an excellent commuter car to get you to point a to point b. However, if you are looking for more, then the PPC is the way to go. The pictures of my children are bright and clear, and in addition, i can drag and drop files from my pc to my ppc. WOW!! So again, I don't think Palm is a bad device, I just think the PPC is a better device!

RE: Eh
peter167 @ 12/3/2001 4:25:45 PM #
I agreed the low end models will be another boring device, but do not forget it is $200 and does not steal your pocket.

Are people's expectations being too high?

RE: Eh
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/3/2001 6:21:55 PM #
Yeah ppls expectations are high, but i think that's because they compare the pda world to the computer world where every few months there's a sexier faster processor, slimmer lcd monitor, larger hard disk, etc. but pdas move slower, and seem to have fewer technological advances. so when handspring introduces a new pda, people expect it to be clearly the fastest or best in some respect, and end up disappointed when it's "just" a repackaged platinum.

RE: Eh
mikeliu @ 12/4/2001 8:36:18 AM #
heh, people complain when Sony releases products too fast, and other people complain when Palm/Handspring release products too slow. can't please everyone

RE: Eh
skoty @ 12/4/2001 10:46:04 AM #
"people expect it to be clearly the fastest or best in some respect"

To set the record streight, the Neo has a 33Mhz processor (same as Platinum, Pro, Prizm, and Edge). This is the fastest processor technology available right now for PalmOS devices. Yes, it is a repackaged Platinum, but when the Platinum was released, it was the fastest. Now everyone's caught up.

Low End Loser

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/3/2001 4:30:25 PM #

Seriously, with the Clie S320 at $169 which offers rechargeable battery and a much smaller and more modern expansion platform, the memory stick (Please don't start shouting PROPRIATARY! so is the Springboard) smaller form factor, and a better backlight (the old PalmIII type), Handspring needs to price this a little lower.

RE: Low End Loser
peter167 @ 12/3/2001 4:52:32 PM #
You have made a good point that this model is a little bit pricey. However, if you need the springboard expandable modules, you cannot find enough accessories to fill up the Sony models. There are lots of modules out there. It may target a small number of audience, and maybe that's why it does not attract too many people to shop.

RE: Low End Loser
dhchung @ 12/3/2001 5:40:51 PM #
I think handspring will do so when they sell all the deluxe they have. I think it's the only 16mhz PDA out there. handspring wnat to get rid of it asap

RE: Low End Loser
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/4/2001 9:21:16 AM #
One more point: a lot of peripherals for T and N series are not for S320. That's why I love Handspring: they offer excellent BACKWARD COMPATIBILITY!

RE: Low End Loser
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/4/2001 11:02:51 AM #
Yeah, like the Edge?

RE: Low End Loser
Coyote67 @ 12/4/2001 11:10:57 AM #
Edge is about 80% backward compatible. It can use all the springboards, but not the stuff that uses it's port. Much better then Sony's track record of one device that works one model and then one that works for all but one.

When you find yourself in the company of a halfling and an ill-tempered Dragon, remember, you do not have to outrun the just have to outrun the halfling.
RE: Low End Loser
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/4/2001 11:26:07 AM #
It is not good to not support some of your new perpherials on older low end device, but it is worse to not support all of your new perpherials in the latest devices.

who said handspring has EXCELLENT BACKWARD COMPATIBILITY !? Try plug in any springboard in a tero ... Sorry it don't even have a springboard slot. I wonder how EXCELLENT that is

RE: Low End Loser
Coyote67 @ 12/4/2001 4:06:01 PM #
OH MY GOD. What the hell is WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE. Look, lets try to get this written in stone. Visor=A PalmOS Handheld line with a springboard expansion slot.
Treo=A PalmOs Phone Handheld.
Visor, Treo,Visor, Treo,Visor, Treo,Visor, Treo,Visor, Treo,Visor, Treo,Visor, Treo,Visor, Treo,Visor, Treo,Visor, Treo,Visor, Treo,Visor, Treo,Visor, Treo,Visor, Treo,Visor, Treo,Visor, Treo,Visor, Treo,Visor, Treo,Visor, Treo.
Its not called a Visor Treo, and you know why?
Try to see this concept. SEPERATE. Does Sony's walkman have memory stick? NO!
Hell, even sony's playstation2 uses a seperate INCOMPATIBLE memroy card. You know why? BECAUSE THEY ARE SEPERATE PRODUCTS. Why don't you go bashing Sony for not having memory stick in every single product. What does this mean? Well it means you are an COMPLETE idiot if you keep mentioning that the treo doesn't have a springboard slot. Cry havoc, and let the loose the trolls of PIC.

When you find yourself in the company of a halfling and an ill-tempered Dragon, remember, you do not have to outrun the just have to outrun the halfling.
RE: Low End Loser
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/4/2001 4:24:28 PM #
"Try to see this concept. SEPERATE. Does Sony's walkman have memory stick? NO!"

Yes They do have Memory stick walkmans, if you know nothing about sony's other product please shut up. They even have Memory stick phones.

"Hell, even sony's playstation2 uses a seperate INCOMPATIBLE memroy card."

iti s because they need to be compatible with playstation 1, you stupid. Do some research before speaking. "People like you are a good enough reason to have abortions."

Give me reasons why Tero as a Palm OS Device (with Cell phone function) should have no springboard modules ?? I still don't understand, why !?

RE: Low End Loser
skoty @ 12/4/2001 6:03:33 PM #
You can't plug the camera or GPS memory sticks into the walkman though can you?

RE: Low End Loser
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/5/2001 9:18:39 AM #
I dont mean to bash or anything...

I think the reason why the Treo line of Handspring products wont be supporting springboards is that..

1. They probably take up more space.. thus destroying the perfect form factor similar to that of the original StarTAC (its smaller than the average Visor+Visorphone combo.. or any hybrid out there including the Motorola Accomply or Nokia 9210)

2. Some springboards probably take up power - something a cellular phone needs to stay connected with its service provider.

3. Yes.. it has been reiterated time and again that the Treo is marketed to a different audience. Its a matter of "correct product usage".

Although it would have been nice if it would support its own propriety hardware (like digital cameras.. and then sending it other compatible devices via MMS).

And besides, I have yet to see a Palm Smartphone Hybrid (with the exception of the Siemens SX45.. if it used the latest pocketpc os then it would be nice) that had or is planning to have an expansion option. Correct me if im wrong on this.. just basing these on assumptions :)

Maybe we should wait for the Nokia 7650? heehee.. check it out on their site :)

My next toy would be the Treo... and ill keep my Prism for digital photos and presentations :) heck, it could make a nice picture frame in my room :)

RE: Low End Loser
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/28/2001 11:39:03 PM #
Pfft...Sony are still stuck in the dark ages when it comes to things like this...

Fantastic company for A/V stuff, but errmm..hello..out-of-the-box MAC support?? (You know, like almost EVERY other major hardware company has..)

I'd consider a Sony if they had Mac support built-in....too bad. Visor for me (Palm M-100 series use serial and SUCK)

Bye bye

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/3/2001 10:11:35 PM #
I can see Handspring is on its way out right behind Palm......

RE: Bye bye
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/3/2001 10:48:56 PM #
Oh Mr Psychic where is the proof? Handspring is going nowhere. neither is Palm.

Yes, Handspring really IS going nowhere. Fast.
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/3/2001 10:52:52 PM #
And so is Palm.

Read a little about the history of computer hardware and software manufacturers over the past 10 years. That is if you can pry yourself from your Playstation for 10 minutes...

You'll see that inertia is fatal.

Repeat after me... "Inertia is fatal."

Handspring needed the Treo 1 year ago. Now it's too late. By the time they have a decent Treo available, Nokia, Sony, Microsoft etc. will have released something smallerlighterbrightercoolerfaster and cannibalize what was Treo's market. Overnight. Don't think it'll happen? You'll see.

RE: Bye bye
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/3/2001 11:42:11 PM #
Actually Nokia already got one, thats the 9210 series

by 2002 Feb we'll have (may except US) Nokia phone with Epoc smaller than Tero with color screen and builtin camera (6xxx Series)

That's not a hard decision for consumers to make I guess

nokia - Epoc, Color Screen, Camera
Handspring - Palm OS, Mono screen

The brand name Nokia alone already kicked handspring's @$$, don't even get me started with the feature set.

RE: Bye bye
jeremyf @ 12/4/2001 1:50:19 AM #
Umm are you guys kinda retarded? :(

The Treo is the most anticipated product since "Ginger"... ie Nokia's phone is not only more expensive than the COLOR treo, but it will be released AFTER the color treo (in the US). Also, the Treo is much SMALLER than the Nokia (both the new one and the Communicator).

For some reason, a smaller PalmOS phone seems more appealing than a bigger EPOC phone (with a camera and 2mb of memory).

RE: Bye bye
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/4/2001 2:32:15 AM #
"Nokia's phone is not only more expensive than the COLOR treo, but it will be released AFTER the color treo"
Where's the color Treo ? Stop talking about imaginary products please, and stop quoting imaginary price.

"Treo is much SMALLER than the Nokia" ??
Maybe Treo is "smaller" but not "much SMALLER"
Nokia : 114 x 56 x 26 mm
Treo: 110 x 69 x 18 mm

As a consumer, I think Nokia color, little bit bigger phone is more appealing than a mono little smaller Handspring "phone" Device with no springboard slot.

I'll look at handspring and think, what is handspring?? I don't remember them making phone b4, cheaper sync with PC?? nea, I just want a cool and reliable phone.

btw: Maybe it's news for you, but the world don't rotate around US ... LoL

RE: Bye bye
JET8810 @ 12/4/2001 6:59:25 AM #
what am I missing>? isn't there a color treo coming out?

RE: Bye bye
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/4/2001 7:12:24 AM #
Treo ? Handspring ? Phone ? Neh..I would rather choose Nokia ...

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