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Battery life

Charge the Edge right in its cradle

Battery life is another strong point for the Palm platform, and the Edge doesn't disappoint. Like other high-end Palms, the Edge sports a rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery that gives you enough juice to run the device for days on end. When you're not draining the battery, you can charge it through the hotsync cradle. The benefit of an internal rechargeable battery really depends on how much you plan on using your handheld. If you get a lot of use out of it, the money you save by not having to purchase AAA batteries more than makes up for the higher cost of a PDA with a rechargeable battery.

Internal rechargeable batteries aren't perfect, though. When they run low on juice, you have to charge them. There's no popping in a pair of fresh AAAs and instantly getting full power—if you don't have access to a wall outlet or one of those fancy new fuel cell chargers, you're out of luck. Fortunately, the Edge's phenomenal battery life makes this a non-issue for most users.

What it doesn't have
Handspring isn't the only innovative company churning out Palm-based handhelds, and the competition has raised the bar since Handspring's debut. Unlike some competitors, the Edge lacks a jog dial or any kind of specific scroll wheel. The fact this functionality isn't included in every new handheld computer astounds me. Given that the screens on these devices are so small and capable of showing so little information, something to facilitate easy scrolling would seem to be a no-brainer.

The Edge's screen resolution is sadly only 160x160

The screen on the Edge is also a little small at 160x160, and it doesn't have a collapsible graffiti pad. Although HandEra is currently the only company offering a graffiti pad that disappears to yield additional screen real estate, high resolution grayscale screens are offered by both HandEra and Sony. Complaining that the Edge isn't available with a color display would be missing the point; a color screen would make the unit thicker and bulkier, when the whole idea of the Edge is its small size. Handspring does offer a color model in its Visor Prism, but I'm not convinced color is all that useful for the Palm platform in the first place. Even Palm had to dramatically scale back the quality of the color display on its m505 to achieve reasonable battery life. Personally, I'd rather have a battery that lasts than a screen that looks pretty.

One final little gripe concerns the Edge's buttons. While embossed, and quite easy to use with a finger, they're not concave like other Visor handhelds. The concave buttons on the Visor Deluxe are much easier to tap with the stylus than those found on the Edge.

The operating system
The Edge runs the Palm OS, version 3.5.2H2, which is functionally quite similar to what the vast majority of Palm-based PDAs are running. Handspring does have a few software tricks up its sleeve with the Datebook application, though. These enhancements aren't anything earth-shattering, but they make looking up contacts a little faster and a little easier.

Realistically, we're not going to see a big leap forward in the OS or software for Palm-based handhelds until the second half of 2002. By then, Palm should be ready to introduce a radically different OS based on technology it acquired with its purchase of the Be operating system.