Competition for the Psion Series 5 palmtops?

Oregon Scientific Osaris
David Knell

13/2/2000



Psion palmtop computers have been extremely successful, especially in the European market, and it must have been only a matter of time before someone produced a cheaper clone. Oregon Scientific, although an American firm, have apparently aimed the Osaris primarily at the same market as Psion and at first glance it looks uncannily similar to the Psion Series 5. It is roughly the same size (a little slimmer) and it shares the acclaimed Epoc operating system.

The attractive dark blue case has a light grey lid which opens at a convenient angle. The monochrome screen can be backlit but it is small, only 320 by 200 pixels. Instead of being perfectly square, the pixels are in fact rectangular, giving the text and icons a slightly elongated, though not unclear, look. It is a touch screen and is easily navigated by either the (rather tacky) stylus provided or dexterous use of a fingernail. The screen is complemented by a decent keyboard, though it must be said: the action is a little harsh.

The Osaris can connect to the Internet via either the IrDA port or a modem on the RS232 (serial) port. You can view or send e-mails and, using the inbuilt Epoc browser, surf the web. The serial port is also used to connect to your PC for downloading and backing up files (the Osaris comes with the necessary cable). The Epoc Connect software allows perfect synchronisation with a large range of Windows programs, including Word, WordPerfect, Excel, Lotus, Outlook and Access.

In addition to the two ports mentioned, there is a 6V DC jack for using an AC adaptor. An adaptor is not included but since the polarity is clearly marked, it should not be too difficult to find one. The Osaris runs on two AA batteries (only standard ones come with it but I bought rechargeable batteries after they wore out) and a CR2032 lithium battery (not included).

A truly great bonus on the Osaris is the slot for Compact Flash memory. The Osaris model I used came with 8Mb RAM but the CF slot allows for a lot of upgrading. I inserted a 32Mb CF with no problems, though, be warned, this is an extra drain on battery resources if left in permanently.

The Epoc operating system is excellent and includes a fully-featured word processor (complete with spell checker and thesaurus), database, spreadsheet, agenda, jotter and even a minesweeper-style game. A tiny speaker sounds alarms - though not much else. There is a range of other Epoc-compatible software on the market which can be bought and added, although I have not been able to test which will run successfully on the Osaris.

The Osaris lacks the quality of the look-alike Psion Series 5 but it is far less expensive. At a price more closely matching that of the old Series 3, it has many more features than the Series 3 and represents good value.

Features:

  • CPU:
    32-bit 18MHz
  • Display Resolution: 320 x 200 with 16 grey levels
  • ROM: 8 MB
  • RAM: 4 MB, 8 MB, and 16 MB models available
  • Serial port for PC Connect and modem connect
  • IrDA Interface for IrDA data transmission between PC, notebooks, printers, etc.
  • Compact Flash memory port
  • DC Jack to adapt external power and to re-charge batteries (two AA - size batteries)
  • 53 keys on keyboard + 5 membrane keys beside LCD
  • Operating System: EPOC32
  • Basic Functions: Agenda, Word Processing, Spreadsheet, Home time and world time with daily alarm, OPL user programming, Calculator (simple calculator, scientific calculator, paperless printer), Spell checker and thesaurus, Document print, Game
  • Terminal emulation
  • Communications: E-mail send/receive, Fax send/receive
  • When turning on the machine, all applications resume to state prior to shut down
  • Connectivity: EPOC Connect provides integration and synchronization between MS Windows PCs and EPOC-based devices.
  • Power Source: One 3V CR2032 lithium battery (main battery) and 2 AA batteries
  • Dimensions:
  • Open 112 x 70 x 12.5 mm
  • Closed 112 x 135 x 10 mm
  • Unit Weight: (w/ battery) 75 grams

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