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The Psion Series 5

Open Psion Series 5 The Psion Series 5 is the latest and most spectacular palmtop computer to be produced by Psion PLC. The Series 5 builds on the strengths of the earlier Series 3a and 3c, robust, efficient, powerful and user friendly software, and adds new technologies including a 32bit ARM RISC processor, custom designed EPOC32 operating system (from Psion Software), large touch sensitive backlit screen (640x240x16), and enlarged keyboard.

Psion's good design is evident again in the case, the keyboard slides forward as the Series 5 is opened to allow room for laptop style keys. There are also buttons on the outside of the case to allow the Series 5 to be used for digitally recording sound while the case is closed. Up to 40 minutes can be recorded on a 10MB CompactFlash disk using ADPCM compression which is built into the CPU.

10MB CompactFlash disk The Series 5 is also expandable, it includes a standard CompactFlash slot for the addition of extra storage space, currently 10MB disks are the largest available, but 100MB disks are expected by the end of the decade and the Series 5 is ready for them. The Series 5 also connects well to the outside world with both serial and infrared ports running at 115kbps, for communication with other computers, modems, or printers. Software is available for connection to desktop machines, but at the moment only Windows 95/NT, although Apple and other versions are expected fairly soon.

The Internet is also catered for, and although the Psion Internet suite wasn't shipped in ROM with the original Series 5 it is available now, free of charge from Psion's web site. The Series 5 allows e-mail to be sent and received, web browsing, and access to other standard Internet services, as well as being able to send and received faxes (a screenshot of the Internet software in use is available). Psion have already licensed Java for EPOC32 and will be releasing it in 1998.

screenshot
An actual size Psion Series 5 screenshot (640x240)

The Psion Series 5 is an impressive machine, but it still retains the low power usage and pocket size of the other Psion palmtops. The Series 5 measures 170x19x32mm (6.7x3.5x0.9"), weighs 354g (12.5 ounces) with batteries, and has a 640x240 pixel 16 grey scale, backlit, and touch sensitive screen. The Series 5 takes two normal AA batteries which last around 35 hours or one month of normal use.

In addition to Psion's experience with low power devices it is the ARM CPU which allows such a powerful computer to use so little energy. ARM chips lead the world in MIPS/watt and MIPS/dollar ratios, with the 200MHz StrongARM chip using less than 1 watt of energy. Although the Psion Series 5 uses "only" an ARM 7100 18MHz CPU core (which is very fast compared to other palmtops and the Series 3c), it is possible for future models to use a StrongARM possibly running at 160MHz, although battery life would suffer to some extent. The actual chip Psion use in the Series 5 is a CL-PS7110 manufactured by Cirrus Logic and includes, along with the ARM 7100 core, a cache, MMU, LCD controller, DRAM interface, and UART with infrared SIR protocol support, simplifying the supporting hardware needed and further reducing power usage.

EPOC logo In a recent comparison at the Outlook on Wireless OS '97 conference Psion's EPOC32 OS, which is used in the Series 5, came out top. EPOC32 is the clear winner at the moment beating WindowsCE, NewtonOS, and others in all features which were tested. Full details are available.

The Psion Series 5 is generally a very impressive computer which is closer to a desktop computer than any palmtop has ever been. It's available now in both 4MB and 8MB versions which cost £440 and £500 respectively. French, German, and Dutch versions will start shipping later in the summer with other language variants following at a later date. Full details on the Psion Series 5 are available on Psion's web site.


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