<color="#0000ff">Reviewing My Psion Revo

Psion: the company of nostalgia, love, and longing for their PDAs to return...

Reviewing My Psion Revo


My love for Psion's Personal Digital Assistants started when my brother, whose early programming career had a mostly large presence on his 3c in the mid to late 90s introduced me to the fondable device. Early into my teens, he bought me a Series 5, 8MB, and I loved it! It was my very own personal computer. I did everything on it! I had a CF card where I kept music, a journal and so many more files which in fact, that CF card sits on my shelf waiting for a 7 to go in. Later on, I had another 5 and then a 5MX. Which was and still is by far my favourite computer and the best device I've used coming on a decade later. And mostly thanks to EPOC: the father of Symbian OS.

But in true old-tech fashion, the first 5 mysteriously stopped working. The screen cable went in the other and is still waiting by that CF card for a new one. The solder came off years later on the screen cable on the MX, and that went off to silicon heaven and not two weeks later finding out that it was perfectly repairable... I hate myself.

In the middle of all that, he got me a Revo Plus which never worked. So what have I done? I got a broken Revo Plus to repair, and instantly I was reminded how much I hated the keyboard. The cheapness of it compared to the 5s! We never got that one to work, and it went to silicon heaven with my dear old 5MX, seven or so months ago. This one though is in perfect working condition!

Now, being nineteen and starting another college course I find myself increasingly in need of a P.D.A. I've always been a security and control freak ever since I can remember. Linux is what pleases me, while I am incapable of trusting Windows to do anything but reliably run .EXE files without blue screening more than once a week, and as for Android? Well, let's just say I'm very much aware of my phone's cameras FoVs whenever any of the cameras aren't covered and mic range. Although that all changed with v12 ColourOS 12.1. The other negative of Android is that it's unreliable, but not in the way you might be expecting in my opinion; it's temperamental. I used to use the gesture mode for navigation, but since upgrading to v11 Google Now is permanently activated by swiping from the bottom right corner, which means that the gesture mode is now completely useless as Google Now overrides minimising applications. Application quick switch and application closing, and that leaves me with default mode with virtual buttons! It's the end of the world haha! But in all seriousness, for an OS to be dependable you can’t have issues like that and others come and go. It's also slow, battery life isn't great and Android isn't optimised for landscape mode in any capacity. The nail in the coffin is the virtual keyboard... Look where we started off! Beautifully crafted, utilitarian, mechanically genius designs that were perfectly independent of desktops and laptops to soulless bricks that can only be realistically operated in a largely incompatible orientation with and cannot be used as a standalone device for all of your needs. Unless you’re an Instagrammer.

If you want to be efficient then you want something that does what you expect it to do. Work. And if you want to know a system from the inside out then you need it never to change and be absolutely reliable. I present to you: EPOC.

Since Psion's hugely popular Series: 5 was ageing, they needed a replacement. Plus the 5s were marketed for businesses; the Revos on the other hand are for the home, husband and wife. It delivers everything you'd expect from a P.D.A: agenda, alarms, a word processor, calculator, EPOC's version of Google Docs… 'Sheet', contacts, email, phone (which also allows you control over IrDA and message writing, phonebook synchronising, Jotter, Sketch and Data which is just a virtual filing cabinet. In true Psion fashion, all of the programs run flawlessly and effortlessly. You'd never know ninety per cent of the time that all the Revo has is a 36MHz C.P.U as everything is faster than both Android and iOS. Where it is slower however is made up with navigational speed and ease of use.


There's no other word to describe it than 'absolutely incredible'. Everything is always where it needs to be too the point where it makes life simpler. For another Android comparison, to open up the calendar I have to search for it, open it, go to menu and then week view. In EPOC? Tap Agenda icon and you're done. How's that for time and user friendly? Plus everything's the right size, none of this massive oblong square rubbish. It’s utter design incompetence I swear. Thanks for the 960 grid Twitter! 😜 In EPOC, since it's landscape and optimised everything is the right size, readable and uncluttered. And if you have poor sight you can enlarge everything at a tap of the screen. Literally. Agenda is a great example of this. Calendars insist on using tiny little boxes with numbers in that you have top open no matter the screen size. They either have no text and can’t be opened easily, even when you have slim fingers, or they do have text in that’s cut off and sometimes unreadable. EPOC on the other hand innovated and did the logical thing of showing weeks, and using the entire screen… because... why wouldn’t you? Some of the most simple of things Psion’s software team did like this is what makes EPOC great.



It's great! The contrast is a little better than the Series: 5s people say, but personally I never had an issue in direct sunlight with mine. Not that I don't agree with them, Revo and s3 screens are overall better minus the resolution. Being a smaller screen of 480x160 it is smaller than a lot of the latest mobile phones, and Revos are also a lot lighter, being smaller than some smaller variants of flagships, even. However, this being the case, the lack of coverage makes writing a little more difficult since you know, landscape but there's still plenty of room. The Series: 5s of course are better for this, and indubitably the Series: 7, NetBook and NetBook Professional. The Pro, which runs C.E 4.2, impart because Symbian dumped Psion Teklogix sometime around 2003.

The contrast is amazing, Psion displays have always had amazing contrast and due to them not being backlit/requiring a backlight they're usable at all times of day in all kinds of light. So long as there is enough. It's resistive not capacitive as touch screens were fifteen -twenty years go but you wouldn't know that by using it. The benefit is that rain can't render it unusable and you can't mess with anything with accidental touches, but the stylus makes this not the case.



When I first held a Revo I absolutely hated it, it felt 'Chinese'. But now, as I've been using this mint Revo Plus for a few months now the keyboard has loosened up and surprisingly I enjoy this over the Series 5 keyboard, and in part because both of my thumbs can reach G thanks to the smaller size. You can't touch type though, don't even bother trying. This is a handheld device and so are the 5 and 3 but those it's possible. Something actually that irks me about the Planet Computer PDA and phone reviews; they always talk about touch typing but never give a second thought to hand held.

As for feeling, the keys are mushy but firm. They have no feedback like 5s do which makes first time use tricky as you either assume a key hasn’t registered or you automatically repeat the key press because of the expectation. The firmness is really the killer though, I'm sure my thumbs are a lot stronger from owning this! The major downside is that using your thumbs is the only practical way of getting anything done.

In true Psion fashion, the keyboard has its own compact layout, which for some odd reason isn't used on modern devices other than by Planet Computers of course. Martin Riddiford, the brainchild of the 5 keyboard is a lead designer at Planet.

The keyboard has the same old Fn key and the functions are still in the same places: Contrast up/down, zoom in is Ctrl+N though and not labelled on the N key. All of the characters on the other hand are tied to Fn and Ctrl granting you more or less a full keyboard, 'what doesn't the user need' over 'what do we think the user wants.'

Build Quality

It's poorer than the Series 5. The back of the keycaps for example never had the base of the plastic tabs on them from manufacturing removed, but in terms of longevity These will outlive Series 5 and most definitely Series 3 devices which have been disintegrating for decades now thanks to their hinges snapping. You see, Revos only have four moving pieces and two springs. The four moving pieces make up the whole chassis while Series 5s are intricate and in some ways delicate. All that breaks on Revos are the leading runners for stability that aren't required for function and the plastic that hooks the springs from the top half of the silver shell plate to the bottom/the chassis. That plate is then pinned into the back of the display case; because of this all of the movement and motions are directly connected and rely on each other’s rigidity. Plus the screen cables don't break as they do on previous models.

Battery replacement is also easy and almost as long lasting as SIBO/EPOC16 devices are. The plastic is tough and durable but is prone to degradation so mind the environments you keep it in! There are very few creeks and it does bend and twist but there's neither hint nor suggestion that it will break unlike some top of the range mobile phones. (Yes, I did just stress test a 21-year-old antique while I'm writing this on it in the rain on a park bench.) And even the print is still in tiptop condition!

Real world use

Revos require their dock for RS-232 and they don't have external storage, too state the obvious. But what it does have is EPOC32 Release: 5 like the 5mx and I believe 7s which means that they have more software compatible with them, and believe me, EPOC software is plentiful and is for the most part far superior to Android, iOS and even some Windows alternatives stunningly. There is also a neat driver package that installs irOBEX drivers as an application or overrides EPOC's drivers completely. This makes ER5 devices almost universally IrDA compatible with other hendhelds and operating systems, including Windows.

PsiWin 2.3.3 can be installed and run flawlessly on the latest Windows operating systems but NVIDIA did something recently that stops PsiWin's installer GUI from loading, so the process will run but there won't be a window. For this you need to downgrade your driver. I use v471.41. I don't know what the story is for Intel and AMD.

Once that is done, you can go two ways: Buy a USB to RS-232 DB9 adapter and hope it works, or you can just buy a serial PCI-E card, which obviously will work out of the box. Install the drivers and you're done.

The audio quality is surprisingly good! You see... Psions, other than I think the NetBook Pro, don't have dedicated audio hardware. They reproduce sound by oscillating the CPU so what you get is a limited frequency range and high power draw. As far as I know it's down to 11KHz, because of the speaker's own quality it's prone to peaking induced rattling, so steer clear of pianos and most singers and make sure your audio files are levelled properly! But because of this, old 78 recordings and tracks lifted from old films sometimes make it difficult to tell between an audibly sharp gramophone to this. Annette Hanshaw's Am I Blue is my favourite too play!

Now, speaking of sound, you might find that you can't set custom alarms. This is because the alarms folder is missing for Revos, at least for this Plus and my other non Plus. Go into the system folder and make a new one called 'alarms' and make sure the A is a capital. If the system folder is hidden, unhide it in preferences from the main menu.


I wouldn't replace this Revo Plus with anything else. Especially now that I can connect it to the tinternet thanks to TheOldNet's Hayes WiFi modem, and to Action Retro on YouTube for the brill frogfind.com and 68k.news.

Writing continues too be a dream and Agenda currently organises my life. The application SafePlace stores my passwords and is more reliable than KeePass, PocketBank; my go-to from my phone... my spell checker, my phone book and my ZORK addiction....

Yes, The Psion Revo is far, far from obsolete and that's by today's standards! But with everyone hung up on preserving the 5 series and 3 with projects to remanufacture major parts, the Revos and 7s might all be extinct outside of museums within the next two hundred years.

And I'll be extinct before I ever finish my sketch at this rate!