Handspring, the Palm clone personal digital assistant company, has leapfrogged Palm by bringing out a colour Visor that can use double the colours of the Palm IIIc. But at $450, it may have stiff competition in the UK from Compaq’s IPaq.

Using a faster 33MHz Motorola Dragonball VZ processor, the Visor Prism also has a tweaked version of the latest Palm version 3.5 operating system. The tweak should allow additional colour and USB support. The Prism is launched in the US today, which means it should be here sometime next year.

Handspring's first colour device costs slightly more than the competing Palm IIIc, which is $400 in the US, but has a 16-bit active matrix display compared to Palm’s 8-bit. Compaq’s IPaq is around £400 here in the UK, and tradition dictates a pounds-for-dollars conversion for the new Visor, making it around £400 also.

The original Visor targeted frugal PDA buyers. But with new metallic-finished devices, Handspring is offering a more solid and expensive look.

"Palm OS 3.5 supports 8-bit colour," says Greg Shirai, product line manager at Handspring. "Developers said that wasn't deep enough, so we bumped it up to support 16-bit, or 65,000 colours."

To get round the battery life problems associated with colour screens, Handspring has opted for a rechargeable battery, much like Palm’s V series.

But some commentators see the Visor Prism's display as less than enticing compared to the colour LCD on the Compaq IPaq Pocket PC.

"The colour display on Prism is pretty much same one as you see on Palm IIIc," says Ken Dulaney, vice president of mobile computing at research firm Gartner. "The Compaq screen, which comes from Sony, set a new benchmark for colour displays. Users won't settle for less."