The SnapNPlay TT102 for Handspring Visor is one of many products from TT
Tech, who specializes in making PDAs a better platform for gaming.
Although we all know that the keys that come with the PDA are handy with
launching calendar functions or scrolling through text, entertainment
titles often make more demands on the interface than casual organizer
use. Such was the dilemma that came to PC gaming when in its infancy;
most titles were tailored towards the keyboard as the primary mode of
interface. Later on, usage of the mouse, gamepad, joysticks and other
accessories proved to be wildly successful.
This Visor gamepad does a similar thing for the popular Handspring Visor
PDAs. Although Handspring's very own Gameface made a loud entrance into
the Visor market, I think it is TT Tech's accessory that makes a more
solid foray to cater to gamers. For one thing, it is a lot more than a
simple overhaul of the existing buttons. The SnapNPlay T102 completely
replaces your original buttons and adds an eight-directional d-pad
allowing for diagonal movement. The two buttons are slightly
disappointing. Initially, I was hoping for the ability to use the
existing buttons in tandem with the new ones. TT Tech has included the
buttons next to the graffiti area (home, menu, etc.) so you will be able
to at least get access to those. Fully configurable software ensures
that your buttons will not be useless and that the gamepad will work
with virtually any software. Your gamepad buttons will, with the
drivers, masquerade launch buttons for date books or contacts.
Perhaps the piece de resistance of this product is the addition of force
feedback or what the manufacturer calls 'Shock Vibration Technology'.
As vibration technology becomes more and more ubiquitous in mobile
devices (cell phones, PDAs, console and PC accessories), I'm surprised
that other developers aren't taking a cue on this. Perhaps the need for
batteries is suspect but instead of draining your PDA's power, the
SnapNPlay uses a single AAA battery. This is a smart thing considering
excessive use of force feedback will drain your batteries prematurely
(Pocket PC users will know about this with regards to other moving parts
like microdrives) and most Visor owners will have an extra set of AAAs
sitting around anyway. Another issue that hinders the force feedback
effects relates to the software. Most entertainment titles, unlike PC
or console ones, do not take into effect that force feedback exists, so
its usage is hit and miss. TT Tech has a website of compatible titles
but with the rampant and numerous titles released for the Palm OS, it is
really hard to implement this fully. Moreover, TT Tech has less
leverage than Handspring's Gameface to issue any sort of diktat to
mandate force feedback. Ultimately, what you get is a half-implemented
One of the nice things about the Handspring Visor is the relatively
stable handheld format. This SnapNPlay product will work with the
original Visor, Visor Deluxe, Visor Neo, Visor Platinum, Visor Prism and
Visor Pro. That's a long list of products in the handheld world. Thus,
with the exception of the Visor Edge and the new Treo, your gamepad is
interchangeable amongst most Handspring products; something that isn't
standard with the recently released Pocket PC peripherals.
Usage and feel of gamepads are usually subjective to one's tastes.
We've all heard the controversies and heated debates over the three
console gamepads: Xbox, PS2 and Gamecube. Because the gamepad snaps onto the bottom, there isn't much in the way of ergonomic feel. However,
the buttons are easy to press. They have a tactile response and
pressing them does not take too much effort, albeit the d-pad is slightly
less responsive than the other buttons (for what reason, I have no
idea). They're also not recessed or too soft so you don't have to dig
into the gamepad uncomfortably. It is not a huge accessory but you
definitely will not be carrying this in your pocket while attached to
your PDA. It adds quite a bit of bulk to a Visor that is already not
aesthetically thin. The force feedback effects are audible too because
of the moving parts so it is not discrete in quiet settings.
As I write this article, Handspring is gearing itself towards its Treo
line of products and many industry critics claim that Handspring CEO
Donna Dubinsky's comments have rung the death knell for Visor handhelds.
Although the Visor line is not altogether discontinued (yet), it is not
exactly a roaring market either. This gamepad, though it does its job
well, will not persuade you to buy a Visor for entertainment purposes.
Let us at least be frank on that point. Its value is best for those
existing Visor owners, or perhaps a PDA aficionado who has an extra Visor
lying around, to put some life back into their dated handheld. It is
unquestionably a unique device and a much stronger product than
Handspring's Gameface for entertainment purposes. Yet its execution,
like the force feedback support, is spotty and not as consistent as one
would hope it would be. But hopefully this will not deter TT Tech or
other manufacturers from dropping this new and important feature in