Product Review: Gemini – the Psion 2.0!

July 30, 2018

Psioneers, rejoice – the
Gemini PDA is out! If you’ve not heard of Psion, you’re younger than some, but
you might still want a Gemini, especially if you’re techie – it can dual boot
Android and Debian Linux.

 gemini pic

Doing real work on the move requires a keyboard. But lugging
a laptop or similar around is cumbersome especially if, like me with dodgy back
and knees, carrying weight is an issue. Ultra-portable clamshell Psions with
usable keyboards offered a solution, but they’ve been out of production for
years. I’d still be using mine if it had wi-fi and colour screen (they’re that technologically-ancient).

 gemini 2 pic

Last year, UK company Planet
began crowdfunding for an updated Psion – the Gemini – roping in
the Psion’s original designers. I rushed to back it once I heard.

 gemini 3

For those who want an ultralight, compact device with proper
keyboard, the Gemini is ideal. At just 320g, 17.14cm(W) x 7.93cm(D) x 1.51 cm(H),
it fits easily into handbags/manbags, jacket pockets, even deep trouser/jeans
pockets. I have the 4G/wifi model, so it’s my mobile too. It’s eSIM-ready: network
switching without changing physical SIMs, once that’s supported.

For detailed tech specs see Planet’s webpage. I’d just
mention colour touchscreen (5.99in, 2160×1080, 403ppi), Bluetooth, headphone
socket, mic, speakers, accelerometer, light sensor, gyro, magnetic sensor and
front-facing camera for video calls. But no fingerprint recognition.

 gemini 4

A “voice assist” button also answers/ends calls. Separated
mics/speakers let you hold it either way up for calls, but only at the top (not
bottom) face. You have to open it to find/dial numbers, although you can then
close it without ending your call. Similarly, you can’t see who’s calling if
it’s shut. 5 LEDs along the top face’s “join” seek to address this (with LEDison
app), but who can remember what colour combo represents what contact? I may
pair it with a Bluetooth watch displaying dialling/caller info, but haven’t
tried that yet. (Works fine with Bluetooth headset.)

 gemini 5

The physical keyboard beats soft keyboards, but isn’t as easy
or quick to type on as the Psion – unlike with the Psion, it doesn’t cleverly
slide out towards you when you open the device, which may account for the
difference. I have small hands, but others say larger hands can adapt or
two-thumb-type. The Fn key enables access to more characters/functions, Psion-like.

 Battery life is great – not the Psion’s fortnight but
several days, certainly better than a laptop/notebook’s one day max. No AA
batteries but Li-Ion 4220mAh, so slimmer than Psions. The USB charging cable
detaches from the power plug for computer connection (charging and/or file

It has two USB-C slots. Only the left works for charging and
computer connection, only the right for HDMI (requires Planet’s custom USB-HDMI
cable). I’ve used it with full-size keyboard/mouse and external monitor.
There’s also a USB
including Ethernet. 

The OS isn’t Psion’s outmoded Symbian, but Android
(rootable). OTA firmware updates are available. It has 4GB RAM, 64GB internal
memory and a micro-SD slot, where I’m using an 8GB card for (sadly) WP29 docs,
DPA 2018, etc. An included tool opens the cover to access SIM/microSD slots. 

I’ve installed various Android apps but haven’t tried Linux dual
boot yet, as it’s not built-in currently and I’m waiting till I have time to flash
it carefully with
Planet’s tool
(Sailfish, the Linux distro which runs Android apps, is also
supported). Planet created a calendar/todo app emulating the Agenda app adored by
Psioneers, and it works well with my Google calendar. Given the screen size,
Microsoft apps like Word, Powerpoint, Outlook and Excel are free (though you
have to sign in with Microsoft to use them, including offline). Citrix works
but you’ll want a big-screen monitor!

Again Psion-like, there’s a horizontal “Planet bar” (bottom
of screen) to add your favourite apps. This can be permanently displayed, or
set so the Planet key (left of spacebar) shows/hides it. I’ve not needed the
bar (shown above just for illustration): my main apps are onscreen and I can swipe
for more screens, as standard with Android. A vertical set of apps (right of
screen) displays on all screens. The triangle, circle and square icons will also
be familiar to Android users (back, homescreen, other open apps). 

Other accessories:
back-facing camera kit, leather sleeve (Psion cases fit, with room as it’s slimmer). 

There’s a quickstart guide but no manual. Tips and help are
available from:

OESF forums

Planet website


Caveat: it’s expensive. The 4G/wifi model costs £599 from
, wifi-only £499. Some units may still be available more cheaply via
. But, to me, it’s well worth it to have something I can type on properly,
yet carry around everywhere without risking my back. 

The author is Dr W Kuan Hon. Views expressed are
Kuan’s alone and not necessarily those of any organisation with whom she may be

Photos ©Planet (except screenshot) – thanks for permission.
Rest licensed Creative
Commons BY UK