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HP Pocket PC - Nice!

HP Pocket PC - Nice!

Battery, keyboard, self-sufficiency still makes the HP 200LX the winner.

By Hal Goldstein

I've been playing with the HP Jornada 545 Pocket PC for the past week. I like it a lot.

Not since the HP 200LX have I seen a pocketable product so rich with useful internal applications. Here's a summary of its features.

The HP Pocket PC includes Pocket versions of Word, Excel, Outlook, Money, Internet Explorer, File Explorer plus an MP3 player and an electronic book reader with Microsoft's new ClearTypeTM technology. Pocket Outlook includes Email, Tasks, Contacts, Calendar, and Notes applications. The one, important Pocket PC application missing is a database program. However, there are third-party solutions to fill this gap.

HP also includes a calculator that mimics most of the 200LX's HPCalc functions (except for Solver and List/Stat). More software is included on the HP CD. There are lots of additional Pocket PC freeware, shareware, and commercial applications, games, and utilities available - although nowhere near the number of DOS programs that run on the HP 200LX. Check out our www.PocketPCmag. com Web site for more information on devices and third-party products.

Included on a separate CD-ROM from Microsoft is ActiveSync 3.1 for data synchronization with Outlook on a desktop PC, MS Outlook 2000 for the desktop PC, MS Reader sample books, Windows Media Manager for the desktop PC; MS Expedia Pocket Streets; Transcriber; AOL Mail; and MusicMatch Jukebox. One of the coolest applications, given free to registrants at Microsoft's site, is the original version of Pac-Man, sound and all, converted for the Pocket PC.

The HP Pocket PC comes with a synchronization cradle and software. Users can exchange files or synchronize email, contacts, tasks and appointments with desktop Outlook. Data can be exchanged via a serial, IR, or USB port.

The HP 200LX and the Jornada 545 Pocket PC weigh about the same. The Jornada orientation is vertical while the HP 200LX orientation is horizontal. The actual screen of the Jornada is 3 inches tall by 2 inches wide which means the HP 200LX has about 1/3 more screen real estate.

Physically, the HP Pocket PC is smaller and fits more comfortably in my pocket then the HP 200LX. It is a little more than half the 200LX thickness. When laying the Pocket PC on top of the HP 200LX , it is about 1 inch shorter and only slightly less wide. It sports a sturdy anodized metal case and resembles a Star Trek "communicator." The flip-up top protects the screen, holds the stylus, and can be removed. The unit has a nice sleek look and feel, and seems solidly built. Even so, if I were to drop both of these units on the floor and bet on survival, I'd put my money on the HP 200LX.

The Pocket PC comes without a keyboard and that is the main reason why I still prefer my 200LX. With the advent of computers, I gave up handwriting shortly after I gave up multiplying. I write illegibly and much slower than I type - and that's on paper not on a small computer screen.

In fairness, the Pocket PC offers a number of creative and useful input methods, starting with a voice recorder. Press a button on the side of the Pocket PC and start talking. When you release the button you find yourself in the Notes program with a new file named "Recording 1" which you can rename. Tap it to play the recording. You can also draw or "type" a note and annotate it with voice. Depending on how you configure things, the Multimedia Notes file can be accessed on a desktop or on the Internet.

The Pocket PC has several handwriting recognition methods for input. For example, you can open up Pocket Word, start writing (print or cursive), and then have it "recognize" that writing. With a little practice it will do a decent job. Alternatively you can point with the stylus to letters on a virtual keyboard. As you type, the Pocket PC will suggest alternatives to complete the word. Despite these Pocket PC input alternatives, it is easier and faster for me to use the HP 200LX keyboard.

Lotus 1-2-3 is a stronger program than Pocket Excel. However, Microsoft did a nice job in its implementation. It includes a complete set of Excel functions and the zoom feature lets you see a surprisingly large number of (not very readable) cells if you want the big picture. You can read desktop Word and Excel files in the Pocket PC and you can do basic editing. That means you can take your desktop data files on the road or you can open Word and Excel files that come to you as email attachments.

In order to receive email you have to install a modem. HP 200LX users are quite familiar with the Pocket PC tradeoff concerning a modem. The HP Pocket PC comes with a single CompactFlash slot. You can use the slot for flash memory storage or for an I/O card such as a network card, a modem card, or a wireless card. If you regularly plan on using the modem, get the 32 Meg version rather than the standard 16 meg HP Pocket PC. As with the HP 200LX those megabytes are non-volatile RAM that need to be divided between system memory and storage. Expect to start seeing solutions similar to the EXP card for the HP 200LX - both modem and storage on a CompactFlash card.

If you have a modem, you will be impressed with Pocket Internet Explorer. Explorer does a good job of displaying Web pages in a way that avoids excessive horizontal scrolling. Even if you don't have a modem, you can transfer Web pages to the Pocket PC and read them in Pocket Internet Explorer.

One of my favorite Pocket PC applications is Microsoft ReaderTM. Microsoft has developed a special font technology that makes reading on an LCD much easier on the eyes. Microsoft and Barnes and Noble at www.bn.com are offering free ebooks for Pocket PC users including the new Michael Crichton bestseller, TimeLine, an Encarta dictionary, and Star Trek books. For more information on Microsoft Reader, check out http://www.microsoft.com/reader. You can also download audio books at www.audible.com. The Pocket PC comes with a stereo head phone for MP3 music and audio files.

The HP Pocket PC screen is bright and full color. However, Hewlett-Packard is now offering refunds to all Jornada customers unhappy with the quality of the screen. It seems a hardware mix-up causes the HP Pocket PC to display only 4,000 colors rather than the 65,000 colors the company had promised. In practice less colors will have little effect on most users except perhaps those who want to explore digital photography. What I consider a more serious defect is that the backlit screen is hard to read in direct sunlight. There are configuration settings for out-of-doors. Still in this regard, the HP 200LX is a clear winner.

Besides the keyboard, one other reason not to give up my HP 200LX has to do with the paraphernalia required. Off-the-shelf batteries won't work so you need at least one charger. The battery life for the Pocket PC is about 35-40% that of the HP 200LX so you always have to plan properly. Further, the serial or USB connection and cradle is virtually required for synchronization and to install new software. I prefer using my PC card as a file intermediary between my HP 200LX and my desktop and laptop PC card readers.

For those interested, you might want to subscribe to our recently renamed publication, Pocket PC magazine, www.PocketPCmag.com. Formerly published as Handheld PC Magazine, Pocket PC magazine still covers Windows CE-based handhelds, but our emphasis will be on Windows Powered Pocket PC products. (Microsoft is now referring to Windows CE as "Windows Powered." Handheld PCs range in size from the HP Jornada 680 which is a little larger than the HP 200LX to mini-laptop sized units such as the recently discontinued HP Jornada 820. (Handheld PCs have keyboards: Pocket PCs don't.)

I have yet to attempt to transfer my phone book information to the Pocket PC. My plan is to use Curtis Cameron's 200LX / Outlook sync program to move my phone book to Outlook. Then I will synchronize Outlook with the HP Pocket PC. To find this and other 200LX synchronization programs, go to www. palmtop.net and search on "Outlook."

Whether you stick with the HP 200LX, switch to the Pocket PC, or use both depends on your individual needs and preferences. What is amazing is that after all these years, the HP 200LX still holds its own against new products and new technologies.

iPhone Life magazine

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