HP 200LX: First Impressions of HP's New Palmtop PC

HP 200LX: A 100LX with Pocket Quicken plus lots of nice improvements.

By Hal Goldstein and Stanley Dobrowski

Color Graphic of HP 200LX: Graphic

 First HP introduced the HP 95LX, a new kind of computer -- a "palmtop" -- with a degree of IBM compatibility and some very useful built-in applications. Two years later HP announced the HP 100LX, an almost complete re-work of the 95LX, with much greater IBM compatibility and more powerful built-in applications.

Now HP has brought us the HP 200LX, crafting a better look and feel both to the physical machine and its built-in software. Pop-up help screens and pre-configured Phone Book and NoteTaker files make it easy for new users to get started.

Change is the nature of life -- and Palmtops

With a megabyte more of ROM space than the HP 100LX, HP was able to add Pocket Quicken. This addition makes the 200LX a different machine. We all earn and spend money. A 200LX owner no longer has any excuse not to keep track of it.

The extra ROM also made it possible to add some additional help files, games, and utilities. HP improved Phone, NoteTaker, and Database by making the index screen friendlier; adding pop-up messages when you first turn on your Palmtop in the morning; and redesigned the unit's look.

Furthermore, HP made it easier for us to communicate with a PC. Its new Connectivity Pack (for both the HP 100LX and 200LX) makes the job of file transfer, synchronization, and translation between the palmtop and PC easier.

What follows is some first impressions from several of us that were able to play with the 200LX for a few days before the unit was released.

Comparing the Built-In Applications

AppManager The HP 200LX AppManager program has nicer icons for the built-in applications. The 200LX icons are black with a white background. Move the cursor to select an application and a large square box surrounds the icon.

AppMgr Display on 200LX:  Graphic

 Open applications are denoted by a highlighted icon label. The only other apparent change is that system RAM free/total readouts are displayed at the bottom and in a larger font.

Filer, HP Calc, StopWatch and Memo

Everything appears to look and work the same as the 100LX version.


The screens look the same as the 100LX version. There is an additional utility program for cc:Mail called cc: mADE. It can be run from AppMgr and does Automatic Directory Exchanges to update the local address book from files sent from the cc:Mail Post Office Administrator.


There appears to be a few differences:

The Menu items and screen indicator for the Redirector are gone. The F2-F9 function keys which were unused on the 100LX in the application have now been assigned labels for all eight of the Menu Options submenu. These function keys take you directly to the settings screens.

This is the same functionality that 100Buddy added to these function keys. With 100Buddy installed, this new feature does not work properly.

World Time

Newer version 1.1 is on the 200LX. The map display is the same, except that the record number indicator is missing from the header. The "List of Cities" display has the new set of database enhancements, except for the DataCard view (see description of DataBase, below).

System Macros

Version 2.0 appears the same as on the 100LX, except for the larger font used on the Edit Macro screen.

Data Base

The new version 1.1 is the basis of some other built-in applications. The differences listed in this section will apply to the Phone, NoteTaker, and WorldTime applications, except where noted.

Tab Card Look to Database Apps:  Graphic

 This same larger header and tab card effect is found on the single record screen.

Tab Card Look to Data Item View: Graphic

Data Card View: Graphic
  You can define your own icon for each database using the built-in icon editor. Just give the icon the same name as the database and store it in the same directory. The DataCard view can be toggled on and off by pressing (CTRL)-(D). When off it looks more like the 100LX display. Check Box Usage in Database Apps: Graphic

 The functionality has not changed, just the mark used to go in the box.

Appointment Book

The new version 1.1 on the 200LX has many of the database enhancements, including the larger headers with the tab card effect and action buttons with a more three dimensional look.

Appointments View : Graphic

 The 6-month, 1-month and weekly views appear to be the same as the 100LX. Other changes include:

Appointments with Analog Clock Shown: Graphic

 The monthly calendar has a shadowed box around it and a spiral binding along the top edge, giving it the look of paper calendar. Both the daily appointments section and the analog clock are shadowed to give them a 3- D look.

Daily Greeting Screen in Appointment Book: Graphic

 The Daily Greetings screen can also display a "Tip of the Day" or your own greeting (see APPTS.INI below).


New version 1.1 on the 200LX includes all of the usual database engine enhancements described in the DataBase application. Also includes:

Icons Show Attached Notes in Appointment Book : Graphic

New version 1.1 found on the 200LX has the usual database enhancements.

NoteTaker DataCard View: Graphic

Information about this file is not in the manual, but in the default NoteTaker file that comes up the first time you run NoteTaker. APPTS.INI stores HP Palmtop "Tips of the Day" that can be listed on the bottom of the Daily Greeting pop up screen. This file is in ROM (D:\_DAT), but must be copied to the C:\ _DAT directory in RAM to be modified and used from there.

You can edit the file and make your own greeting message. As we discover more of the specifics of how this file works, we will publish them.

LapLink Remote

The HP 200LX features LapLink Remote which takes the place of the problematic redirector software in the HP 100LX. LapLink remote was added to provide a means for communication with a desktop PC running LapLink from the 200LX Connectivity Pack.

You can run LapLink remote from both the Palmtop and a PC. Doing so makes the Palmtop a server to the PC, allowing you to access the Palmtop's built-in C drive and RAM card drive directly from the desktop.

Built into the 200LX is LapLink Remote Access Server Version 1.0 that can be loaded from the AUTOEXEC.BAT file. This TSR requires 7728 bytes of system RAM.

Password Protection

The 200LX has the same file level password protection that is available with the 100LX.

There is a new machine-level password protection on the 200LX that is similar to what was on the 95LX. When the 200LX is turned off by pressing (OFF) (ENTER) the password is manually enabled. When you try to turn the 200LX back on, you are presented with a scrambled screen in the middle of which is a prompt asking for the password. If the correct password is not entered, the 200LX will shut itself off. When the correct password is entered, the 200LX will come on normally. There is also an automatic mode which enables the password no matter how the 200LX is shut off.

Hardware changes

The Keyboard

A color picture of the 200LX with keyboard displayed is found on page 31 of this issue.

The size and positioning and layout of the keys is identical to the 100LX. The numeric keypad is now dark grey, but the main keys are still white. The keys have that same, nice tactile feel that has made HP calculators and Palmtop keyboards famous.

Stanley Dobrowski: "I do not find the italic font pleasing and for the most part do not like the left justified lettering. However, the punctuation symbols that are above the number keys are slightly more visible. I used to have to tilt the keyboard up to see which shifted number key would yield a colon. This is now easier to see without tilting.

Hal Goldstein: "I like the new keyboard and font. When I first saw the keyboard, I asked an HP representative how they got more space on the keyboard. In fact the keys are positioned the same. However, the HP 200LX keyboard definitely looks cleaner and more spacious than the HP 100LX.

"The change in placement of the green built-in application keys does take a little getting used to. The cc: MAIL key is gone and APPT, PHONE, and MEMO -- the Personal Information Management (PIM) keys -- have moved one to the left. The remaining keys are Quicken, HPCalc, Lotus, and MORE.

"There is a subtle but different feel to the keyboard. There is a softer, and I think more pleasant feel to the 200LX key press. Most of our in-house people preferred it except, Sharon Dilmore, our Circulation Director and palmtop touch typist. She said the 100LX gave better feedback so she was sure the key was pressed."

The screen

Since the HP 95LX was introduced in May of 1991, technology has advanced, and we know that there continues to be small incremental changes in the HP Palmtop screen. The editors of The HP Palmtop Paper stared at the HP 100LX and HP 200LX and debated whether the HP 200LX screen has been improved. We finally decided that there was definitely a subtle difference between the HP 100LX and 200LX screen. We all prefer the 200LX screen, but the difference isn't that significant.

On close inspection the difference seems to be that the HP 100LX screen has a more "frosted" surface than the 200LX screen. This HP 100LX anti- glare surface defuses the light reflected off the screen, but it also makes the images a little fuzzy and the smaller fonts more difficult to read than on the HP 200LX.

The new case

The 200LX case is identical to the 100LX case, except for the greenish- grey color of the case (not as boring as the 100LX) and the addition of 200LX and Pocket Quicken logos. I tend to notice the black PCMCIA card in the memory slot more because it contrasts with the case color. I suppose this is an advantage if you want to know if there is a card in the slot, but the color difference disrupts the aesthetics of the case. Similarly, the IR port cover is the same dark purple black color it was on the 100LX and stands out against the lighter color of the 200LX's case.

The HP Connectivity Pack

LapLink Remote -- We had time to do a minimum of testing on a Beta (not final) version of the Connectivity Pack. We found significant improvements over the HP 100LX Connectivity Pack.

First of all, the Redirector software on the HP 100LX Connectivity Pack did not work well. The Traveling Software DC95 utility for the HP 95LX and the new HP 200LX LapLink Remote work much better. All three products allow the user to access HP Palmtop C and A drives directly from a PC as if the Palmtop drives were drives of the PC.

We found LapLink Remote easy to install on a PC and on the HP 200LX following the instruction in the manual. Robert Roney tested it for us. He said, "when I tried to run Lap- Link Remote from Windows on my PC, I got a message that there wasn't enough memory. Later after rebooting I tried LapLink Remote again and it started right up on my PC from windows. I then went to the 200LX, Application Manager and started LapLink Remote. That started the LapLink Remote Server and before you could blink an eye the redirected drives showed up in the LapLink Remote Access window on the PC.

LapLink Remote on 200LX : Graphic

 "I switched into DOS under Windows and was able to make directories, copy files back and forth using standard DOS commands. Copying seemed to be faster than DCS95 and DOS 6 InterLink, but I didn't do any comparative tests.

"Installing LapLink Remote on to the HP 100LX is easy. You just use the 200LX Connectivity Pack to copy 11 files over to the \LLRA directory, about a 113K bytes. There are files to run LapLink through COM1 or the infrared port. (Depending on how you use LapLink Remote some of the files can be eliminated).

"The manual gives instruction on setting up LapLink in the HP 100LX Application Manager. If you get a memory allocation error, make sure there are no spaces in the path field when you add LapLink to the AppManager. LapLink Remote worked fine on the HP 100LX whether started from AppManager, or from the DOS prompt after quitting AppManager (using MENU Application Terminate All.) I was able to copy files, make directories, use XCOPY, etc. in DOS just as on the 200LX."

One disappointment is LapLink Remote's inability to clone itself from a Palmtop onto a PC that does not have the Connectivity Pack. The HP OmniBook version has this capability as do even early versions of LapLink and ZIP.COM. If the HP 200LX had this ability, all you would need would be a connectivity cable to insure that you would be able to transfer data to a PC at a remote location.

New Import/Export Capabilities -- The other significant improvement is in the Connectivity Pack's import and export capabilities. The 200LX Connectivity Pack can import and export Comma Delimited Files (CDF) to and from its Database, Phone and NoteTaker applications. (CDF is to data base files as ASCII or Text files are to word processing files. CDF is the universal format that lets you transfer data between database applications.)

In my discussions with the Pocket Quicken product manager, David Miller, he raved about the synchronize capabilities of the Connectivity Pack. According to David, you can add checks and deposits to your desktop and to your Palmtop. Running the synchronize program will allow you to properly update both ends.

HP 100LX users who purchase the 100/200LX Connectivity Pack will find a version of LapLink remote. The beta version of Connectivity Pack did not have games or utilities such as the ICON generator or the hex calculator built into the HP 200LX. We understand Lair is on the final release, fixed to go above level 9.

Two points worthy of note installing the new HP Connectivity Pack. First of all, one Pack serves English, Spanish, French, and German. You are asked which version you want installed at the start. Secondly, if you are not sure which PC serial port you will connect the HP Palmtop cable to (e.g. COM1, COM2, COM3, COM4), the installation software attempts to help you.

Third Party Products that don't work properly on the HP 200LX

Most programs, PCMCIA cards, and other HP Palmtop products that work on the HP 100LX will work just fine on the HP 200LX. DOS programs or system manager add-in programs that work on the HP 100LX should work exactly the same on the HP 200LX. For example, we tested the newly released acSIS/SM, the CompuServe access program which uses the HP Palmtop serial port, and that worked just fine.

However, general software that makes assumptions about the specific location of contents of the HP 100LX display will probably run into trouble. 100Buddy and Magnify are examples as described below. We expect that there will be HP 200LX upgrades for these two useful HP 100LX products.

Other products, such as popular freeware APLOAD and ASERCTL, dependent on the ROM version of the HP 100LX might have problems with the HP 200LX.

Finally, as the 200LX becomes widely used, other incompatibilities such as the 5 Volt flash card problem we discovered may surface.

Magnify! on the HP 200LX

Magnify! runs on the new HP Palmtop, but there are some problems associated with it. One is the "jump to highlight" feature, which is supposed to cause the magnifying "lens" to go to the highlighted item in Phone, NoteTaker, and DataBase when the Magnify hotkey is pressed. This does not work on the 200LX because of changes that were made in the displays of these applications.


Although there is a great many features on the 200LX that are identical to the 100LX, the built-in applications' screens have been changed somewhat. 100Buddy features that get their clues from the screen may not work properly. Fortunately, there are a great many 100Buddy features that still work on the 200LX. We did not find any fundamental program incompatibility or crashes or hang-ups.

The file selection function keys that appear when you press (MENU) File Open in most of the applications do not work on the 200LX. The function key labels do not appear and the function keys do not do anything. In Setup, 100Buddy is supposed to add menu features to the function keys. However, a new 200LX feature is trying to add menu options to the function keys. 100Buddy interferes with this process. The 200LX puts it's own labels on the function keys, but 100Buddy assign's different menu functions to the keys. When you press the Fn-key, the 100Buddy function will execute, not the function described in the key label. This seems to be the only case where there is a true interference between the 100Buddy and the 200LX. In Memo, the SmartCaps(c), double-grey, double-blue, and other features seem to work properly. In Lotus 123, Buddy will place it's function key labels on the bottom of the screen. Menu-Dot does not work in Lotus 123.

A Few SunDisk 5 Volt Flash Cards Do Not Work

We could not get this card to be read or formatted in the HP 200LX. This is the original flash card designed for the HP 95LX that also can be used in the HP 100LX. When we checked with HP, it turned out we had one of a few very earlier versions of the card that were made available mostly for evaluation. Nearly all SDPL5-5 cards do work fine in the HP 200LX. Also, the later 12 Volt and 5 Volt flash cards work in the HP 200LX. If you still have problems with your SunDisk card, call HP tech support for a solution.


We all liked the look and feel of the 200LX, as a replacement for the HP 100LX. However, the changes in the existing built-in applications are not significant enough for most HP 100LX users to purchase a 200LX unless money is not an obstacle.

On the other hand, many 100LX users will be attracted to Pocket Quicken. They can purchase it separately as mentioned earlier, or maybe just give their 100LX to a family member or colleague in order to justify buying an 200LX. As for HP 95LX users -- what are you waiting for?

Notes from a Pocket Quicken Developer