HP announces the OmniBook 300 Superportable PC

HP's light-weight sub-notebook PC comes with Microsoft Windows 3.11, Word and Excel built in. It has four PCMCIA slots and a fax/modem slot and has options for 80MB of hard disk space and 8MB of system RAM memory.

By Robert Roney

It looks like Hewlett Packard has done it again. On the heels of its May 5 introduction of the HP 100LX Palmtop PC, HP unveiled the big brother to the LX series - The HP OmniBook 300 Superportable PC. On June 7 at the Spectrum Gallery, in San Francisco, Lew Platt, the CEO of Hewlett-Packard and his special guest Bill Gates, the CEO of Microsoft Corporation, held a news conference announcing "a major advance in portable personal computing". What they described was a Windows-based "superportable" PC computer that can fit easily into any briefcase without displacing other items (16.3 x 28.2 x 3.6 cm or 6.4 x 11.1 x 1.4 in) and it's light (1.4 kg or 3.0 lbs).

We'll give you our hands-on impressions of HP's newest arrival in the next issue, based on a thorough test drive.

The Hardware

Super portability does not compromise its performance. The OmniBook comes with a full-sized keyboard, pop-up mouse and an imbedded numeric keypad. It operates like any Windows 3.1 desktop system.

There are two versions of the OmniBook: One with a 40MB hard drive (HP F1032A, retail:$1,950) and another with a 10MB flash card (HP F1031A, retail:$2,370). Microsoft's DoubleSpace disk compression software is included and can effectively double the capacity of either drive to 80MB and 20MB respectively.

The OmniBook uses a rechargeable nickel-metal-hydride battery pack or four AA batteries. One charge or one set of batteries will last up to five hours in the hard disk system and nine hours in the flash disk system. The battery pack quick- charges in about an hour and a half. The built-in power management feature preserves power and prevents draining the batteries.

The OmniBook provides some interesting possibilities for future expansion. Not only does it have all of its system software on a removable ROM card, it comes with a memory expansion slot, a fax/modem slot, and four PCMCIA card slots. One of the PCMCIA card slots is used for the system software. The hard disk version of the OmniBook uses two slots for the hard drive, leaving one free for additional cards. The 10MB Flash card version uses one card slot, leaving two slots free.

The OmniBook comes with 2MB's of RAM and the memory expansion slot will take an optional 6MB RAM board. The optional Fax/modem card provides complete send/receive capabilities and fits inconspicuously into the Fax/modem slot. When HP provides developers with additional information, many expansion products could be developed.

The Software

Microsoft Windows 3.1, MS-DOS 5.0, MS Word for Windows, MS Excel, a Phone Book, an Appointment Book and other utilities are included in the more than 10MB System ROM card. Like the 95LX and 100LX, the OmniBook has an instant-on feature. The off button powers the computer down, it does not exit the applications. When you turn the OmniBook back on, all the applications are exactly as you left them. Also, you can start applications and switch between them by touching one of the fast access key combinations (press El and then El through r"2 ). These fast-access keys are re-assignable, so you can set up your own applications or update the built-in software to new versions.

The OmniBook 300 comes with a serial cable and LapLink Remote Access software built in. This makes it easy to transfer files to and from your desktop computer. LapLink Remote allows the OmniBook to directly read a desktop PC's drives and can redirect printer output from your OmniBook to a printer connected to your PC. LapLink can connect with your PC through either the built-in serial or parallel ports. The OmniBook also comes with an infrared port and can transfer files between another OmniBook, HP 100LX, HP 95LX, or one of HP's new Vectras, which feature an IR port. All this makes backing up and file transfers easier. If the built-in software doesn't suit your needs, you can use LapLink Remote to install any compatible Windows or DOS applications.

Who is the OmniBook for?

The OmniBook 300 is for the on-the-go professional who needs mobility, Window's applications, and a useable touch- type keyboard. Although the OmniBook is too large to fit in your coat pocket, it would fit easily into a briefcase or medium-sized purse.,

The OmniBook provides much of the convenience and efficiency that has made the LX systems so useful. You may find that you have two HP's; an LX in your pocket and an OmniBook in your briefcase.

HP OmniBook 300 Specifications