NEC's MobilePro 780 and 880 H/PC Pros
NEC has updated its MobilePro 770 and 800 Handheld PC Pros with a faster processor and enhanced display.
by Rich Hall
I was away from the office recently, visiting the annual COMDEX computer show. I travel two to three times a year and each time I face two irreconcilable needs: the first is to be sure to take along everything I need; the second is travel as light as possible. I wish NEC had loaned me the MobilePro 780 a couple of weeks earlier.
The NEC MobilePro 780 and 880 are the upgraded versions of to Handheld PC Pros NEC introduced last year. Both have large (over 90% full-size) keyboards that are easy to type on. The reason I wanted the 780 earlier is because it has a 1Ž2 VGA color display, making it the smallest of the truly typeable H/PC Pros. And when you're on the road, smaller is better.
Physically, the NEC MobilePro 880 is almost identical to the 800, and the 780 to the 770. However, both have NEC's new 168 MHz processor. The 780 I tested was noticeably faster than the 770 and downright snappy compared to the earlier 750c MobilePro. The screens are also better on the new MobilePros. Again, they are the same size as the previous 770 and 800.
Another physical improvement to the 780 is the addition of a "scroll dial" on the right side of the clamshell hinge. The scroll dial works like the rocker switch found on Palm-size PCs. You can use it to move up and down through menus or documents, and select menu options. I found it a little difficult to use when the 780 was sitting on a desk or table. To view the display properly, the screen has to be almost perpendicular to the keyboard. In this position, it blocks the scroll dial. However, when you hold the 780 in your lap or hands, the screen does not block the scroll dial. It's placed within easy reach of your right thumb and comes in handy for menu navigation and option selection. The 880 does not have a scroll dial; probably a wise choice considering the larger size of the 880.
I like the arrangement of the ports and card slots on the MobilePros. The Type II CompactFlash slot is on the front edge of the machine and easy to access. The Type II PC Card slot is on the right edge. The serial, VGA-out, and power port are on the left edge. The only thing on the back of the MobilePro is the IrDA port.
Simple, useful set of built-in software
The MobilePro 780 and 880 come with the same set of built-in software. Microsoft provides the Windows CE 2.12 operating system and the Handheld PC Professional Edition set of applications. These include "Pocket" versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access, and Outlook (Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, and Inbox). Also included with the H/PC Pro applications are various setup and communications utilities and the game Solitaire.
In addition to these Microsoft programs, NEC has built into ROM the following programs:
No information if available on what, if any, user-installable software will be included on CD-ROM.
Another enterprise solution
Both the 780 and 880 can have 4 MB of internal Flash ROM built in as an option. This capability is aimed at enterprise users. It gives an organization that ability to easily build in proprietary business applications and security features. The ASL-Connect and Citrix ICA client software enhance the ability of the MobilePro user to connect and synchronize with enterprise networks. Finally, NEC has decided to include a slim set of add-on applications with the new MobilePros. These add necessary functionality for the corporate user, but NEC doesn't seem to be trying to "wow" the individual buyer with a comprehensive set of additional applications. This strategy leaves the software buying decisions up to the corporation, and it keeps the initial cost of the MobilePros down.
I prefer a touchscreen to the touchpad and other mouse-like pointing devices found on some of the larger H/PC Pros. For me, tapping on the screen is much easier and accurate. For this reason I like both the 780 and 880.
I also prefer the 1/2 VGA screen of the 780 to the full-screen near-notebook sized H/PC Pros I've been seeing lately. The smaller screen keeps the overall size and weight of the 780 down, and while it's not as small as HP's 680/690 Jornada, it has a more useable keyboard. I don't need a full-size screen to check my e-mail, write, edit, and do other computer-related tasks when I'm on the road. The 780 is easy to carry around in a briefcase and the smaller screen eats up less power than a full-screen device.
If you need a full-screen device for Web browsing, or simply prefer the larger screen, the NEC MobilePro 880 is a a great choice; particularly if you like touchscreens. But for me, once I can get my hands on a production model, I'll be traveling with an NEC MobilePro 780.
The MobilePro 880 H/PC Pro will replace the 800 and will retail for $899. The MobilePro 780 H/PC Pro will replace the 770 and will retail for $799. Both will be available through NEC dealers, and authorized online retailers including The NEC Online store (www.nec-now.com/necnow/).