LG's Phenom Ultra

Joins the Mini-Notebook Trend


By Rich Hall

This is the third time in as many issues of Handheld PC Magazineultra.gif (22052 bytes) that we have reviewed an H/PC with a large, touch-typeable keyboard. I'm beginning to suspect that a trend is developing. This time I'm looking at the LG Electronics Phenom Ultra. As with the NEC MobilePro 750C (see page 6, Jul/Aug 98) and the Hitachi HPW-200 EC (see page 9, Sep/Oct 98), this attractive, black unit looks more like a mini-notebook computer than the Handheld PC we started writing about 20 months ago.

Hitachi manufactured this H/PC for LG and the Phenom Ultra is almost identical to the Hitachi HPW-200EC reviewed in last issue. Take a look at the sidebar for a basic description of the Phenom Ultra.

The Phenom Ultra has a keyboard that, while small compared to standard notebook computers, is luxuriously large by H/PC standards. Most people will be able to touch type easily on the Phenom Ultra's keyboard. In fact, once you get used to the closer spacing of the keys, you discover that you don't have as far to reach to strike a key. I type as fast or faster on these large-keyboard H/PCs as I do on my desktop.

The Phenom Ultra (and the Hitachi HPW-200EC) has the largest display of any H/PC. Like many other H/PCs, it has a horizontal, 640x240 pixels color touch-screen. But the diagonal measurement of its color screen is 8 inches (21 cm). This is a quarter of an inch (0.64 cm) larger than the NEC MobilePro and 1 to 2 inches (3.8 to 5 cm) larger than the screens on most other H/PCs. The size makes the screen quite easy to read, especially if you adjust the brightness and contrast properly and keep it out of direct sunlight. [Tip: Hold down the Alt key and press the Quick Launch keys on the top row of the keyboard to adjust the contrast and brightness.]

The Phenom Ultra comes with a nice set of bonus software (see sidebar). The Citrix ICA Client lets you use the Phenom Ultra to access a Winframe network and run full-blown network applications on the Phenom. This should be especially popular with corporate clients. Another interesting looking piece of software was the MobileCHOICE application suite. Coupled with a wireless modem and messaging service, this lets you send and receive e-mail without having to connect up to a phone line.

A "Handheld" PC?

The trend with Windows CE is towards bigger keyboards and screens. Take a look at the review of the new Handheld PC Pro for the latest example of this trend. True, it's easier to type on these devices, and the screens are easier to read. And battery life, while shorter than the monochrome screen handhelds and Palm-size PCs, is still acceptable for off-and-on use, away from an AC adapter. But we're starting to seriously stretch the meaning of the word "handheld." You can still hold it in one hand, but you're better off carrying it in a briefcase or tote bag.

Handhelds seem to be growing into mini-notebook computers. They are lighter, generally less expensive, and have better battery life than Windows 95/NT notebooks. In addition, they come with the basic software and most-used applications built-in, making the total cost of ownership (operating system, additional software and upkeep by an MIS department) much less than traditional notebook PCs. I think this size H/PC has the best chance of wide corporate adoption.

Whether or not individual mobile professionals buy the newer H/PCs in great quantity depends on how powerful this H/PC is perceived to be, and how "visible" it is. Manufacturers need to promote it as an inexpensive and practical solution, and they have to push it out into the retail channel more vigorously. I don't think many users will buy a product like this sight unseen. They'll want to go to a store and look at the screen, type on the keyboard, and play with the built-in applications.

The Phenom Ultra will retail for $799, and LG has done a pretty good job of making the Phenom Ultra available. In the U.S. it's stocked at CompUSA, Computer City, Fry's and several other retailers (on the Web go to www.lgphenom.com/buy/index.htm for a list of retailers carrying the Phenom Ultra). The Phenom Ultra is also available on line at the Velo Store (Web: www.bcex press.com/lgstore/default.asp). NEC also makes their MobilePro available at CompUSA and other computer resellers. I've only seen the Hitachi H/PC available through Mobile Planet's Web site: www.mobileplanet.com.

It's not as powerful as pricier notebook PCs, and I wouldn't use it as my primary computer. But my mobile needs are relatively straightforward, and the Windows CE applications fit the bill. I might use a Palm-size PC in addition to an H/PC this size, to make sure Contact information and Calendar appointments were always with me. But I'd use the Phenom Ultra, or something like it, on the road, for e-mail, word processing, and even a little Web browsing or game playing.

RxPhenom Ultra

A version of the Phenom Ultra customized for healthcare professionals is available from Pygmy Computer Systems, Inc. It consists of the Phenom Ultra described in this review, along with three medical software programs.

  • LexiDrugs98 -- a drug database with over 1,000 referenced monographs covering 5,000+ drugs in use in the United States, Mexico and Canada. 
  • Archimedes/CE -- Medical calculator with reference to over 70 preprogrammed equations in medical specialties such as Cardiology, Pharmacology, Pediatrics, Critical Care and General Internal Medicine. 
  • Outlines in Clinical Medicine (OCM) -- A web-based program offering a medical database of over 700 outlines covering general internal medicine and related fields. 

In addition, RxPhenom Ultra comes with SmARTwriter, a handwriting recognition program that lets you input notes using your own handwriting style.

We have not reviewed this product yet.

The Rx Phenom Ultra is priced at $2,495.95. 
For more information contact: Pygmy Computer Systems
Phone: 800-447-9469 or 305-253-1212
Fax: 305-255-1876
E-mail: sales@pygmy.com
Web: www.rxphenom.com/rxphenom.htm

LG Phenom Ultra:
Here's What You Get!

The LG Electronics Phenom Ultra has an 8 inch (21 cm) diagonal color touch-screen display, a 100 MHz Hitachi SH3 CPU, 16 MB of internal RAM (expandable to 32 MB), 12 MB of upgradeable ROM, and a touch-typeable 74-key keyboard. The unit comes with a built-in 33.6 kbps software modem; VGA-out port and IrDA interface; Type II PCMCIA slot; Compact Flash card slot; rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery pack (rated at 10 hours according to LG specifications); 10 quick launch keys (two are user programmable); a built-in microphone, speaker and voice recorder. The Phenom Ultra weighs 1.87 lbs (0.85 kg) with battery pack. The package includes an AC adapter; serial cable; and VGA adapter for the end of the serial cable, a modem cable, a Windows CE manual, a Phenom Ultra hardware manual, and a Pocket BizCalc manual. A CD ROM with Windows CE Services is included, along with a CD-ROM containing additional freeware, shareware, and announcements for other third party products. 

The Phenom Ultra is a Windows CE 2.0 Handheld PC with all the associated features, utilities and "Pocket" applications built in. These include the Windows CE 2.0 operating system, Pocket Word, Pocket Excel, Pocket PowerPoint, Pocket Internet Explorer, and Pocket Outlook (a Handheld PC version of MS Outlook that includes Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, and Inbox).

Bonus Software Built-in

The LG Electronics Phenom Ultra has the following additional software built into its ROM. You don't have to install the software and it takes up no extra disk space, except for data files the applications create.

  • bFAX Professional and bVIEW -- Adds fax send/receive capability to your Phenom Ultra. bVIEW lets you view faxes (and other documents) before sending them. bFAX Pro is available commercially, bVIEW is not (contact: Bsquare Technologies; Web: www.bsquare.com).
  • Pocket BizCalc -- Adds a full-featured business/financial calculator that emulates the HP-12C calculator. Pocket BizCalc is available commercially and comes in H/PC and Palm-size PC versions (contact: Odyssey Computing Inc., Web: http://www.odysseyinc.com).
  • Pocket Finance -- Lets you track deposits and withdrawals on your Phenom Ultra and will exchange account entries with Intuit's Quicken and Microsoft's Money desktop applications. The program is available commercially for H/PCs (contact LandWare, Inc; Web: www.landware.com).

Bonus Software on CD ROM

The following programs are on the CD ROM that comes with the Phenom Ultra and have to be installed on the H/PC.

  • Citrix ICA Client -- Lets you use the Phenom Ultra as a thin client to a Citrix Winframe Network. Users can connect the Phenom Ultra to a Winframe network to access and run full-blown network applications on the Phenom. The ICA client for Windows CE is not available directly from Citrix, but is distributed by the respective H/PC manufacturers, including LG Electronics, Sharp Electronics, Philips, and Hewlett-Packard. 
  • Harmony 97 -- Trial Version of a data synchronization program that embedded one-click synchronization between the Phenom Ultra and many desktop contact managers and PIMs by adding a menu bar inside the PIMs. Harmony '98 is now available commercially (contact: Rand Software, Web: www.randsoft.com)
  • Pocket Finance Administrator -- Adds the Pocket Finance Administrator to your desktop PC. This lets you exchange Quicken Interchange Format (QIF) files with desktop applications such as Quicken, and Microsoft Money. See Pocket Finance contact information above.
  • MobileCHOICE -- A mobile, wireless, and dial-up application suite. Combined with IKON's Mobility Services, and a Motorola Personal Messenger wireless modem, you can send and receive Internet e-mail wirelessly. The program and services are available commercially (contact: IKON Office Solutions, Web: www.integra.net). 
  • Pocket On-Schedule -- Trial Version of a contact manager that features unlimited contact databases, automated dialing support, Internet access from Pocket On-Schedule, direct e-mail, contact information templates, and customizable layouts. Pocket On-Schedule is available commercially (contact: Odyssey Computing Inc., Web: www.odysseyinc.com).

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