The NEC MobilePro 790 Handheld PC 200

NEC's new Handheld PC 2000 adds built-in Flash ROM memory and updated software to their successful 1/2 VGA MobilePro mini-notebook computer

I am typing this review using NEC's newest Windows Powered handheld, the MobilePro 790. I'm flying to New York City for the PC Expo computer show. The 1/2 VGA color-screen Handheld PC 2000 sits on an airline tray table with room left over for a glass of water and a small notepad. I've set the Times Roman font in Pocket Word to 18-point blue for easy viewing and editing.

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Hal Goldstein writing this article on a NEC MobilePro 790 Handheld PC 2000 somewhere in the skies between St. Louis and New York.

The passenger squeezed next to me asks, "Is that a laptop?"

I can't give a simple answer. That's the problem.

"Well, it's not exactly a laptop, but I am using a version of Word. Tonight I will answer my e-mail in my hotel room. It runs Windows CE, which is like Windows, but not exactly, since it won't necessarily run the same programs. It has versions of Excel, PowerPoint, Internet Explorer. It contains all my contacts, appointments, and tasks, which I synchronized from my desktop at work. Oh, and it can play music and run videos."

From his look, I could see I hadn't exactly cleared things up.

Perhaps the inability to place the MobilePro 790, the latest Handheld PC 2000, in a known category explains, at least in part, why this class of machines has not attracted many mainstream users. Microsoft and Handheld PC developers consider it only as a "vertical market" device.

NEC and HP are the only major companies today producing Handheld PCs that use the Windows CE operating system and are suitable for both business and consumers. Both NEC, with its first UltraLite, and HP, with the Portable Plus and OmniBook 300, began producing self-contained, instant-on machines in the 1980s. These machines are like Pocket PCs with keyboards. They come with an operating system and an application suite built in, plus battery-powered, non-volatile RAM for storage. The small size, light weight, instant boot, built-in software, and relatively long battery life are all boons for mobile users, and for those who require basic computer capabilities without the headaches.

Unlike the smaller HP Jornada 720, the MobilePro 790 will not fit into your pocket. It must be carried in a shoulder bag or small briefcase. Closed, this super-thin "mini-notebook" computer is a mere 1.1 inches thick, 9.6 inch wide, and 5.2 inch deep. At 1.7 pounds, it's heavier than a Pocket PC, but a lot lighter than most notebooks. Despite the size, you can easily touch type on its 92% full-size keyboard.

I used the MobilePro 790 on this trip to write and take care of e-mail correspondence, on the plane and in my hotel. I also used it to take notes at a seminar. Except for the day of the seminar, I left the MobilePro 790 in the hotel for my wife, who is definitely not a technophile. A writer, Rita enjoys the convenience of working on the highly portable, instant-on MobilePro 790.

Tried and true hardware

The hardware is the same as the NEC MobilePro 780's. The 64K color, 8.1-inch diagonal, 1/2 VGA, touchscreen display (640 x 240 resolution) folds over the keyboard. The result, for a clamshell device with a static, truly touch-type-able keyboard, is as small as possible. For more details and a different perspective on the NEC H/PCs, see Rich Hall's reviews of the MobilePro 780 and 770.

The unit has both the thicker Type II CF and Type II PC card slots. Since gigabyte-plus storage is available on Type II cards, that means there is room for databases, large spreadsheets, a library of your favorite music, or even a couple of movies. These card slots can also pull I/O duties with devices such as wireless access, LAN connection, or GPS cards.

A scroll wheel, embedded in the hinge area, can be configured for line or page scrolling, and used to move through menus. Ten user-definable, quick-launch, half-sized keys marked with the icons of the built-in applications take up the top keyboard row. Two additional top-row keys adjust brightness.

 

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