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Hand-Helds

Jornada 525 Boosts Cause of Pocket PC Platform

April 05, 2001|MARK A. KELLNER | mark@kellner2000.com

Microsoft's Pocket PC platform, designed to compete with devices running the Palm OS, still has an uphill battle in the marketplace. One reason has been price: Some Pocket PCs cost about $100 more than equivalent Palm-based devices.

Hewlett-Packard aims to change that with the Jornada 525, a $359 device selling for $140 less than its older brother, the Jornada 545.

Although the new model has only 16 megabytes of RAM--half the 545's 32-MB payload--its performance does not suffer. And the slot on the back accommodates a wide range of flash memory cards to make up the difference.

HP had just less than 2% of market share on hand-held sales in December 2000--well behind the 16% held by Handspring and the 68% held by Palm, according to research firm NPD Intelect. The only other Pocket PC maker in the top five was Casio, which had nearly 10% of shipments for December.

The Jornada 525 might help the Pocket PC's cause. It's a sleek, attractive device offering solid performance at a good price--roughly equivalent to that of a Palm IIIc and $100 less than the Visor Prism.

Like the Visor, the Jornada 525 can be outfitted with a snap-on camera offering digital pictures at 640-by-480-pixel resolution, a wireless modem for e-mail or a full-featured keyboard from Anaheim-based Targus.

HP claims an eight-hour life from the device's internal, rechargeable lithium-ion battery. As with all Pocket PCs, the ability to read e-books in the Microsoft Reader format and play MP3 music files is standard. The color display screen is rich and vibrant--good for, say, a digital photo album to take on the road.

Productivity applications are standard as well. The pocket versions of Microsoft's Outlook, Word and Excel programs and the Internet Explorer Web browser come loaded on the device. Still AWOL from the Pocket PC, though, is a scaled-down version of PowerPoint for presentations.

Those standard applications are, in my view, one of the Pocket PC's most appealing features. They're as familiar to users as their desktop PC counterparts, so there's no learning curve. The Jornada, like all Pocket PCs, relies on the ParaGraph handwriting recognition software to turn scribblings into usable computer text. It works well--80% to 90% accurate in my testing.

Note-taking is done on the Jornada's screen, using a stylus. This is where things start to get tricky. First, the stylus is flat, like a tongue depressor, which makes it awkward to use. A round stylus has a better feel.

But unlike other Jornada models, the 525 has no intuitive place to store the stylus. The usual flip-down lid with stylus pocket of earlier Jornada hand-helds is gone. There is a stylus sleeve in the leather case provided, but it's not easy to get at.

Another major complaint is that Hewlett-Packard takes a step backward with the 525 by offering only a serial port synchronization cable--and no attachments for a Universal Serial Bus port.

As desktop PCs add more USB options, it seems strange that HP would shun them on this product.

The main documentation for the Jornada 525 is on a CD-ROM supplied with the unit, although a printed quick-start guide is tucked in to get you going.

A copy of Microsoft Outlook 2000 also is packed in the unit, in case you don't have one already.

It's not a stretch to think that the HP Jornada 525 will make a big splash in the corporate space, or with those on a budget. This is a good, no-nonsense hand-held that offers a fair amount of value at a reasonable price.

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Mark A. Kellner is editor at large for Government Computer News.

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The Skinny

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Hewlett-Packard Jornada 525

www.hp.com/jornada/products/520/

Price: $359

Operating system: Microsoft Pocket PC

Memory: 16 MB RAM

Battery life: Up to eight hours from its internal rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

Software: Pocket PC versions of Microsoft Outlook, Word, Excel and Internet Explorer.

*

The Good: One of the lowest cost Pocket PC hand-helds. It comes with a handy suite of software that most Windows users will feel right at home with. Nice color screen.

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The Bad: No Universal Serial Bus connector, a clunky stylus.

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The Bottom Line: A good, no-nonsense hand-held at a reasonable price.

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