With the Jornada 820, Hewlett-Packard has created a handheld computer that will not only elicit envious stares in the coffee shop, but will also let you tackle some real work.
The Jornada is sleek and lavender. Although larger than a Palm Pilot, it is by no means cumbersome. With a footprint modestly smaller than a pad of notepaper, its 1 kilo weight is quite manageable.
With the Jornada you get a real keyboard. If you find yourself writing terse e-mails because you can't stand typing on chicklet-sized keys, the Jornada may be the solution. Although small at first glance, the keyboard feels good. Within minutes I had all but completely adjusted to the layout. I wrote this review on the Jornada, and I found it comfortable and remarkably error free.
The applications that come bundled with Windows CE are decent. Haven't we been calling for slimmed down, bloat-free applications? Well, Pocket Office is nothing if not slim on the features. You can call on the bare basics and that's about it.
Once Windows CE services are installed on a desktop PC, transferring files between the handheld and a desktop is simple via the serial cable. The Jornada automatically recognises when it is attached to a PC and tries to log in.
The Jornada's communication options also include a Universal Serial Bus port, infrared port, and v.90 56Kbps modem on the 820 model. (The 820e comes sans modem).
Transferring files can be problematic with the Jornada. The best solution is using the serial cable, but Windows CE services must first be installed on the PC. Infrared is nice, but outside of laptops, not many computers have infrared ports. You will probably find yourself transferring files by mailing them to yourself, then using the Jornada's modem to dial your ISP and download the message. A PC card and a CompactFlash slot give you additional options.
Poor screen quality
The most problematic aspect of the Jornada was the screen. The cursor often disappears when moved. There's also a tendency for everything to look washed out. When Web browsing, images look odd as the constant refreshing makes the image look like a rippling ocean. Pumping up the brightness to full blast helps, but given the quality of the rest of the package, the screen is a letdown. There is, however, a monitor port that lets the Jornada drive an 1024 x 768 monitor at 256 colours.
I also found myself really wishing this had a touch-sensitive screen. The laptop-style touchpad did not excite me. Although you can turn the touchpad on and off, this can be a tedious endeavour.
The Jornada's dilemma is that it closely mimics a notebook, yet it is not a notebook. If the Jornada were $1000, I'd say that everyone should have one. At around $2000, my recommendation is less clear cut. For $1000 more, you can buy a real laptop, which will assuredly be bulkier. But for many mobile workers, the Jornada will speak to them. You can write, send e-mails, do PowerPoint presentations, and surf the Web in a package that weighs less than 1.25 kilos. If my boss needs me, I'll be working in the coffee shop.
The Bottom Line
Hewlett-Packard Jornada 820
The latest in HP's line of handheld computers is just one step removed from a sub-notebook. Its comfortable keyboard makes it possible to do real work, though the screen is a bit of a disappointment.
Pros: Compact; excellent keyboard for touch- typing; bundled with decent applications; good communication options; 10-hour battery life.
Cons: Weak display; awkward touchpad.
Platforms: Runs Windows CE 2.11; synchronises with Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT.
Price: $2155 estimated street price (tax included).
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