Hewlett Packard Jornada 728 Handheld PC

Posted by Moonlit on September - 21 - 2011

Now, if you’ve seen my Psion Series 3a article and you actually lusted after such machines, you might well have salivated enough over this beast to drown a small elephant. If you’ve never seen one before, I’ll run through a few of its vitals…

It’s an HP Jornada 728, born in the year 2002 AD, and at $1000 a pop brand new they were certainly among the very cream of the crop, being the top dog among the other Jornadas, which replaced the earlier LX series of MSDOS handhelds from HP.

Like the Psion, it’s a clamshell style device, but it’s considerably more modern in both form and function. One immediately obvious difference is the ludicrously wide (8:3!) resistive touchscreen LCD dominating the top half of the open device, containing within it 640×240 16-bit colour pixels. The keyboard features proper laptop-style keys, albeit quite small ones, that are quite pleasant to type on. If typing isn’t so much your thing, you can scribble on the screen with its stylus if you prefer, which works reasonably well but for the keyboard being exactly where your wrist wants to be. It should keep you computing for most of a day, the 1150mAh lithium ion stick attached to its backside should last about 8 hours or so of actual use, depending on what you’re doing with it. Don’t forget to keep a fresh coin cell in the backup battery recepticle too, otherwise anything you didn’t copy to CompactFlash will mysteriously vanish as your Jornada gets a bit forgetful.

It’s no slouch when it comes to the guts though, packing a 206MHz Intel StrongARM CPU with 64MB RAM to back it up (I’ve had desktop PCs with less sack), along with a 32MB ROM to hold the CE-based Microsoft Windows Handheld PC 2000 operating system. Expansion options galore adorn the case, from the 16-bit Type II PC Card and smartcard slots in the left hand side to the Type I CompactFlash door hiding away in the bottom that’ll happily hold cards up to a solid 32GB. For those connected types there’s a 56k modem in there too so you can dial up on the move just as long as you’re near a phone line. If that’s not good enough, you can shove a wifi, bluetooth or GSM/EDGE card in the PC Card hole and get your wireless on either by tethering to something else which has a connection or dialling directly into the mobile airwaves. Oh, and there’s a serial port on the back too, along with a 115k IrDA infrared port. To sync the thing, you’ll probably want to drop it in its docking station, which connects to your PC via a USB cable and talks ActiveSync, so it won’t work on  modern Windows versions. Long live Windows 2000!

So what does this thing do? Well, it’s got all sorts of neat stuff, not least a full and functioning copy of Microsoft Office which allows you to create and edit all your favourite document types. That’s Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and Outlook. That’s gotta be worth something on its own, right? No? Well then, it’s got a voice recorder, you can play games on it, you can browse the web with Internet Explorer, play music with Media Player and watch videos too, you can do pretty much anything with it really, but you might want to stock up on applications first. Windows CE has a huge catalogue of 3rd party applications, it’s almost difficult to not find what you need. Well, unless you need something modern, that is. If, like many, you’re allergic to Windows CE and its stretch-named derivatives, you can quite simply install Linux on this thing if you have a spare CompactFlash card to stuff it on. Linux for the Jornada comes in the form of jLime and Debian, among a couple of others, and while I’ve not yet had a chance to test it, it looks decent enough. I imagine it would pair quite nicely with a 3G card. What’s not to like about an always-connected “pocket sized” Linux terminal?

So what’s the score, is it any good? Well, it’s not any bad, let’s put it that way. It pales a bit compared to what even a low end smartphone is capable of these days, but it does have the strength of having a pretty tip-top keyboard. It’s a bit chunky to be honest, you need big pockets, and even then you’re going to look a bit stupid. It puts my Asus eeepc netbook to shame when it comes to battery life, it’s got a battery pack the size of a couple of AA batteries and yet it lasts almost 3 times as long. I cannot tell a lie nor omit a truth, I only really bought one because I always wanted one as a kid. As I was dragged mercilessly around the electronics shop under the command of one or more parents looking for some dull appliance or other, I would catch a brief glimpse of these babies sitting in what might as well have been called the “you can’t afford this stuff” section. Well, now I can, so take that, nyeh.


Categories: Computing, Featured, PDA, Portable

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