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By Chris De Herrera 
Copyright 1998-2007
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Jornada 690 Review
By Justin Yu, Copyright 2000
 Version 1.00  Revised 9/12/2000

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Much Thanks to Mobileplanet!!

Searching for a Review Device

I investigated into different companies and resellers, starting with Hewlett Packard. Unfortunately, the customer service from HP is terrible. I got disconnected from their line three times, and got redirected to four different phone numbers. It seemed that nobody had a clue how to issue me a trial Jornada 690, and instead of admitting it, they decided to redirect me to another person that they knew would be of no help to me. Finally I gave up on HP and settled on contacting resellers. The HP website gave me a list of seven or so resellers near me. This was the most help that I had ever received from Hewlett Packard. I called Mobileplanet.com first. From the start the staff at Mobileplanet was very helpful. I was particularly impressed with the list of choices they gave me. It was straight to the point, and I didn't need to press 1 or 5 ten million times to speak with a telephone operator. I asked about issuing me a temporary Handheld PC, and they transferred me automatically to Jennifer Johnson from public relations. This telephone operator was much different than the rest of the people that I had spoken to. She was easy to talk to, I felt like I had known her my whole life. She was very helpful with my questions, and finally told me good news and bad news. Bad news: Usually temporary models for testing are issued in bulk for large companies. They don't issue single models. The key word here is usually. Good news: She decided to make an exception in this case. I don't know why she did this, but I wasnít complaining, and I was delighted that someone was kind enough to make an exception for me. I gave Miss Johnson my name, phone number, and address, and she said that I would receive it in a week or so. Sure enough, even less than 7 days later, I was greeted by a large box containing my very own Jornada. At least for three weeks for this test. Along with the Jornada, a catalog from Mobileplanet was included. The catalog features all the palmtops and accessories that you can think of for all you PDAntics. If you would like to receive this FREE catalog (and I suggest you do), go to www.mobileplanet.com and sign up. In comparison to other companies that I dealt with (I will not mention because my experiences might vary from others), I believe that Mobileplanet was by far the most helpful and friendly. I know that if I order a product from them that they would also be just as helpful. Thank you Mobileplanet! And now onto the review.

 

Introduction

I first decided to review the Jornada mainly because being an avid Palm user, I wanted to:

a.) Use a Windows CE machine and
b.) Wanted to see how a PDA with a keyboard felt like

Review

Overall Size and Weight

After unwrapping the package and opening up the box (warning: not for the light-hearted), I noticed that the Jornada is much smaller than I thought. I had seen glimpses of the machine in online auctions and the manufacturer's page, but I had never imagined it being so tiny. 1.3 x 7.4 x 3.7 inches are the dimensions, and if you were ever wondering whether or not you could put the Jornada in your pocket, the answer is yes! Well, in a way. When I carried mine around, I put it in my back pocket, and it was hardly an obstruction, and after a while you don't even notice it. Just make sure you donít sit on it! Putting it in your front pocket is a different story. While it might fit in some pockets, it would most definitely be bulky and very noticeable. This might not be the best idea. As far as weight goes, the Jornada is very light, only 1.1 pounds. It was a breeze to carry around and anyone can hold it in one hand and type notes or appointments with the other hand

Keyboard Layout and Design

If one were to research the Jornada 690 online, they would see that many complaints about this product were about the keyboard. Before receiving the Jornada, I headed down to the local Fry's Electronics and tried out the keyboard, just to get a feel for what I was going to get. Sure enough, the keys were much smaller than I expected, but then again the entire machine was smaller than I expected, so it was obvious the keyboard needed to fit the machine. The keys are 75% of a full keyboard. Are the keys comfortable to type on? The answer is partially yes, and partially no. The keyboard is great for typing small documents, to do list items, memos to yourself and whatnot, but I would definitely not use it for detailed notes or long periods of typing. As a matter of fact, as I am typing my review here on this machine, I am finding my fingers are starting to feel cramped. I have fairly small hands, and am a very fast typer, so normally my speed isn't greatly affected. Accuracy is another story. While typing various documents, I am making more mistakes than I usually make in my typing because of the small key size. The overall design of the keyboard is not without faults. I had a big problem with question marks. The question mark is not in the normal spot, where I would usually hold shift with my left pinky and the question mark with my right pinky. The mark is awkwardly placed directly to the right of the Space Bar. I found this to be a terrible place to put the commonly used character. The real trauma comes when you are typing very fast and without thinking, you press the buttons that would normally be on a regularly sized keyboard. This results in highlighting the last sentence you had just written by pressing the Shift+Up key and when you type the next letter it is all erased! This has happened way too many times to me, and I definitely don't like it. The keys themselves are touch-typeable, and make a nice clicking sound when you press on them. Overall, the keyboard definitely takes a lot of practice to make perfect, but I wouldn't suggest writing a novel on Pocket Word.

Stylus

The stylus is the feature that boosts the Jornadaís "cool" factor up to 10. Unlike the tiny Palm styli, the Jornadaís is the size of a regular Bic pen. It is very easy to write with the soft tip, and although I didnít need to use it for handwriting recognition, I did find it very comfortable to click links with while surfing the net. The neat part of the stylus is the spring at the end of the pen. The holder on the bottom of the Jornada is spring loaded, so when you push it into the HPC, it makes a quiet click so you know that it is snug inside the machine.

Screen

My everyday PDA is a Palm IIIe, so you could imagine my excitement to use a color HPC. The first word when you think when you see the Jornadaís screen is "BRIGHT." It is easily readable indoors or at night outdoors. Unfortunately, viewing during the afternoon is impossible. If you are inside and feel that the screen is a bit too bright for you needs, you can easily turn it brighter or darker using the quick keys on the right hand side of the screen. Here you can also adjust the volume or whether or not you would like it to dim when idle. The 690's screen is half-VGA at 640 by 240, but it is still a huge step up from my basic grayscale screen on my IIIe. The screen itself is 6.5-in (16.7-cm).

Battery Life

When I was thinking about my Jornada 690, I was most worried that for some reason Iíd forget to recharge my Lithium Ion batteries on my 690, and it would not turn on the next time I would need it. Granted, that was the worst case scenario, but thank god that this HPC is definitely not lacking in the battery department. The manual says that the battery should last for "up to 8 hours of usage," and unlike most HPCís, this one goes 8 hours and more! Of course the life would fluctuate depending on the amount of modem usage, how many program you are running, etcÖbut overall the vitality of the battery is amazing. Recharging is a breeze to operate. Simply plug one end into an outlet and the other end directly into the Jornadaís port or cradle, and thatís it! A full recharge will take an hour or two.

Speed

The Jornada runs on a 133MHz 32-bit Hitachi SH3 processor, which is more than fast enough to run all the HP applications that come with the unit. I installed AvantGo on it, including 9 channels, and the Jornada still ran smoothly without any delays or waits. Switching applications is super easy. Simple press Alt then Tab, and like Windows, a switch task application will appear. As far as powering up and down goes, there is none! This is one of the features that HP put some thought and hard work into. I especially enjoy the instant power on and off feature. Instead of like regular windows, all you need to do on the Jornada is press the power off button, and when you turn it back on it will be in the exact same spot where you left off. This is handy for typing down quick notes on the run and not having to worry about recovering and looking for them later.

Memory

The Jornada 600 series comes in two models, the 680 and the 690. I had the pleasure of testing the 690. The only difference between the two is the extra 16 megabytes of memory than in the 680. There is really no need for a lot of space on this tiny machine, because files donít take up much space, unless you are an avid game player and plan on downloading a lot of games into your machine.

Speaker

If there is one horrendous piece of hardware on the Jornada, it would definitely have to be the speaker. It is so terrible that I can barely hear a voice recording, and I still have to turn the volume all the way up! This results in distortion and Iím still unable to hear my voice. Mp3 lovers, playing your favorite mixes is out of the question on this machine, sorry. In the future I hope that Hp puts in a stereo speaker and a headphone jack for folks who would like to listen to their voice recordings/music in private.

Software

One aspect can make or break a review of a PDA: Software. Without reliable software, there would be no point in buying an expensive portable PC. The software that comes already installed in the Jornada is an excellent feature. All the pocket Microsoft applications are already installed in the unit, including Pocket Word, Pocket PowerPoint, Pocket Access, Pocket Internet Explorer, and the organization apps (Tasks, Calendar, etc...). Shortcut buttons located on top of the numbers can easily access the Microsoft software. The only problem with this placement is that sometimes instead of pressing a number, I'll press the shortcut and it'll throw me off a bit. This is partly caused by speedy typing and the rather small keys. Additional software is available on a Jornada CD, including Sierra Imaging, which I will discuss later in the review. The Jornada CD also contains a tutorial which is aimed to help guide first time Jornada users with any problems they might stumble into.

The Software

Pocket Word

This is the application that I used to most in my testing. The layout looks almost exactly like the real version, with the exception of a couple missing buttons, including bullets and double-spacing. All the shortcut buttons also work in Pocket Word, for example pressing Ctrl+E for center. You can also choose the font that you would like your document to be. If you would like additional fonts that are not already installed in the Jornada, they are easy to add using your desktop computer and a simple connection with your Jornada. Many users have complained about the absence of the double space function. Here's a hint to have double spacing: Save a document in Word on your desktop that has double spacing. Copy and paste this document into your Jornada, and then open up the file in the HPC. It will be double-spaced. Now, simply highlight everything and erase whatever it was, and now whatever you type in the existing document will be double-spaced! This hint can also be found on different websites, including the message board on CEWindows.NET.

Pocket PowerPoint

I barely used this function in my testing, because I wasn't in school at the time, so I had no need for it, but I did copy a presentation to the Jornada just to see if the file would transfer. The best part about Pocket PowerPoint is that you can also copy graphics and sounds (.wav, although the quality is horrible as was previously stated.). The downside is that you can't create slides using just PowerPoint, but there are many third party PowerPoint editors that are available for a small fee that work very well, one of which is made by Jetcet.

*Note: pocket access and pocket excel were also included in Pocket Office, but were not tested by the reviewer.

Pocket Internet Explorer and Internet Capabilities

Signing online with the Jornada is very easy due to the helpful HP dialup program that comes installed on the unit. This guides the user through everything that is needed to get on the Internet. The real problems come when trying to find an Internet service provider that supports Windows CE. On my desktop at home, I have a cable modem, so I don't have a ISP that I can dial into, and since the Jornada has a built in modem only....I was stuck in a tight spot. I wasnít able to sign online for almost half of my testing time, but finally I found a free ISP that works wonders with the Jornada. Some have said that Freei.net works with it, but whenever I tried to go online using Freei.net, I constantly received a message that read: "no carrier detected, please verify the telephone number." I found that Netzero works perfectly, and for the past week Iíve been surfing the Internet and talking to friends using the Windows CE version of AOL Instant Messenger. To sign online, go to this webpage and follow the instructions, except when you read it, substitute Dreamcast for Jornada. http://www.mpog.com/console/feature/dreamcast/onlinehelp. (Editors Note: If you use Netzero this way you do so at your own risk.  This use may be outside their terms of service since it does not display advertising. The link provided no longer exists). Using HP dialup, enter the information that is needed, and BE SURE to check the box that reads "use terminal window after dialing." If you don't check the box then it will not work. If you are having any trouble with these instructions, contact me at [email protected] and I'll personally guide you through the process. I also have AIM (AOL Instant Messenger), so feel free to contact me there also, my screename is Streetdreamzz.

Miscellaneous Applications

Inkwriter

This is one of the more trivial and "fun" software that comes with the Jornada. Basically what this is is a digital drawing board. Using the stylus, you can write directly on the screen, much like the "Bug!" freeware Palm users are probably familiar with. I was wondering something as I started to write a phone number down on Inkwriter. Won't quickly opening up a Word Document and simply typing it in be much easier? Perhaps this application would be more useful to PDA's without keyboards.

AOL Pocket Instant Messenger

My favorite software on the Jornada. To download, just go to AOL.com and to the Instant Messenger area and click on the CE version. It's that simple. Then all you do is sign online and open it up! It is exactly like the real version of AIM with a couple of missing features, like Buddy Chats and Away Messages. Also, other users cannot read your profile when you're on Pocket AIM. Other than those small differences, Pocket AIM is a great application. You can even transfer, load, and save your buddy lists from the desktop to the Jornada!

Sierra Imaging Software

This is one of the best apps that comes free with the Jornada. Although I only tested the 30-day trial version, it still seemed like an excellent piece. It is basically a program that lets you view images and make a presentation much like PowerPoint. You can also draw directly on the pictures when making a presentation. Overall I think it would be very useful to businessmen giving an important speech or just a dad wanting to keep a "digital photo album" with him at all times. The quality of the photos transferred from your PC to the HPC are excellent also, even when enlarged over 300%. I recommend buying this Sierra Picture Viewer to anyone who has a PPC or HPC.

Price

$999 on the HP website. Although this seems like an extremely steep price, it is actually a good deal for everything that is included in the box. For one, you donít need to spend the extra cash for an external modem, since one is already built into the HPC. Also, the fact that a keyboard is built in is a huge plus. Regardless, if you are in the market to buy a handheld PC, expect to pay upwards of $650-$1000.

The Conclusion

After a month of reviewing the Jornada, I must admit that I am very impressed. All in all, I feel that the Jornada 690 would be a great purchase for anyone who needs a portable machine that is somewhat easy to operate and that has the ability to sign onto the internet. However, it might be a bit too complicated for students who might prefer the simplicity of the Palm series. Hereís the breakdown of the Jornada 690:

Pros

Cons

  • Clear screen
  • Keyboard might be cramped for those with larger hands
  • Compact Design
  • Voice recording is pointless due to the terrible speaker quality
  • Lots of useful software included and online
  • A bit difficult to set up internet capabilities
  • Windows familiarity
  • Too many "clicks" needed to access certain programs

If anybody has any questions or comments about the Jornada 690 or my review, please email me at [email protected].

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