Hard-hitting flyweights

The Compaq iPaq has been the undisputed leader of the Pocket PC devices to date, but the new HP Jornada from Hewlett-Packard may alter the landscape. In conjunction with the release of the new Pocket PC 2002 operating system from Microsoft, Compaq released the iPaq 3850 and 3870, and HP unveiled the Jornada 565 and 568. These devices, all based on the 206MHz StrongARM 32-bit processor, are designed to take advantage of the new OS features, including a Terminal Services Client, VPN connectivity, and Windows Media Player.

The Pocket PC 2002 OS was developed with enterprise use in mind. The improved networking functionality and the addition of VPN and Terminal Services clients make handheld devices an interesting and useful administration tool for some organizations. For example, system administrators can now help troubleshoot from anywhere using only a small handheld device. To compare the latest Pocket PC offerings from HP and Compaq, we looked at the Jornada 565 and the iPaq 3850.

Jornada surges strongly

Weighing in at 6.1 ounces, the Jornada 565 is housed in a sleek, silvery gray case with rubber side grips that fit comfortably in your hand. The USB cradle follows the same color scheme and has a design similar to the cradles used for Palm devices, providing an easy slide connection.

The stylus, stored in the back of the device, is too lightweight -- it should be a bit heftier. HP tried to minimize the weight of the device, but a more solid stylus would not have added much of a burden.

The Jornada ships with a plastic flip cover, also silvery gray, that provides adequate protection for the screen and is not too bulky or intrusive, unlike the iPaq's cover pack.

The Jornada 565 comes with 32MB of ROM and 32MB of RAM. The 568 has 64MB of RAM, which is the only difference between the two devices. Power is provided by a rechargeable lithium polymer battery pack that HP claims lasts for as long as 14 hours of continual use. This time was determined, however, by using the Jornada without the screen powered on, which is not realistic. In our testing, we nonetheless found the battery life to be fairly strong, able to run the device intermittently for 11 hours with some battery power remaining.

The Jornada has only one CompactFlash (Type I) expansion slot, which may prove problematic for some users, because many of the new expansion devices, such as the D-Link CompactFlash Wireless LAN Adapter, are Type II cards and cannot be used on the Jornada. HP has released a battery pack that includes an SD (Secure Digital) slot for memory expansion, leaving the CompactFlash card for wireless connectivity or a digital camera.

HP also has released a PC Card adapter to enable the use of standard PC wireless LAN or WAN cards. This adapter also serves as the device's battery and includes the built-in SD card slot for memory expansion. The expansion slots can be used to add required functionality to the Pocket PC, such as network access, additional memory, and LCD projection connections.

The Jornada ships with quite a few extra applications, many more than the iPaq delivers. HP has added a host of utilities, including a utility that allows backup of critical data into ROM in case power is lost and system RAM is cleared; a task switcher similar to using Alt-Tab in Windows; a Java Virtual Machine emulator; and an image viewer. The Jornada also includes the OmniSolve Business/Financial Calculator and Developer One's Code Wallet Pro, which securely stores information such as passwords and credit card numbers.

Bigger isn't better

Although similar to the Jornada in some respects, the iPaq differs in a few main areas. The iPaq case is a slick, shiny silver, and it's slightly wider than that of the Jornada. As a result, the iPaq feels a bit awkward to hold. The lack of rubber grips on the side creates a fear the device may slip out of a sweaty palm. And the iPaq weighs in at 6.7 ounces (9.35 with a CompactFlash expansion sleeve), a bit heavier than the Jornada. The iPaq ships with a cover pack that slides over the device, covering the display screen. This cover pack is flimsy and bulky, quickly becoming a nuisance.

We give originality points to Compaq for trying to create a cradle that differs from Palm's, but it fails to provide an easy connection. The backless base and the small connector on the bottom make slipping the iPaq into its cradle difficult; users must carefully line everything up. The stylus is stored in a pop-up slot on the top of the device. The stylus is sturdier than that of the Jornada, but the pop-up mechanism is not always reliable. On several occasions during testing, the mechanism did not function correctly and the stylus got stuck.

The iPaq 3870 ships with 32MB of ROM and 64MB of RAM. The 3870 is similar to the 3850 in all respects, except it ships with built-in Bluetooth support. For power, the iPaq uses a lithium polymer rechargeable battery. In testing, it performed well, having power to spare after running intermittently for 11 hours.

The iPaq uses expansion packs that slide over the device, adding quite a bit of bulk. Compaq currently provides more expansion opportunities than HP, but it is only a matter of time before HP catches up. Further, Compaq's iPaqnet Mobile Internet Solutions (using the Sierra Wireless AirCard 300) does not currently support Pocket PC 2002, although that support should be available soon. The iPaq does provide an SD slot for memory expansion out of the box, whereas the Jornada requires the purchase of a new battery.

For navigation, both the Jornada and the iPaq provide four hot keys and a central multidirectional navigator. But HP takes this one step further, adding a thumb navigator in the rubber grip on the right side of the Jornada. These controls are perfectly situated to provide simple, one-handed navigation. The Jornada also includes a backup 3V coin-cell battery to help prevent data from being deleted should the main battery run out.

The Jornada and the iPaq both sport 16-bit color reflective TFT (thin-film transistor) LCD displays that are indoor and outdoor viewable. The iPaq display is slightly larger than the Jornada's. Both devices provide options to change the brightness of the display and the amount of power it uses, allowing users to adjust to being outdoors or save power. In our testing, we did not notice any significant differences between the two devices when comparing the display.

Overall, the Jornada 565 is a significant improvement over its predecessors, making it a viable contender against the iPaq. The expansion capabilities of the iPaq are still a bit stronger, but the Jornada has all the expansion functionality most users will require.

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Mandy Andress

PC World
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