Hewlett Packard Jornada 680 Daniel Meineck September 23, 2003 4

Hewlett Packard Jornada 680

Daniel Meineck | Handheld PC Reviews
September 23, 2003

I purchased my Hewlett Packard Jornada 680 Handheld PC in June 1999, and I bought it mainly due to it's hardware specifications and my previous experience of Hewlett Packard, namely, with my old 360LX HPC. I wanted to get a colour Windows CE device, as I aim to use my J680 to take notes whilst doing my computing degree, and to keep up with e-mail and the web. I also like to play a few games on it to! I was also pleased to see it would be compatible with my Rolodex REX card.

The Hewlett Packard Jornada 680 can be purchased for $839 at PDA Mart, a concise web-site offering more information and good value on all pocket computer devices. They stock all of the jornada accessories too, including batteries, cases and keyboards.

The Jornada cost me £489 + 17.5% VAT (value added tax) which came to £575. This equates to roughly $925. Things are often a lot more expensive in England! I also purchased with it a Simple Compact Flash Card (16MB) with PCMCIA adapter, costing me about £60 (inc. VAT) = $95. So all in all, it was a lot of hard cash for a student like myself to shell out! The question is, 'Was it worth it?' I hope to answer this in the course of this review.

 

Hardware

Processor:

The J680 main processor is a Hitachi SuperH SH-3 processor running at a speed of 133Mhz. Due to the SH3 processor, it is compatible with most software written for Windows CE already. The clock rate of the processor (133Mhz) may not seem too fast compared to most modern PC's, but it does not have to do half the job of a PC, and considering that most Handhelds have processors of about 80Mhz, it is very fast indeed.

This processing power is reflected well in programs such as DoomCE, which in my opinion runs faster than on my P200MMX PC!

Memory:

The 680 comes equipped with 16MB of onboard RAM memory, which is shared between the storage of documents & other files, programs, etc and the actual system memory, for when programs are running. I think that amount of memory is slightly low for such a machine, and would have been happier with 32MB or more. Hewlett Packard are soon bringing out a memory upgrade to make it 32MB, which will be available in September 1999.

The RAM module is a replaceable daughter board in the Jornada 680

Hewlett Packard have included many runtime files built into the Jornada, such as the mfcwce211.dll's and the visual basic runtime files. These files enable you to run applications developed, without having to also add separate system files, thus wasting memory. All these files, plus the Windows CE files and application data is stored in non-volatile ROM memory, meaning it is permanent and cannot be erased. The total amount of ROM in the 680 is also 16MB, and is burst mode ROM, meaning that it can be read quickly.

Screen:

One of the main features that I wanted for my new HPC was a full colour screen. The J680's screen is as standard capable of displaying the regular 256 colours. This is advertised on most of the brochures etc. However, if you go to the Hewlett Packard Web Site you will find an update patch which updates the screen software to enable it to display an amazing 65,536 colours! This is a great benefit if you like to use it to browse digital images, which then as a result gives a greater depth of colour.

The Handheld PC Professional Desktop under the 680

The screen is 6.5" in size, with a resolution of 640x240, the HPC standard. This extra width is far better than the old Windows CE Handhelds, allowing you to type documents in Pocket Word at full width.

Other features of the screen that I have found really beneficial are the 'hard icons' to the right of the display. There are 4 icons on the side, which enable you to bring up the HP settings program, switch programs or page up/page down. Either touching them with the stylus or pressing them with your finger can activate these features. The touch screen of the 680 is very good also. Unlike most handhelds, it actually has a paper style texture, so drawing and annotating in programs in much easier as it takes a natural ability.

The stylus has been redesigned slightly, and is very stylish. It slots in the front of the device and to get it you just push it. It will then spring out, which is very cool indeed! The stylus' head is made of the chromed plastic, so on the outside it is very appealing. The tip of the stylus is made of a hard rubber material, which protects the screen, and gives better feedback.

Keyboard:

The keyboard has been much updated since the 360LX and the 620/660LX palmtops. On my old palmtop, I was constantly making typing errors as the keys felt better designed for a calculator. The keys on the Jornada are absolutely marvellous! I think that HP have taken a leaf out of PSION's book, and made them easier to touch-type on. The keys are very responsive, and I find that typing on them is actually now quite enjoyable!

The Jornada's keyboard also includes 11 keys that launch the built-in programs. These are a great feature, as they provide a very fast way of launching a program. These keys, as well as the hard icons on the screen, can be programmed using the integral HP hot keys software to launch any program you choose. Other great features of the keyboard which I only found a few days after getting my 680 included not only the pound (£) and dollar ($) signs, but also the new Euro (€) symbol, which is soon to be the standard currency in most European countries. To turn the Jornada on and off, there is now a separate key, found at the top-right of the keyboard. I have found this to be much better than the old HP palmtops, where you had to use the spacebar and function keys simultaneously.

Other buttons on the machine include the flashing alarm button and the reset button. The flashing alarm button flashed green when an appointment is due, and pressing it can deactivate the light.

I was very pleased to see that the soft reset button is on the front of the keyboard. It can only be depressed using the stylus. The benefit of having the reset button easily accessible is the fact that when say, a program performs an error, you need to reset the device. It can be incredibly frustrating if you have to remove plates on the back of your palmtop to do this, like I had to with my old 360LX.

Recording Buttons:

The recording buttons allow you to record and play wav files. There are three buttons on the front, to the right of the integral microphone along with a small light, which is on the front left corner. One of the buttons records, with a red coloured dot in the middle, one plays, and the other plays the previous wav file, acting as a skip button. There is also a sliding lock, which will prevent you from operating these buttons if they are accidentally knocked, for example. All these buttons are finished in chrome, making the device very aesthetically pleasing.

Compact Flash / PC Card Slot:

The J680 allows you to insert both a Compact Flash Card, and a Type 1 or 2 PCMCIA (PC CARD). I was pleased to see that you could use both at the same time, even though they slot in in more or less the same place! The mechanism for this is extremely well designed. In order for me to be able to explain it fully, I will include some pictures.

The Jornada 680's CF mechanism located on the base of the unit

Basically any type 1 or 2 PC card can slot in to the left side of the 680. As it slides in, the holder for it extends slightly on the bottom of the palmtop. To compensate for the difference in height of the palmtop, a little leg on the other side of the base can be extended so it still stands up. To eject the PC card, there is a small lever that is flush with the side of the machine. You have to pull this out to the side and then push it in, upon which the card will pop out. This is yet another really well designed feature.

This module also holds any standard compact flash card. The card is inserted by pushing back a bar to allow the mechanism to pop up slightly, allowing the card's insertion. Also built into this mechanism is the speaker for the device, the back up cell battery, and the main system memory which can be upgraded (see memory, earlier in review).

 

Modem:

The Jornada comes equipped with a 56Kbps internal modem. This really is a benefit, as it means you can browse the net, or send/receive e-mail etc whilst using the PC card slot and Compact Flash card slot for other bits. The internal modem means that there is no separate software to install, all you have to do is select which country you are using the modem in, which can be done using the built in HP country selector software in the control panel. The modem uses a standard US telephone cable, which comes with the Jornada. The cable clips into the modem's port on the right hand side of the machine, and when the modem is not in use a levered plastic flap covers it up.

Infra Red Port:

As with all Windows CE devices, the Jornada comes equipped with an infra red port. This port can be used to send/receive files, print to an Infra Red printer, and communicate with other Windows CE devices. I found this port a great use when transferring files between my old palmtop and the J680. The Infra Red port is on the left-hand side above the PC Card eject lever.

RS232 Port:

The RS232 cable port is used to plug in the standard synch cable port and therefore share files with your desktop computer. This is on the rear of the device on the right hand side. I do not use this port very much, mainly due to the:

Docking Station Connectors:

On the rear of the Jornada 680 are 10 small holes that are used to connect to the included docking station. These holes connect the J680 so it can be re-charged and synchronised. I find this to be an excellent feature.

DC Charging Socket:

There is also included a DC charging socket, which can be used with the AC adapter to charge up the 680 without the need for the docking station. This is a good idea if you are travelling, and luggage space is at a premium.

Docking Station:

As explained earlier, the docking station (included) connects to the Jornada 680 via the 10 metal circles on the base, and will re-charge and connect your Jornada to your main computer. The docking station is very pleasing, looking good whilst performing well. It has a stylus holder, so that you can easily use the stylus and operate the device whilst it is connected. To eject the J680 from the docking station, there is a nice chrome coloured large button on the left that releases the secure clips which hold the palmtop in place.

I found a really good feature of the docking station that HP has obviously thought about is to include a synch cable that plugs into the docking station, rather than a permanent serial cable. This means that you do not have to buy a separate synch cable, as all you do is unplug it from the docking station.

Battery:

The battery for the J680 clips on the back of the HPC, and accounts for about a quarter of the weight! It is a lithium-ion battery pack, and is included.

The claimed battery life of the 680 from Hewlett Packard is 7 hours. This is great deal of time, especially for such a powerful machine. When I first got my Jornada, I thought this claim would be a little optimistic. Obviously the time is for optimum conditions, such as no sound; low brightness; perfect operating temperature and no serial/modem connections. I have found though that the battery life when using under the conditions I like (all sounds, bright screen etc.) is still near this point!

The backup battery for the J680 is held in the compact flash / PC card mechanism, and is a single cell button cell. Unscrewing a metal panel, using the included screwdriver can access it. HP also included spare screws!

Other Miscellaneous Features:

The Jornada is coloured in a subtle purple colour, with several chrome features. It is quite heavy, but can be kept in your trouser/jacket pocket or briefcase. The overall look of the Jornada is one of high style, with some very nice touches. On the top right-hand corner is the 'Powered by Microsoft Windows CE Handheld PC' emblem, which reminds me of how good the software and operating system for it really is! A great feature of the Jornada is the ability for it to power on from the screen being lifted up - this means you don’t have to even press the on/off button….I use this feature all the time.

 

Software:

By now you may have gathered that the Jornada's operating system is Microsoft Windows CE. It uses the latest version currently available by Microsoft, version 2.11, or more commonly known as Windows CE Handheld PC/PRO. I won't explain the benefits of this version, as that is not the main topic of the review, but I will say that there are many more features, and it runs very nicely indeed. Built in to the main operating system are the Microsoft applications, Pocket Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Internet Explorer, Outlook and Voice Recorder amongst others.

Hewlett Packard have also included a few free applications built into the Jornada, which increase the use of the machine, and also provide easy solutions to old problems. Here are a few:

  • HP Hot Keys - Program the hot keys and hard icons to launch programs of your choice.
  • HP Macro - Create and record macros to speed up common tasks.
  • HP Settings - Adjust the screen settings, view the memory status, and set up your password. A great feature of this password function is that you can set the J680 to ask for your password only after a certain amount of time has gone bye from being switched off, so that you can re-activate your palmtop quickly if you have forgotten something.
  • HP Backup - Backup or restore either the PIM data or the full memory contents.
  • HP Dialup - A very easy to use program that sets up connections to the Internet and e-mail.
  • HP Quick Pad - This enables you to quickly take down information, and then enter it into the correct application later.
  • HP Viewer - This is a month-at-a-glance program, where you can view calendar information for the month, aswell as upcoming tasks and contact data neatly.
  • bFAX Pro - Send Faxes.
  • bFIND - Search for files on the Jornada.
  • InkWriter - Draw and annotate diagrams.
  • OmniSolve - Financial calculator, used for conversions and general numeric problem solving.

Documentation:

The instructions that came with the Jornada were of a high standard and easy to follow. On the inside of the box was stuck a welcome feature, and also included was a quick start leaflet. The instruction manual for the J680 was extremely comprehensive, and gave information on the product, and Windows CE. This meant that unlike in other machines' documentation, you don’t have to keep hopping between manufacturer's manual and the Windows CE manual. I was thoroughly impressed with this.

Bugs / Problems:

There are a few bugs with the J680 that I have found whilst using it. One of the problems was the HP Viewer application; this often just froze the palmtop. An update can be found at the HP Web Site, and this completely fixes the problem.

There are also problems with the Recording / Playback buttons on the front of the unit. You can record something with no problems whatsoever, but if you want to play them back, you have to have the voice recorder app. still running before you suspend. I tried to configure it in the options, but the option made no difference, I will be contacting HP about this.

Overall:

I have found that the Hewlett Packard Jornada 680 Handheld PC truly is an excellent machine. It boasts a real punch of portable muscle, running applications speedily and smoothly. Its features are second-to-none, and it really is very nice to look at. It is easy to use, the keyboard is great, and the machine itself is extremely well built. It seems that Hewlett Packard have taken more time than other manufacturers to consider further people's needs and wants when designing the J680, and really have come up with a cracker! Oh, and as for that question…'Was it worth the money?', certainly! I could not live without this excellent tool now. Not only does it allow me to take care of various note taking and studious activities, but it also is really fun when playing the vast amount of games available online! Well done HP!

System Requirements:

Windows 95, 98, Millennium, NT4, 2000, XP
ActiveSync 3.0 or higher

Rating  
Cost: 4 Star Rating: Recommended
Usability: 5 Star Rating: Exceptional
Built-In helps: 3 Star Rating: Average
Customer Service: 3 Star Rating: Average
Overall: 4 Star Rating: Recommended

More information on the Jornada 680 can be found at the following URL.
http://www.hp.com/

Daniel Meineck
Handheld PC Reviews
RaptorSystems : HPC Factor