Hewlett Packard Jornada 728
Clinton Fitch | Reviews Editor
Like many Handheld PC owners, I've sat watching patiently as more and more new versions of Pocket PCs are made available over the past year and a half, introducing new features and technologies, hoping that someday the same things would find their way to the HPC platform and my Jornada 720 would ease into retirement as a beta platform. Sure there have been new HPCs out since the 720s introduction back in November 2000, most notably the NEC Mobile Pro 790 and the Siemens SimPAD. But they were all built on the same Operating System and GUI, running the same basic set of applications.
When Hewlett Packard announced the Jornada 728, I immediately began pressing to find one (finally got one from Europe) and have spent the last several weeks reviewing it. And while I'm pleased to see Hewlett Packard continuing the HPC line, the 728 is in my view a major disappointment.
Upon first looks, the 728 is identical in size and shape to the 720 with only the case color design being different. Replacing the dark blue of the 720 (and the 680/690s before it) is a two-tone grey casing (HP refers to these as Granite and Charcoal colors). Opening it up reveals an identical keyboard and soft-button layout to the 720 with the top row on the keyboard dedicated to one-button access to the built-in applications. The Compact Flash, PCMCIA slot and Smart Card slot are in the same locations as the 720 as well as the audio controls and stylus storage. One improvement that was made was in the battery life of the main battery located at the back of the unit. In the 720, the battery is rated to give 9 hours of autonomous use. In the 728, the battery life is up to 14 hours and HP made this change without adding any weight to the unit (still 1.1 pounds). This is a nice addition to-be-sure, especially if owners use PCMCIA cards or Microdrives.
Beyond the battery, the most significant upgrade to the 728 is the addition of 32MB of RAM for storage. This, admittedly, has been handier than I first gave it credence but it is still questionable if the extra 32MB justifies the price difference.
The 640x240 display in the 728 is identical to the display in the 720. Both render 65K colors and have 2D acceleration on their CSTN displays. Viewing outdoors has improved over the 720 which I suspect is an upgrade to the software and driver.
The lack of an improved display, in my view, is perhaps the second major disappointment with the 728 (second only the to the software lineup read below). TFT and other technologies have taken quantum leaps in quality and view ability in the Pocket PC and Handheld PC markets over the past two years. It is surprising to see what is in my view older technology on a new product from Hewlett Packard.
From a software perspective, the 728 and 720 are identical. Much has been made of the version differences of Pocket Internet Explorer in the two products. The original 720 came with version 4.0 while later builds came out 4.01. On my 720, I have 4.01 and my build number is 9546-126 which was bought in December 2000. The software line up and version numbers are the same in both the 720 and 728. The core Operating System remains Handheld PC 2000 (built on CE 3.0) with no visible or operational differences.
The software changes (or lack thereof) are the single greatest disappointment to the 728. Pocket PCs have enjoyed several changes to applications such as Pocket Outlook and Pocket Internet Explorer as well as major upgrades to the GUI. None of these have translated to the 728, giving it an outdated feeling straight from the box.
So, bottom-line, is the 728 worth the price? Here is a breakdown of the pricing of a Jornada 728 compared to a 720 with additional items to bring it up to the 728 level.
Costs Jornada 728 Jornada 720
Given the fact I can "upgrade" (i.e. Buy components) my 720 to the 728s level, I don't believe that the unit is a worthwhile upgrade for existing 720 users. If, however, you are new to Handheld PCs, the 728 would be an excellent unit to start with and grow into.
The 728 has had a short life with production already ended as Hewlett Packard has all but dropped the Handheld PC line of Jornadas. The units are still widely available through other online retailers and at a substantially lesser price than the original $999.
Windows 95, 98, Millennium, NT4, 2000, XP
More information on the Jornada 680 can be found at the following URL.