This website is using cookies. We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. More info. That's Fine
HPC:Factor Logo 

NEC Mobile Terminal S1596-01 Review

Rich Hawley | Handheld PC Reviews
December 30, 2013

Santa didn't bring me anything this year, so I bought myself a present on eBay. Total cost for the item including shipping was $66.00 USD (£54.55 GBP, €62.73 EUR, ¥9,853.64 JPY est.).

While NEC calls it a "Mobile Terminal", I just call it my CE5 tablet. Technically it is the S1596-01 Mobile Terminal. In reality, it is just another Windows CE tablet with a few differences. Those differences don't jump out at you, but you do come to appreciate them nonetheless.

Like other tablets I've reviewed here on H/PC:Factor, I am interested in a couple of things…mostly software compatibility, and simple functionality. The S1596-01 fills those requirements nicely.

Let's start out with the specifications:

Core Logic
CPU PXA270 running at 520 MHz
Flash ROM 64MB
Physical Characteristics
LCD 10.4" TFT color LCD for up to 1024x768 (XGA) @ 65K colors
Man battery 2400mAh 7.4v DC
Ports USB Host / Client, IrDA, earphone, microphone, docking, CF card
Communications Internal Bluetooth and 802.11 b/g supporting WPA
Touchscreen Resistive one point typical of H/PC devices
Weight 1000 grams (2.2 lbs)
Dimensions 288mm (L) x 214mm (W) x 26mm (H)
System Software
Operating System Windows CE 5.0


Figure 1: Windows CE 5.0

First of all, as I mentioned, it is a Windows CE 5 tablet. Like most CE tablets, it comes with the standard sparse applications. About the only three utilities that are not normally found on our H/PCs that are part of the system is a well developed WiFi client manager. Also a utility to flush the registry, and a warm reset via software…since there is no other warm reset button on the device.

Figure 2:Wireless LAN SSID scanner

The wireless on this thing is superb. Unlike the limited range I've experienced with my cheapo Android tablets, I am able to connect with WiFi hotspots a long…long distance from where I am operating. To give you an idea, in the image above, you can see the wireless hotspots that I am receiving using the built in WiFi. Using my MobilePro 900C with a Cisco 350 card, I can only pick up 4 of those you can see above. This thing must have a wonderful internal antenna. Similarly, using a cheapo CE6 netbook, I can only connect with 3 of those you see.

Perhaps it is because this thing is so well constructed. There is nothing cheap or inexpensive in the build, though much of it is made of plastic. Holding it is very comfortable, barely weighing more than my MobilePro 900. I especially like the built in rubber corner guards both protect it and make it easy to prop up on a flat surface. Guess it is time to take a look at it in depth…

Figure 3: Top edge

The top of the unit is where the battery fits in the center. In the diagram above, the ports are as follows:

  1. Microphone jack.
  2. USB host.
  3. Main battery.
  4. Earphone.
  5. Volume dial – this I really like. So simple to adjust the volume by turning a dial rather than using the CE software interface.

The bottom of the unit in contrast is fairly boring.

Figure 4: Bottom edge
  1. Port for the docking station.
  2. Door cover for CF memory card. Note that it both clips in place and is secured by a screw.

The right side has its share of neat things too!

Figure 5: Right edge
  1. The power button to turn it on and off.
  2. Small LED light to show it is running on a/c power.
  3. Small LED light to show it is charging battery.
  4. Small LED light to show WiFi is on or wireless activity.

The WiFi or Bluetooth power is controlled through the control panel using the power properties utility. In the power saving tab, you can actually turn either or both on/off manually.

The left end has a couple of goodies as well.

Figure 6: Left edge
  1. The infrared port is obvious. Not an exceptionally fast IrDA, still it supports the common SIR protocol.
  2. The client USB port is the mini-USB type. Interestingly enough, the owner's manual fails to talk about this port. When I plugged it into my desktop, Microsoft Activesync 4.5 attempts to start, but never does. Looking at the PC Connection in the control panel, the option to allow changing the port for PC Connection is grayed out…telling me that perhaps this feature was disabled by the original owners of the machine, or perhaps never used at all. This is something I will have to work on.
  3. The next port is where you simply plug in the A/C adapter if you are not using a docking station.
Figure 7: Rear of the device

The backside of the device has its share of strange and unknown things as well.

  1. These are the connectors for the shoulder strap, well embedded into the case material.
  2. This is a small LED that tells you (reminds you) that the unit is on and to not change the battery without first turning it off. Not sure what would happen, but the owner's manual suggests that a catastrophic system failure resulting in data corruption might occur.
  3. This is the battery release lever.
  4. This is the battery lock/unlock slide switch.
  5. The door covers the backup batteries. There are two of them. They are known as the sub-battery and the rtc-battery. As you would expect, the sub battery keeps information intact during the exchange of the main battery. The rtc-battery is solely used to maintain the time. Also in this door is the spot to use the stylus to perform a reset. Note that this is a hard reset that completely wipes the device clean back to factory specs. You would have to reinstall any software afterwards, though registry changes remain intact.
  6. This cover is removable to allow access to part of the main PCB underneath. I have no idea what is it provided for or why access is necessary.
Figure 8: RTC and Sub-battery

This is the backup battery compartment with the hard reset switch access.

Figure 9: CF Slot

This is the compact flash slot on the bottom, and the door that covers some of the main PCB...for what purpose I do not know.

Figure 10: The dock / port replicator

As mentioned earlier, my device came with a docking station. The S1596-01 sits into the cradle to make contact with the connecting port. The lights on the front show power to the docking station and show proper fit/connection with the tablet when inserted.

The docking station contains an Ethernet port for wired internet access, and two USB slots. One of the slots in my station is damaged and I will have to replace it later. But the remaining one accepts a USB mouse or keyboard fine. I was able to connect a self powered USB hub to the port and actually connect the mouse, keyboard, and a USB flash drive simultaneously.

Figure 11: NEC USB Keyboard

They keyboard that came with my purchase is nothing fancy…simply a USB keyboard without a numeric pad which I found less than desirable. But it worked.

While I'm writing about the keyboard, you will notice in this frontal picture of the unit that the S1596-01 has quite a few keys on it already.

Figure 12: Front of the device

The numeric keys are simply keys 1-0. The PU and PD act as cursor keys, up and down respectively. The left and right arrows act as left and right cursor keys. F1, F2, and F3 correspond to desktop function keys. Tab is tab, Exit is escape or exit. Home is home, and help must be programmable, but seems to do nothing. From the desktop, pressing F1 brings up the Windows CE Help.

The web browser is the typical IE 6 and has no greater ability than that in my MobilePro 900C. One other program of interest that resides in the Windows folder is titled Maintetool.exe.

Figure 13: Configuration and Device Management Interface

What all it does I have yet to discover. But as its name suggests, it is a utility to configure your device. For instance, under the display, I can set the screen resolution to 800 x 600 if I don't like the default. Under the sound setting, I can select default .wav files for various alarms. The T&D2 allows various device tests for the infrared, compact flash, and audio system. Registry allows for reading registry files and importing them into the registry from files stored in a special folder on the CF memory card. RAS is so far beyond me I didn't even want to click on anything except the cancel button.

Well, there you have it. The NEC S1596-01 Mobile Terminal. Your basic Windows CE touch screen tablet. A nice step up from the older H/PC2000 or CE.NET 4.2 tablets. BTW, I'd like to mention one thing right now. That is the speed of this thing. While the CPU may run at 520 MHz, average throughput seems to be on par with my old CE tablets. That is it really isn't any faster when web surfing than using a Viewsonic V100 or Neta 980. So if you're looking for speed…then keep looking!


System Requirements:

Windows 95, 98, 98SE, Millennium, NT 4.0 SP6a, 2000 SP4, XP, 2003, Vista, 2008, Windows 7.
ActiveSync 3.8 or higher

Buying Resources

on eBay
on Amazon
Search for NEC Mobile Terminal S1596-01 at UsedHandhelds.com


Cost: 2- Star Rating
Usability: 5- Star Rating
Built-in Help: 3- Star Rating
Customer Service: 1- Star Rating
Overall: 4- Star Rating
Pros: Well built, great screen resolution, internal WiFi/Bluetooth, good optional accessories, ARM compatible with older H/PC software

Cons: Color limited to 65K, OS limited to CE5, no firmware updates, mono only sound, resistive touch screen

Further Discussion

Let us know what you thought of this review and the NEC Mobile Terminal S1596-01 in the Community Forums!