NEC MobilePro 790 - handheld - H/PC 2000 - 8.1 review: NEC MobilePro 790 - handheld - H/PC 2000 - 8.1

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MSRP: $899.00
3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Turns on instantly; Pocket Office; easy to synchronize with a desktop PC; lots of expansion options; nifty scroll control; ideal for vertical applications.

The Bad Limited screen real estate; small keyboard; pricey; heavy for a handheld; video-out requires a special cable; not particularly suited for mainstream use.

The Bottom Line The MobilePro 790 finds the useful middle ground between a palmtop and full-fledged notebook.

7.0 Overall

If you break into a sweat at the thought of carrying even a tidy, four-pound, ultralight notebook on your next business trip, then you're the perfect candidate for a Windows CE-based handheld. These minicomputers weigh less than two pounds and boil down the most important aspects of a full-sized notebook into a supremely light package. The MobilePro 790 from NEC delivers all the important Windows CE features that attract the peripatetic business user: instant-on; a large, color touch screen; simple desktop syncing; and a light weight. But the sacrifices that a machine like this requires of its users--especially at this price--ensures that the MobilePro 790 will appeal mainly to people in vertical markets, such as insurance, real estate, and law enforcement. If you break into a sweat at the thought of carrying even a tidy, four-pound, ultralight notebook on your next business trip, then you're the perfect candidate for a Windows CE-based handheld. These minicomputers weigh less than two pounds and boil down the most important aspects of a full-sized notebook into a supremely light package. The MobilePro 790 from NEC delivers all the important Windows CE features that attract the peripatetic business user: instant-on; a large, color touch screen; simple desktop syncing; and a light weight. But the sacrifices that a machine like this requires of its users--especially at this price--ensures that the MobilePro 790 will appeal mainly to people in vertical markets, such as insurance, real estate, and law enforcement.

Measuring more than an inch thick and weighing about as much as a large hardbound book (1.7 pounds), the MobilePro is no palmtop that you slip into a shirt pocket. It's a more robust device, packing a 168MHz NEC MIPS processor and plenty of memory under the hood. If the device's standard 32MB of RAM proves insufficient, a CompactFlash slot located on the front edge allows easy expansion. A single PC Card slot also provides connectivity.

An office in your pocket
Despite the MobilePro's self-proclaimed handheld status, we find this rather pudgy device more suited to tabletop computing. Trying to type or navigate the touch screen while standing (via fingertip or the included stylus) is a real hassle. The clamshell case opens to reveal a half-VGA screen (as wide as a standard VGA screen but only half as high), which delivers 640x240-pixel resolution at 64,000 colors. Yes, you can create spreadsheets and edit documents, but the display size feels restrictive compared to that of a standard notebook or a desktop. For a passive-matrix screen, the image is impressively clear, but off-axis viewing is limited. And the screen is a bit dim, even at its brightest setting.

The MobilePro ships with all the Microsoft Pocket applications, including Pocket Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, and Internet Explorer. The OS also includes e-mail and a Pocket version of Outlook with a contacts list, a calendar, and a task list. Ten quick-access keys across the top row of the keyboard put you just one button away from your applications, the calculator, or a built-in voice-recording utility. But the 78-key QWERTY keyboard, though supposedly only 8 percent smaller than a full-sized model, permits touch-typing by only the thin-fingered. A nifty wheel control located on the screen hinge allows you to scroll through documents. You can set it for line-by-line or full-page scrolling.

Works with your desktop
NEC intends for the MobilePro to complement to a user's main computer, and the device ships with a CD-ROM containing ActiveSync synchronization software and a registered copy of Outlook 2000. The handheld connects via the included serial cable or wirelessly via infrared. Setting up the connection for the first time is surprisingly easy. You simply install the software on the desktop, connect the cable, and follow the onscreen prompts.

The software initiates a link between your desktop and the handheld, allowing you to determine how to keep files consistent between the two devices. Sync sessions work efficiently. Though the MobilePro includes an internal modem for Internet access, it's just as easy to compose e-mail messages, drop them in your out-box, and later transfer them to your desktop for delivery. You can also connect the device to an external monitor via a proprietary video-out port.

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