Sheathed in a sharp, silver, metallic case, NEC's first Pocket PC, the MobilePro P300, looks ready to get down to business. And it has the features--including dual expansion slots--to back up that impression. But while the P300 may win the hearts of IT managers whose job it is to equip mobile workers, it's not necessarily the best choice for individual shoppers. Sheathed in a sharp, silver, metallic case, NEC's first Pocket PC, the MobilePro P300, looks ready to get down to business. And it has the features--including dual expansion slots--to back up that impression. But while the P300 may win the hearts of IT managers whose job it is to equip mobile workers, it's not necessarily the best choice for individual shoppers.
The solid, sturdy feel of the 6.7-ounce P300 is enhanced by its thick screen cover, which, like the original Sony CLIE's, has a small magnet to keep it from flopping around. The cover protects a 3.8-inch, 65,000-color LCD. While that's larger than the displays found on most current Pocket PCs, we preferred the screen on our Casio Cassiopeia E-200 which seemed to have a bit more contrast. White appeared as a slightly dingy gray on the P300
But what the P300 may lack in contrast, it makes up for in flashing lights. Atop the screen there's an LED that can be set to flash any of seven colors to indicate various states, such as low battery or USB sync. Also, the four application buttons below the screen light up blue when pressed.
Other hardware features to note are the jog dial on the left side of the unit and the four-way direction pad below the screen. Most other Pocket PCs have a five-way pad that you can press down to activate a menu item that you have selected.
The P300 gives you plenty of expansion options, including Secure Digital (SD) and CompactFlash Type II expansion slots. NEC offers a PC Card adapter for the CompactFlash slot as well. There's also a USB host port that allows you to connect a keyboard or a mouse, but you'll need to buy the $19 adapter--which unfortunately is not included in the box--from NEC in order to make use of it.
A nonreplaceable lithium-ion battery delivers more than 3.5 hours of use on a single charge with the backlight set to medium. That's pretty typical for current Pocket PCs.
Like competing products, this Pocket PC is powered by a 206MHz Intel StrongARM processor. But NEC made an unusual choice when it decide to equip the P300 with 32MB of RAM and a 32MB SD card rather than just including 64MB of RAM. For the P300's intended target audience of business users, this solution allows for backup of info onto the card to protect against data loss if the batteries die. However, 32MB is too limited of an amount to store much in the way of digital music or video files, so you'll probably want to replace that card with a larger 64MB or 128MB version.
Even with Pocket PC 2002 devices, it's sometimes necessary to manually stop applications that are running in the background in order to free up memory for other activities. Unlike all of the other Pocket PCs that we've tested, the P300's Home Menu doesn't provide a quick way to kill applications. We were also dismayed to find several errors in the poorly written manual. This is definitely not a good PDA for the technologically timid.
To help offset those flaws, NEC throws in a handful of software titles above and beyond the typical Pocket PC 2002 applications. The most useful is probably Westtek's ClearVue, which lets you work with PowerPoint files.