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Big-screen handhelds arrive

Hitachi and NEC follow LG Electronics in offering handhelds with screens and keyboards large enough for everyday computing functions.

Hitachi (HIT) and NEC Electronics (NIPNY) each debuted handheld computers with 8-inch screens, joining LG Electronics in offering a large-screen, large-keyboard portables that are beginning to approach the smallest notebook computers in functionality.

Yesterday, LG unveiled its Phenom Handheld PC Ultra. (See related story)

In the United States, Hitachi unveiled its HPW-200EC Handheld model, which features a display and keyboard large enough to facilitate typical computing functions and a 100-MHz processor that's the fastest yet for the Windows CE category. In conjunction with the Japanese release of version 2.0 of Microsoft's Windows CE operating system, both Hitachi and NEC announced handhelds for the Japanese market built to similar specifications.

The high-end HPW-200EC features a 100-MHz SH3 processor, 16MB of memory, a 33.6-kbps modem, and VGA port for PowerPoint presentations. It weighs just under two pounds. Using CE 2.0, the handheld also runs simplified versions of Microsoft's word processing, spreadsheet, PowerPoint, Internet Explorer, and scheduling and email software.

The HPW-200EC will be available next month for $999.

Hitachi also introduced the HPW-20E8, with an 80-MHz SH3 processor, 8MB of memory, a 21.6-kbps modem, a VGA port, and a 7.1-inch monochrome display. The HPW-20E8 will be priced at $599.

In Japan, Hitachi's Persona handheld will incorporate a 100-MHz chip, 6MB of memory, and an 8.1-inch color screen, for the price of 138,000 ($1,081). The Persona will begin shipping in late April, Reuters reported.

Separately, NEC will offer new devices called Mobile Gear PCs. The high-end MCR500 will feature an 8.1-inch color screen and a 33.6-kbps modem. Set to ship beginning on March 20, the MCR500 model will go for 120,000 yen ($940), while a lower-end version will be priced at $737.

Reuters contributed to this report.