Hewlett Packard – Jornada 420 review

colour palmtop
Photo of Hewlett Packard – Jornada 420
£399 + VAT

Clap eyes on the new HP Jornada 420 and your first reaction is likely to be “Cute, I want one of those”. Hardly surprising, as it’s the first palm sized computer to offer a colour screen, which does look pretty damned groovy. The 320 by 340 back-lit screen can display up to 256 colours, which makes it far nicer to use than any of the current crop of mono-screen palmtops. It makes viewing easier on the eyes and also improves the usability of applications (don’t ask why, it just does, OK?) . There is, unfortunately, a price to pay: battery life is degraded quite badly leaving you with about five hours of life from the rechargeable lithium ion cell. This might not be too bad compared to notebook standards, but it’s very poor compared to other palmtop machines. It’s quite pricey too, and at four hundred quid (exc. VAT) many people will be left wondering if they really want a colour screen that badly after all.

Other than the colour screen, this machine is depressingly similar to all of the other CE based palmtops on the market – there’s very little to differentiate it from the pack. It runs Windows CE 2.11 and is based on a 100Mhz Hitachi SH7709a processor. For your money you get 8MB of ROM and the same amount of RAM – more memory can be added using the Compact Flash port, although doing so will further reduce battery life. As you would expect from such a device the 420 features voice memo capabilities and as well as the built in speaker, and there’s a headphone jack so you can play your memos back on the tube without annoying the Hell out of everybody.

The unit features a transparent screen guard which is permanently attached to the case but can be flipped over out of the way when you need to use the touch-sensitive screen. The control system uses the familiar format – i.e. control wheel and buttons on the left hand side of the case which can be operated by the left thumb, leaving the right hand free to operate the stylus. It works well enough for most people, but left handers would be well advised to try the system out before they hand over any money. The vital statistics are 131mm by 81mm by 21mm with a weight of just under 9 ounces. It’s a little porkier than most of its competitors because of the colour screen. It comes supplied with a docking cradle that connects to the mains and the PC, and when you want to recharge the batteries or synchronise with your desktop you simply drop the unit into the cradle.

Company: Hewlett Packard

Contact: 0990 474747

The colour screen is undoubtedly very nice and one day all handhelds will be colour. But, typically for a bleeding edge product, the Jornada 420 is overpriced and suffers from several weaknesses. Similar devices will soon become available from other manufacturers and you can expect competition to push the prices down. Also, the power consumption of colour screens will be reduced in future products. Our advice: save yourself some money and stick with a mono palmtop for the time being, as the advantages of a colour screen just aren't enough for us to recommend this machine.