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NEC MobilePro 770

Followers of this magazine know that we hold NEC's Computer Systems Division in very high regard. That goes for their high quality notebooks, and--given the scope of our publication--especially for their efforts in the Windows CE arena. NEC was there with handheld PC products from the very start back in the Fall of 1996, and they have since shown a relentless commitment to improving and enhancing every aspect of their remarkable lineup of handheld computers. We have seen internal testing and evaluation reports that prove that NEC is taking this market very, very seriously, and the products certainly back that up. Of course, it also helps that NEC is very actively marketing the Japanese MobileGear version of the MobilePro on their domestic market, thus gathering valuable real-world experience that some of their competitors may be lacking.

In the last issue of Pen Computing Magazine, we took a first look at NEC’s new MobilePro 800, the first HPC Pro handheld with a full 800 x 600 SVGA screen. We'll publish a full review of that unit in our next issue. For now let's say we're very impressed.

NEC's relentless pursuit of excellence is further illustrated by the introduction of the subject of this preview, the MobilePro 770. This intro will no doubt raise more than a few eyebrows since the 770 essentially replaces the very successful MobilePro 750c. I have been using a 750c since it first shipped in the Spring of 1998 and felt it was about as good as Handheld PCs get. But the world doesn't stand still and companies like NEC make and keep their reputations by constantly improving on perfection.

Based on my many months of experience with the MobilePro 750c, what do I think could be improved? I consistently got battery life between eight and ten hours, so that wasn't an issue. Among second generation Handheld PCs, the 750c was one of the speediest, so performance wasn't a problem either. I liked its large keyboard, but some of my friends that played with the 750c felt it was still a bit on the small side. I liked the bright screen, but it only had a dim or bright setting. The 33.6kbps modem worked well enough, but it really wasn't very fast, especially in conjunction with the rather buggy version of Pocket Internet Explorer that shipped with second generation CE handhelds. Finally, while the 750c was handy, there was no denying that it was rather large and heavy for what was supposed to be a handheld computer.

So let's take a look at the 770 and see what NEC felt needed improvement on the 750c. While the 770 looks about to be the same size as the 750, it is actually a bit smaller, thinner, and lighter. The keyboard, on the other hand, is larger. The all-important key pitch has increased from 16.3 to 17.5 mm. The QWERTY layout of the 770's keyboard is 92% of full size. If you can't type on this keyboard, you may not be genetically equipped for the mobile lifestyle. The 770's screen size is unchanged, but the brightness can now be adjusted to eight different levels. The screen can display 65,000 colors as opposed to the 750c's 256.

The 750c's 33.6kbps soft modem has been replaced by a 56kbps v.90 setup that NEC considers a hardware modem, though by our definition it's somewhere in between (which means it should retain the energy-efficiency of the 750c's softmodem). Combined with the HPC Pro software's much improved new Pocket Internet Explorer, web browsing should be a pleasant experience on the 770. Though I never ran out of space on my 16MB MobilePro 750c, the 770 offers 32MB. Since you can never have too much storage space, that's a good thing.

Finally, NEC replaced the already speedy 80MHz VR4111 chip of the 750c with an even more advanced VR4121 running at a blazing 133MHz. We haven't run any benchmark tests on the 770 yet, but based on the hardware specifications, it may well turn out to be the fastest Windows CE Handheld PC available. So what we have here is a situation where a perfectly good--some would say great--product, the MobilePro 750c, has been replaced by an even better product, the new MobilePro 770. Now all you have to do is decide whether you prefer the handy 770 with its 640 x 240 screen, or whether you need the MobilePro 800's huge SVGA. NEC's got it all covered. -

- Conrad H. Blickenstorfer

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