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Hewlett Packard Jornada 548 Pocket PC Review
By Justin Yu, Copyright 2000      
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Introduction

The Jornada 548 is one of the three most popular Pocket PCís on the market today. Personally, this was the first that I have tested, and in the future I hope to test the Casio series and possibly the iPAQ, if I ever get my hands on one. From what I have seen in the Jornada, I hope that the other two popular Pocket PCís are just as helpful for organization and entertainment

In the Box

  • Jornada 548 Pocket PC
  • AC Adapter
  • USB Cradle and Earphones
  • Serial Cable
  • Lithium Ion Rechargeable Battery
  • Quick Start Guide
  • PC Userís Guide
  • Accessories Guide
  • Software CD-ROM
  • Microsoft Windows for Pocket PC and Microsoft Outlook 2000

Hardware Stats

Operating System: Windowsģ Powered Pocket PC
Processor: 133 MHz Hitachi SH3 32 bit Processor 
Display Type: 240 x 320 Pixel, 12-bit, 4096 color, CSTN LCD 
RAM: 32 MB 
ROM: 16 MB
Communications Port: Interface with USB cradle (serial cable also included)
Infrared Port: 115 Kbps
CompactFlash Type 1 slot
Audio out: 3.5 mm Stereo
Battery: Lithium-Ion Rechargeable (up to 8hrs of battery life)
Dimensions: 5.2 x 3.1 x 0.6 in (13 x 7.8 x 1.6 cm)
Weight: 9.1 oz. (260 g) including battery 

Form Factor

The Jornada is actually quite heavy, much heavier than I thought. It weighs approximately 9.1 oz. with the battery installed. This will definitely put a damper on your pocket if you donít have a nifty belt-clip holder. Despite the weight of the machine, I was actually quite impressed with how the Jornada felt in my hands. It has a very ruggedized feel to it, almost as if I could hurl it at someone and not worry about it being damaged. The sides are rubberized, probably so nothing would happen to it if it were to be dropped on itís side by itís clumsy owner. The size is a bit larger than a Palm IIIe, and also has a fliptop cover. Unfortunately, for all you Palm III users, you canít push the cover all the way behind like you could with the Jornada 430 series. Not a big deal. A big complaint I have is the expansion slot on the top of the PPC. There is a small clip that is supposed to hold the slot in place so the cards donít rattle everywhere, but for some reason the covering does not serve itís purpose. Rather, it makes the casing more unstable. If I had a compact flash slot, I would definitely be hesitant to slide it into the little opening. On the top of the Jornadaís casing, there are four shortcut buttons. From left to right, they are: HP Home Menu, contact list, calendar and tasks. These were extremely helpful when navigating through the different apps. When Windows Media Player is opened, the buttons convert to media shortcuts that can be set to the userís preferences. I even set the jog dial to control volume. The reset button is clearly marked with a label and bright red coloring. This made me wonderÖif the reset button is so easily accessible, is HP saying that I will be needing to use it often? HmmÖ

Stylus

Reading other reviews of the Jornada 54x series, I noticed that everyone has a complaint about the stylus. Now that I have tested one out for myself, I must concur. The stylus is about the size of a bloody snow pea! Itís actually quite ridiculous in the whole PDA scheme, seeing as holding onto it can be challenging at times. Another awkward aspect about the stylus is itís location. Itís inside the cover. Can you say "tacky?" This was definitely a bad idea on HPís part. They shouldíve stuck with Compaqís spring design.

Screen

The screen on the Jornada is a CSTN type LCD display. Overall the screen is adequate, sponsoring 4,096 colors instead of the advertised 65,536 colors. People who bought Jornadaís thinking they were receiving a state of the art screen were very disappointed to find out that it was a little better than average but far less than impressive. I found the screen to be pretty disappointing. Reading all those reviews about the Compaqís screen, I was expecting great things, but when I turned it on for the first time, my first reaction was "WhaatttttÖ." The screen is definitely grainy. In some programs you can actually make out the pixel lines, i.e. Sierra Imaging. Another gripe I have with the Jornadaís screen is that it takes about 10-12 seconds for it to reach full brightness. This is unfortunate because if I only needed to write down a quick phone number or memo, I had to settle for a half-dark screen. Note to HP: Before you put out a product sporting awesome features, make sure that they are correct, or suffer the consequences of millions of PDAntics. As for texture, the screen feels slightly rough to the touch. Surprisingly, I liked this type of display better than the smooth screen of the Palm series. Itís actually easier to write on the Jornada than the Palm.

Speed

The Jornada houses a 133mhz SH3 processor. I took the liberty of heading to my local Fryís to compare speeds between the three popular Pocket PCís. The Casio-115 is actually much faster than the Jornada. Depending on how much software is in the Jornada, the machine will take a bit of time to load large applications. If you arenít a patient person, then forget about listening to am mp3 while checking up on AvantGo or writing a word file. The lagging time is enormous, and that little hourglass will make you extremely angry. Out of the Jornada, iPAQ, and E-115, the Jornada seemed to be the most sluggish.

Battery Life

The battery life, like the speed, is also affected on how much memory is being used by the Pocket PC at the time. At times when I had six or seven mp3ís loaded, the battery life lasted a miniscule four hours. On the other hand, with no mp3ís, the life lasted approximately seven hours. Either way, the Jornada needed to be recharged at night. There are two ways of recharging. The user can either plug the recharging cable straight into the cradle where the Jornada sits, or can be struck straight into the bottom of the gadget. I preferred the "straight into" way, mainly because I liked to recharge while I sleep, and not have to worry about setting it into the cradle.

Audio

The audio capabilities on this machine is EXCELLENT. The stereo output is actually quite impressive and can be controlled with the jog dial or shortcut keys when Windows Media Player is running. Unfortunately, the output is not very loud, and of course the louder you play the song, the more scratchy it will be. Headphones, however are a completely different story. I own a Rio 500 by Diamond, and I could not tell the difference between the two using headphones. I was very impressed with how easy it was to organize and make play lists.

Handwriting Recognition

The Jornada comes with a handwriting recognition system which reminded me of Jot. Overall this was the aspect of the Jornada that I loved the most. If anyone reading this is a Palm user, you will identify with my frustrations about the Graffiti system. If anyone is trying to decide whether to get a Palm Pilot or a Windows CE running PDA based on the handwriting system, please go with Windows CE. I loved how a "shadow" of what character I drew showed up as I was writing it. The system picks up on everything that you draw, even simple scratching! I found that after I had used the Jornada for a couple days, I was extremely reluctant to go back to the Palmís graffiti approach.

Price

The retail price for the Jornada 548 is $599. The next step down is the 545, which goes for $499. Personally I donít think any PDA is worth spending $600 on. Itís definitely a steep price, but for those who will use this PDA religiously, it might be worth it.

Software

  • HP Home Menu
    1. Very helpful, but I thought that the Pocket PC OS was supposed to get rid of the start menu? Itís definitely not gone, it is now put in the top left corner which I thought was pretty useless.
    2. I didnít like the fact that there was no "X" at the top of every window to close it. Instead, I had to go back to the home menu and manually close it using Task Switcher. Maybe there is something I donít know?
  • HP Security
    1. I especially enjoyed the four number password that you can set to come up every time you turn on the machine. This prevented nosy peers from getting their muggy hands all over my PDA. A must-have for anyone whoís around these characters.
  • Basic Microsoft Office Apps
      1. Word
        1. Definitely useful for those quick notes, a breeze to use.
        2. Includes all the standard quirks, including bullets, underline, italics, and bold.
      2. Excel
        1. Pretty basic spreadsheet program, almost exactly like itís Windows counterpart
      3. Pocket Internet Explorer
        1. A bit slow, even when no mp3ís were installed on the Jornada. Using Avantgo was basic as usual, no complications during setup.
      4. Notes
        1. This was one of the more trivial programs on the Jornada. Trivial, but definitely neat. This is basically one of those ink programs, where you can jot down a quick phone number in your own handwriting. There is also a "recognize" function, where the Jornada tries to recognize what you are trying to write and converts it to word format. This is useful, but Recognizer hardly ever changed into what I was writing.

Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

  • Stereo Output is excellent through headphones
- Bland design compared to the iPAQ and Em-500
  • Handwriting Recognition is near perfect, one of the best systems Iíve ever experiences
  • Screen is gritty, pixel lines are apparent in certain programs
  • Metal Casing feels very rugged
  • Stylus reminds me of a large paper clip
  • A serial cable and a USB cable are both included for those who donít have a USB port on their computers.
  • Lags when mp3ís are being played.

Conclusion

After testing out this machine, I have come to the conclusion that Iím not exactly overjoyed with how it performed. Although it never froze up or had any real problems, it wasnít extremely special in any way. The form factor is quite bland, and after a while that excited feeling started diminishing. I believe that a $600 PDA should electrify itís owner every time itís turned on. The Jornada series of Pocket PCís are definitely meant for the businessman. If you are a student considering buying a Pocket PC, you might want to look at the iPAQ or possibly the Casio EM-500.

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