NEC MobilePro 800
Of all the companies who have supported the Windows CE operating platform since its unveiling at 1996 Comdex in Las Vegas, NEC deserves special mention. While the US arm of the Japanese Electronics giant, together with Casio, was the first out of the block with actual H/PC devices and had final units ready at 96 Comdex, they initially found a cool reception. Thats because the first NEC MobilePros, the 200 and the 400, were basic and somewhat uninspired designs that lacked even a backlight. NEC quickly fixed that with the MobilePro 450 that sported a super-strong backlight and then, nine months later, shocked the CE community with the giant MobilePro 700—a true stroke of genius. The 700 was the first of the large size H/PCs with a truly usable keyboard. Many insiders credit it with steering the struggling H/PC platform into a much more promising future, one that Microsoft itself has now sanctioned with the release of the H/PC Pro specifications. NEC then doubled up with the even more stunning MobilePro 750C which had an even better keyboard, a great color screen, and, thanks to a beefy Li-Ion pack, battery life in the 10+ hour range. Having strong family ties to the Japanese-market line of NEC "Mobile Gear" handhelds, of course, didnt hurt NECs stateside offerings. In our book, the MobilePro 750C is a surefire entry into the H/PC Hall of Fame for all it did for the Windows CE platform. I still use mine every day, but that may be about to change, for NEC has released what may well be another All Star in the brand spanking new NEC MobilePro 800.
The MobilePro 800 is NECs first entry into the new class of H/PC Pro computers, and unlike the wimpy first MobilePro 400, this one packs a punch. When I first saw pictures of the 800, I couldnt believe that this was a Windows CE device. It looked so large and grown up, as if its purpose in life was to steal sales from high end IBM ThinkPads and the like. In fact, however, the 800 has a footprint of just 9.6 x 7.4 inches and its just over an inch thick. And forget about big-notebook heft. The 800 tips the scale at a slender 2-1/2 pounds.
And when you put the 800 next to a full-size notebook computer, it becomes apparent that this device is much smaller and handier than a standard notebook.
One of the reasons why its so easy to mistake the MobilePro 800 for a regular notebook is its impressive specifications. NEC not only met, but exceeded Microsofts H/PC Pro specs in most areas. For example, while most CE insiders marvel over the availability of 640 x 480 VGA screens, the MobilePro 800 sports a class-leading 9.4", touch screen that can display a full 65,000 colors. And while many competitors proudly point at the 16 or 16.5mm keypitch of their keyboards, the important keys on the 800s keyboard are spaced 17.5mm apart. Thats 92% of full size. Only Hulk, oops, Holly, Hogan could legitimately claim not being able to touch type on this beauty.
And while NECs semiconductor folks still smile over all the recent design wins of their 64-bit VR4111 line of processors, the MobilePro 800 already sports that chipsets successor, the VR4121, running at a brisk 133MHz clockspeed.
NEC also made sure that it covered all the bases in the interface and connectivity department. Fast IR? Check. VGA-out? Check. USB? Check. Internal 56kbps V.90 modem? Check. CompactFlash slot? Check. Quite impressive for sure.
In many ways, the NEC MobilePro 800 seems almost too good to be true. Great pedigree, great specs, great execution—who could ask for more? That said, it is, of course, too early to pass final judgement on the MobilePro 800. While we had a chance to spend time with a pre-production unit, well want to run a final unit through its paces here at the Pen Computing Office to see how well it works in real life. Personally, I have very high hopes (and expectations) for this unit.