HP 200LX >
This needs to be updated, but I'm probably never going to bother.
Style - A museum piece ∞
To anyone who is "in the know", this device will seem to be so pathetic as to warrant no comment. To anyone not in the know, they will see a horrible lack of graphics and colour and probably conclude that it's some ancient calculator-memo pad.
Cost - Expensive ∞
Ok, no joking, this toy is damned expensive -- but only because I want to soup it up to make it of real use. A scaled-down version is available.. but it would seem to me to be lacking the vast majority of the real power.
Ergonomics - Fair ∞
I won't mince words. It's small and has a cramped keyboard, and as such will be difficult to use at long stretches. The built-in numeric keypad which HP purported to be so amazing is really a gigantic POS for actual computer users. However, it would most certainly be a godsend for someone who works with a lot of numbers, so I won't complain. I will later speak about the optional external keyboard. The screen is textmode or monochrome CGA and lacks a lot of the warm radiation-glow of other devices. Backlighting is not commercially available but is possible. More on that later.
Ability - Godlike ∞
Runs MS-DOS 5.00 and has an 80c186 CPU. It is 100% hardware compatible to an 8086. There are many thousands of programs available to be downloaded free of charge. More specifically, there are a few archives dedicated to DOS and HP 200lx-tested software. There is even a scaled-down version of Linux being made for the 8086.
Compatability - Great ∞
It's not a Windows CE machine and it's not running PalmOS, so two entire fields of programs are locked out. However, there is conversion software for the PalmOS document formats, one can view and edit many of the word processing and spreadsheet formats supported by many operating systems. Remember, the entire point of using a computer is to produce -- content is important.. being able to use it and create it. Excel 2999 isn't necessary if you can produce the same content as it. Networking, as well as internet access is an option on the palmtop. Imagine hooking up to a cellphone.. well ya, I know lots of palmtop devices can.. but how many can hook up to a HAM radio? Hmm? Hmm?!
Storage - Massive ∞
One can get the HP 200lx modified right on up to 96 MBs !!! Of course, the 96's sold out in the first short while of their being available.. but 64 MBs is still out. Now, compare this to what's available for everything else out there. They used to go nuts over 2 MBs.. nowadays 32 is standard.. the HP seems to be at least keeping pace. What about expansion cards? Well the HP does have a PCMCIA II slot and can handle a storage card.. you can toss in another few hundred meg's if you're brave (and rich). It's really not that hard to take a pcmcia or cf card and stack it up to the hundreds of megs and use it as the native storage device.
Connectivity - Excellent ∞
With built-in serial and infra-red ports, you can connect to a desktop or another palmtop on the go. You can slap in a parallell port PCMCIA card and get high-speed transfers over a parallel connection. You can hook up a zip drive.
Power - All day long ∞
It can stay on for a good 8 hours straight. Combine that with power saving, auto-shutdown and instant-on technology, it'll last a lot longer than that in the real world. Don't forget that you can go out and buy new AA batteries from the corner store for another days worth of life. If you use rechargable batteries, you can recharge them while the device is in use.. just plug the AC adapter in. It's also intelligent about recharging, so you won't ruin the lifespan of your rechargables.. and so you get good warning when the power is low.
Support - Amazing ∞
There are several very useful websites out there.. as well as an outstanding amount of DOS-related pages. I would probably die before I got through them all.
Keyboard - Functional ∞
The built-in, chicklet keyboard is small and cramped, but quite easy to type on. The built-in numeric keyboard could be a godsend to some. With some effort, one can attach one's desktop keyboard to the device, or go through the trouble of hooking up remote-control software to it.. to control it from one's own desktop. There is another PDA's external traveling keyboard which can also be adapted to this model.
Durability - Legendary ∞
I have heard stories about being dropped repeatedly, being soaked thoroughly, being chewed on.. just about everything.. and the device lives on. On top of that, there is significant relief in that repairs are available via third-party companies dedicated to the task.