Nuggets: HP's Jornada is one heavy-duty handheld

So you don't want to lug a whole laptop around, but a mere PDA won't give you enough apps? You'd better take a look at Hewlett-Packard's Jornada 720

If you're the kind of person who'd like to achieve more when you're away from your desk, then HP's Jornada may be the handheld PC for you. At £665 (inc VAT), however, sit back and let us tell you why.

For a start, handheld PCs have more functionality than pocket PCs or PDAs. The Jornada 720 runs on a faster processor that previous versions, and uses Windows CE 3.0 (or Microsoft Windows for Handheld PC 2000 as it's less-catchily known). Which means it's a decent stable platform that can cope with a few apps at the same time without the whole thing freezing on you.

Although the Jornada isn't much of a burden to carry round, it's noticeably bigger and heavier than a lower-spec portable device such as a Psion Revo or a Compaq iPaq. When open, it's about the area of a closed paperback, and weighs about as much as a can of lager. It should squeeze into most coat pockets, but you don't wanna be lugging it round all day in your trousers.

Of course, when you're on the move what you probably really want is access to the Internet and email. With a 56K modem built into the Jornada it's possible to dial into a corporate network off-site, although HP admits that constant use of the modem knocks the battery life down to five hours, as opposed to nine if you don't use any plug-in peripherals.

The Jornada has plug-ins in spades. A Type II PC card slot on the side, and a CompactFlash Type I port on the base open up some funky networking and removable storage options.

So in theory this rather cool piece of kit can do plenty but how's the usability? Well, synchronising with a PC was much easier than some of the horror stories you hear about as the Jornada uses several different ways to connect. You can link by either serial or USB via the docking station, straight to the back of the handheld by serial, or if you're feeling adventurous you could use the infra-red port.

The display is decent with variable brightness and contrast. The three-quarter size keyboard is a bit of a nightmare to get used to, but with practice you should be able to get a few fingers going at once. Volume controls on the front of the case let you play MP3s and WMAs, which both sound reasonable through headphones, but obviously the pitiful 32Mb won't let you morph the 720 into an MP3 player.

At over six hundred quid the Jornada is good value for money, but only if you're going to make the most of that functionality. If it's just an electronic organiser you're after, then go for a cheap PDA and save around £400. On the other hand, if you can't justify the expense of a laptop and you're prepared to do a bit of technical homework, then a shiny Jornada 720 could be the one for you.

  • Hewlett-Packard Jornada 720

  • Handheld PC

  • £665 (inc VAT)

  • 500g

  • 186x93x32.5mm

  • 16.7m colour LCD Screen, 640x240pixels

  • 32Mb RAM (expandable to 64Mb)

  • Internal 56k modem

  • Type II PC Card, CompactFlash Type I, IrDA port

  • Audio speaker, microphone, voice recorder.

I love gadgets so take me to the Nuggets Special page NOW!

Have your say instantly, and see what others have said. Click on the TalkBack button and go to the ZDNet News forum.

Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom. And read what others have said.