- Compact and lightweight
- appealing design.
- Large and awkward 4-way cursor button
- Li-ion battery is not removable
- SD card expansion only.
NEC’s previous Pocket PC handheld, the MobilePro 300E, was something of a mixed bag -- it was nice and light, but short on built-in expansion slots. The company has learned from its earlier mistakes to some extent, and the MobilePro 200E is a neater device than its predecessor, with a cleaner design. But NEC has missed a couple of tricks: most notably, it has abandoned its removable rechargeable battery idea. The MobilePro 200E is aimed at the low to middle end of the market, and, to some extent, needs to convince those looking at Dell’s new Axim X5 to pay a little more money for their handheld.
Certainly the MobilePro 200E wins hands-down in a straight fight with the Axim X5 in design terms. A mere 1.1cm thick and 12.2cm tall by 7.7cm wide, it's definitely compact. It's light too: 122g means it goes almost unnoticed in the pocket. The attractive silver-all-over looks are slightly marred by the large four-way cursor button -- which is actually this device's worst feature. The button is a bit too big to use comfortably, and its indented design is slightly less ergonomic than a flat button would have been. There's a minimal complement of other buttons around the edges of the device: a jog wheel, a voice memo activator, a reset button and a power switch. NEC (like every other Pocket PC manufacturer) has also placed four application shortcut buttons beneath the display. The 3.5in., 16-bit colour display does as good a job as any of its ilk, while expansion is achieved via an SD card slot, which you can use to augment the internal 64MB of RAM.
NEC has chosen the 200MHz version of Intel's PXA250 XScale processor rather than the flagship 400MHz version. In reality, this doesn't make a great deal of difference if you're running a fairly standard range of applications, and actually might help the battery run for a little longer than with the faster CPU. On the battery, NEC quotes 10 hours of life, which is average but not outstanding. However, the MobilePro 300E had a removable battery, while the 200E does not; we'd prefer to see the removable battery become the standard. On the plus side, there's a power jack on the underside of the casing, so the MobilePro 200E can be charged up independently of its docking cradle. NEC provides two applications installed to ROM. EBackup can send data to a section of the ROM or to an external card, while EMenu is an icon-driven replacement for the Today screen that allows you to categorise application icons, delivers basic system information and provides quick access to a list of running applications, any of which can be closed.
The MobilePro 200E is a pretty impressive Pocket PC whose features are, on the whole, well chosen. It doesn't have any frills, but the whole is rather greater than the sum of its parts. The design is simple yet appealing, the specifications are standard and the choice of a 200MHz rather than a 400MHz processor isn't really a problem. The extra applications on ROM are minimal but very serviceable. There are two main failings: the poor four-way cursor, and the lack of a removable battery. But these drawbacks are neither crippling nor unique to this device, and NEC has managed to deliver a fairly aggressive price. If you're on a budget, this is just the kind of handheld that might encourage you to stretch it as far as possible to get the design and portability that's often lacking at the lower end of the market.