NEC's MobilePro 780: Slim and Portable

SAN FRANCISCO (06/23/2000) - Once again, I'm squeezed into a coach seat on a cross-country flight. But while fellow business travelers grapple with huge, battery-draining notebooks, I type quietly away on NEC Corp.'s MobilePro 780, a Windows CE-based device that's more portable than my nearby copy of GQ. I'm happy, I'm productive, and the MobilePro's 8-hour battery life gives me enough juice to compute from coast to coast.

Closed, the US$799 MobilePro is smaller than a rolled-up newspaper. The shipping unit I evaluated measured 9.6 by 5.2 by 1.1 inches and weighed just 1.7 pounds. Yet it's not a palmtop: The unit's keyboard is wide enough for comfortable typing, and the 640 by 240 color display--while only half of VGA resolution--won't make you squint. The standard configuration includes 32MB of memory (generous for a CE device), a 56-kbps V.90 modem, and a port for an external monitor.

Like earlier MobilePros, the 780 provides a stylus, not a mouse; this model also has a thumbwheel for document scrolling. The business-oriented software bundle contains utilities for remote access and networking, plus fax and backup tools. You also get Windows CE's standard productivity software, which consists of scaled-down versions of Word, Excel, Outlook, Internet Explorer, and PowerPoint.

Like any other CE machine, the MobilePro can't serve as a primary computer.

(Instead, use the included serial cable and synchronization software to shuttle files between it and your PC.) In view of its small screen, lack of CD-ROM and floppy drives, and inability to run desktop Windows apps, this device is less a notebook replacement than an antinotebook. But if your mobile computing needs are modest, the featherweight, inexpensive MobilePro merits a look.

--Harry McCracken

NEC MobilePro 780

PRO: Small; light; reasonable price.

CON: Half-size screen, stripped-down apps, Windows CE limitations.

VALUE: Good portable extension of your desktop PC.

Street price: $799

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