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Psion Netbook Pro review
Posted on 31-Aug-2004 23:35 by M Freitas | Filed under: Reviews

Psion Teklogix was formed in 2000 when the British Enterprise division of Psion PLC and Canadian company Teklogix Inc merged. The resulting company allowed the combination of these companies’ experience in the mobile computing, system integration and mobile devices development. One of their products is the Netbook Pro, a Windows CE .Net 4.2 mobile device that looks like a laptop, but is smaller and lighter, capable of running a variety of applications, connect to wired and wireless networks and more.

Yes, Psion PLC is the company that sold its participation on Symbian to Nokia, a few months ago. Psion is also famous for its line of EPOC OS based handheld organisers, now phased out.

Psion Teklogix markets the Netbook Pro to a specific segment, the mobile workforce that needs access to a CRM solution, with the portability provided by the smaller form factor. And small it is: about 1.1kg, only 235 x 184 x 35mm. When open, the lid slides a little bit forward, reducing the footprint required to allow use with the screen tilted to a comfortable position.

Psion Teklogix Netbook Pro review
Small and light enough to carry around

Psion Teklogix Netbook Pro review
Reduced footprint required when lid is open

Opening the Netbook Pro reveals a full sized keyboard (58 keys), including control and directional keys. The key travel is comfortable, similar to the experience of using a laptop.

Netbook Pro keyboard
Keyboard including directional keys

The screen is a generous SVGA 800 x 600 TFT LCD with backlighting. Unlike laptops, this is a touchscreen, and it responds very well to the accompanying pen-sized stylus that comes with the unit. The image is nice and crisp, and like other computing device the user can easily increase or reduce the brightness.

Netbook Pro TFT LCD
Touchscreen SVGA 800 x 600

The device runs on an Intel XScale PXA255 @ 400MHz, and comes with 128MB SDRAM and 32MB Flash. It does not have a mass storage device, but memory can be easily added through expansion cards, by using the Compact Flash or SD/MMC slots available.

For all that matters, the Windows CE .Net user interface is similar to other Microsoft Windows GUI. The main difference here is that there’s no “windows”. In general the program in the foreground will occupy the whole screen, except for the taskbar (with its Start button and the system tray (with clock and other icons). Of course you can switch between programs by pressing the known Alt-Tab sequence, which in this case opens the Task Manager.

The Start is present and it works pretty much like a Windows OS based PC. Suspend is the only option available, with the absence of Log off and Shutdown being natural, since the device is always available with instant on, pretty much like a PDA.

Netbook user interface
User interface: no surprises for Windows users

In terms of expansion the Netbook Pro is well served. It offers a PC card slot in addition to the Compact Flash Type II and SD/MMC slots. Connectivity is also a plus, with an IrDA port, USB and RS232, and Bluetooth software support. It can be connected to a PC using any of these ports, and files and data can be synchronised via ActiveSync.

By using optional PC cards users can add wireless LAN, GSM/GPRS, CDMA 1xRTT or Bluetooth to the Netbook Pro.

Netbook Pro expansion
Compact Flash, USB and RS232 ports

And since we’re connected it’s natural that we want to do something – like browsing the Internet. The Internet Explorer version 6 is very good and compatible with CSS, iframe and can even run Java applets, powered by the Jeode VM. Using this version I was able to even log to a banking website with no problems.

Netbook Pro Internet Explorer
Internet Explorer 6

Talking about software, this handheld comes with Microsoft WordPad, but I’d promptly recommend trying TextMaker, by SoftMaker. And since it doesn’t have a spreadsheet program, PlanMaker, from the same developer, should do the trick. There are a few viewers though, including PowerPoint, Excel, Word and Adobe Acrobat.

The Inbox is a very simple e-mail program, but users will like the Pocket On-schedule, a program with an interface very similar to the popular Microsoft Outlook.

Netbook Pro Microsoft Wordpad
Microsoft Wordpad

Netbook Pro Pocket On-schedule
Pocket On-schedule interface: simple and similar to Microsoft Outlook

In terms of power, the Netbook Pro uses an internal battery, but it also uses a couple of AA batteries as a backup, for emergencies.

Of course the Netbook Pro can be used by anyone interested on a smart, small and light handheld device, but enterprises have an option to deploy custom made applications, covering a huge range. Since the handheld is based on .Net framework, development and deployment can be streamlined and benefit of experience from other projects. The Psion Teklogix website has a good write up on specific market segments, like Airports, Automotive, Field Service, Government, Transportation and Warehousing.

The Netbook Pro is available from Psion Teklogix resellers. I found it here in New Zealand through Pocket Solutions Ltd.

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