The HP 620LX compared to the HP JORNADA 680

By Robert M. Abbey, (


    This is a brief analysis of the differences between the Hewlett Packard 620LX and the Hewlett Packard Jornada 680. I am a daily user of my desktop PC both at work and at home and have been a regular user of a HandHeld device from the days of the early Psions via the Psion 5 through to both the 620 and currently the 680. I use the PC mainly for word processing and spreadsheet work and the HandHeld as a diary, mini-word processor, contact list and mini-spreadsheet. Primarily the 680 is my electronic diary and thereafter it serves as a source of portable word processing and spreadsheeting.

The Hardware:

    The 620 appears, and is, much bigger all around compared to the dainty 680. Of course this means that the 620 screen is bigger and brighter than the 680. This is a pity because in every other respect the 680 beats the 620 hands down in hardware provision. For example the keyboard on the 680 is really remarkably good and will virtually support touch-typing. The 620 keyboard is not easy to use for touch-typing and is really the equivalent of a smart calculator keyboard.

    If you put the two machines together, you can immediately see how much better the screen is on the 620. The screen on my 680 darkens a little to the right and takes time to warm up so it gradually brightens from switch on. The 620 is instantly bright on switch on. It is a great pity that the new machine is let down by the screen because most of the other features of the 680 are so good and are real improvements over the 620. For example, the processor in the 680 is clearly faster and this is amply demonstrated by screen refresh in excel spreadsheets. After using the 680 going back to the 620 makes me realize how often I was watching the hourglass on the 620 screen!

    The 680 seems to have a much better battery life even when the built-in modem is in use. I used a TDK 28.8 modem in the 620 and when it was on, you could almost see the battery life gauge decline before your own eyes! I eventually took to boosting the battery almost daily, whereas, with the same amount or possibly more use the need to charge the batteries is much less frequent on the 680 and I guess I could only charge it up once or twice a week. That is a major improvement between models.

    I have had no real memory problems or difficulties using PC storage cards. Indeed I have a 2mb card from the old Psion that works well as a constant insertion for extra storage and I also use a 16mb card for regular backing up. Incidentally there is a really good HP application, (HP Backup) that now lets you quickly back up all data to the card as well as the databases rather than having to rely upon the PC back up provision in Windows CE services when synchronizing with your desktop.

The Software:

    The CE version on the 680 is MS Windows CE Professional 2.11 and this is a major improvement on CE 2.0. It includes pocket versions of Word, Excel, Access Outlook and PowerPoint. HP have added other software items including a viewer that augments calendar, contacts and tasks and in effect gives you the kind of flexibility that Microsoft should have made available in the first place! There was a rudimentary version of this HP viewer on the 620 called Month at a Glance but was limited to just the calendar and really was not very helpful so the newer version beats it in all departments and is a very useful program

    HP also supply an additional program called Quickpad that is a really useful for note taking and has a neat export element that allows you to export data in the Quickpad to an e-mail or one of the databases such as the contact list. It is a useful utility that justifies its inclusion through its usability. Which brings me to pocket outlook and in particular the inbox facility for e-mails. This is much improved on the 680. I found the 620 was really both unreliable for email use and restricted in what it could do especially in relation to attachments. This is not a problem on the 680. Through my Internet Service Provider, (i.e. via I can send and receive e-mails with attachments more or less as I can with my desktop. HP make connecting very easy with their own application called HP dialup. What is more you can receive Word and Excel files in desktop format (*.doc and *.xls) as attachments and still read them in the pocket versions of these applications. Indeed you can save files in these formats and send them as attachments as well. None of this was possible on the 620 with CE 2.0.

    Finally in windows Explorer on the 680 the program remembers which view you selected and remains in that view when you open it. In CE 2.0 you always went to large icons, a view I rarely use and find irritating, Happily this is banished by CE 2.11 and a better handheld from the HP stable!

    Some useful additional software is available from the Microsoft web site and includes "Plus!" to the program list. It is, remarkably enough for Microsoft, free!! It includes a serviceable image viewer and, so far as I am concerned, an indispensable Word word count. This was totally absent from the previous version of Word and indeed this current one, so the inclusion as a bolt-on program is the most welcome.


    I think you will gather I feel the 680 is a real improvement over the 620. It is smaller, lighter and therefore more truly a portable handheld. It has a much better keyboard and software. Both systems and applications, are greatly improved in the new machine. The battery life is much better and the modem is easy to use and doesn't drain the power. However, the screen is a disappointment. I wonder if mine is defective? Has anyone else noted this graying to the right? Do all screens take time to warm up"? Comments to me would be welcome at the above email address! If HP could improve the screen the machine would be an all round winner, even better than my old Psion 5 and any other CE device I have seen including the 620. Or is there another HandHeld on the horizon someone else could recommend?! The search for the paradigm HPC goes on.



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