Compaq Aero 8000 Impressions
All Photographs and Text Copyright 1999 Todd Ogasawara
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Compaq Aero 8000 and other H/PCs and P/PCs
The first row consists of the HP Jornada 820 (left) and the Compaq Aero 8000 (right). The first thing you will notice is the obvious difference in overall size and especially the Aero 8000's large 10 inch LCD display. The second row consists of (from left to right) the NEC MobilePro 750, the HP Jornada 420, and the Casio E-10. The third row consists of the first generation HP320LX Handheld PC.
Compaq Aero 8000 closed
The magnesium case strongly resembles the look popularized by the Sony Vaio 505 series.
Compaq Aero 8000 bottom
The case bottom has an inset reset button (left hole above the main battery), main battery release, and a cover with screw for the backup battery.
Compaq Aero 8000 front
The front of the case consists of (from left to right) a microphone, alert indicator light, microphone mini-plug, external speaker mini-plug, recording indicator light, power light, and battery warning/charging light. The screen lid release is the silvery button in the top middle.
Compaq Aero 8000 left side
The rubber piece on my hand covers the VGA and serial ports. The idea of using this easy to lose piece of rubber is a bad idea in my opinion. The ports on left side of the case consists of a standard VGA port, a second serial port with a standard DB-9 connector, a proprietary serial port for synchronization, the power receptacle, and a Compact Flash port. The Compact Flash slot has a dummy plastic insert to protect the connector. This plastic insert is removed when a CF card is inserted. This seems like another bad idea to me.
Compaq Aero 8000 right side
The right side of the Compaq Aero 8000 conists of (from left to right) a PCMCIA Type II slot, an IrDA transceiver, a Smart Card slot (for security) below the IrDA transceiver, a RJ-11 port for the modem, and a PS/2 mouse-keyboard port.
Introduction. I bought a Compaq Aero 8000 at the Windows CE DevCon in Denver, Colorado during the first week of June. The Compaq Aero 8000 is the largest Handheld PC Pro I've seen. It is a little larger than the Windows 98 based Sony Vaio 505. Short story so far? I like it. (June 11, 1999)
Good news. I am back from my various business trips. I finally got some time to "play" with the Compaq Aero 8000. Bad news. The Compaq Aero 8000 backup battery meter and the battery itself is non-functional. Read the details below. (July 1, 1999)
  • Hitachi SH-4 128MHz processor
  • Attractive magensium case popularized by the Sony Vaio
  • Large 800x600 10 inch LCD screen with excellent color saturation, brightness and readability.
  • Lid activated on/off switch.
  • Large 90% size keyboard with 19mm keypitch.
  • Large Shift, Enter, and Backspace keys
  • Arrow keys and PgUp/PdDn/Home/End keys are separate.
  • Brightness and Contrast controls assigned to keyboard keys.
  • Speaker Volume and Mute functions assigned to keyboard keys.
  • Application launch function keys
  • Two CF card slots. One external. One internal.
  • Standard VGA connector.
  • Two serial ports.
  • Second serial port has a standard DB-9 serial connector.
  • Standard PS/2 mouse/keyboard port.
  • V.90 56K hardware modem.
  • Built-in system database backup application.
  • Audible.Com application pre-installed.
  • Coolcalc application pre-installed.
  • CyberQuest FaxPlus application pre-installed.
  • Network Explorer application pre-installed.
  • Citrix ICA client built-in
  • Compaq Asset Manager
  • Hitachi SH-4 128MHz processor is not backward compatible with SH-3 software
  • Large screen subject to damage even in a DC-10 first class seat. Even the more spacious 777 first class seats presents a danger if the person in front of you suddenly reclines his or her seat. On the other hand, the unit runs cool enough and is light enough to be comfortably used on your lap (as opposed to your airline tray).
  • Standard battery has short lifespan.
  • No USB port.
  • No parallel port.
  • Sharp corners make the palm-rest uncomfortable.
  • Easy to lose soft rubber cover for the serial and VGA port areas.
  • Mini-plugs for external speaker and microphone.
  • Smart card security.
  • Travel Safe application.
  • Optional vertical (tower orientation) docking station
  • Serial port set to 115200bps instead of the usual 19200bps default setting

July 1, 1999. "Houston, we have a problem."
I did not get an opportunity to "test drive" my Compaq Aero 8000 much until the past few days. In those past few days I noted a few postive and negative aspects. Unfortunately, one of the negative aspects is a very serious one.
  • HUGE PROBLEM: The backup battery and backup battery meter in my unit simply does not work. My system locked today. Pressing the reset key and the power key did not fix the problem. So, I pulled the main battery out of the unit too (superstitious behavior). I left the backup battery plugged in. After placing the main battery back into the unit after a few seconds, I was able to reboot. However, system RAM was scrubbed clean. I had somehow performed a full reset. The battery indicator showed the backup battery with a "Good" status. So, with the main battery left in the unit, I unscrewed the cover for the backup battery. I removed the backup battery. I turned on the Compaq Aero 8000 and looked at the battery status. The backup battery status still showed as "Good" despite the fact that the battery was completely removed from the unit. Compaq will get a call from me in the morning.
  • The short battery life is a bit discouraging. It will not last a whole day of work from what I can tell. This, I suspect, is due mostly to the large and incredibly bright and easy-to-read screen. There is balance in the universe.
  • The large size of the unit is both its strength and weakness. The large keyboard and screen make it a joy to work with sitting in a conference room, dining table, or on a couch in my living room. Unfortunately, it is a bit too large for me to carry around in the carrying cases I normally use. As a result, I'm still using the NEC MobilePro 750C or HP Jornada 820 during the day. The HP Jornada 820's incredible battery life (using the standard battery) also makes it better for long untethered work days.
  • VERY GOOD: The Compaq Aero 8000 has a unique built-in backup-to-CF-card application. It backs up system RAM contents to an (optional) CF RAM card like other backup applications. However, in addition to that feature, it can also schedule regular backups. And, these backups can take place when the system is idle. It wakes the unit up and performs the schedule backup. I wish my notebook or desktop could perform this auto-wakeup trick. To make it even better, the application apparently performs a check after a hard reset where everything in system RAM is lost. After the hard reset today, the backup application restored the system RAM from the backup on the CF card automatically after I went through the initial post-hard reset data entry (name, time zone, etc.). This feature could be a lifesaver.
  • The large bright screen still amazes me. It is far brighter and easier to read than the HP Jornada 820 which was my "gold standard" for Windows CE H/PC screens until now. The 820 screen is, mind you, very good. But the Compaq Aero 8000's screen is better.
  • The hardware V.90 56K modem is much better than the soft-modems in other Windows CE Handheld PC units. Unfortunately, Pocket Internet Explorer still seems to be a huge bottleneck. As with my other CE devices, I tend to browse web pages with "Show images" turned off.