HP Jornada 420 box contents
HP Jornada 420 with its protective cover lifted.
HP Jornada 420 (left) next to a Casio E-10 (right)
HP Jornada 420 (bottom) & Casio E-10 (top) side views
HP Jornada 420 next to a Casio E-10 in the Casio bi-fold case.
HP Jornada 420 and Philips Nino 312 with screens turned on.
HP Jornada 420 (left), Philips Nino 312 (center), Casio E-10 (right).
HP Jornada 420 screen turned on
The back of the HP Jornada 420
HP Jornada 420 left side buttons.
From left to right: Microphone, record button (red), scroll wheel,
exit button, start menu button, earphone jack.
Main battery cover on far right of case photo.
The sync and power connector is left exposed on the bottom of the case.
HP Jornada 420 Palm-size PC
Informal Impressions by Todd Ogasawara
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Table of Contents
- 23 February 1999 - Received and opened the box
- My HP Jornada 420 was delivered on Tuesday, 23 February 1999. These are my initial impressions.
- GOOD: The unit has a clear protective flip-up cover.
- GOOD: The color LCD screen is bright and readable.
I think it is at least as bright as the HP620LX screen.
And, it is much brighter than the NEC MobilePro 750C screen.
- NOTE: The unit comes with a Lithium-Ion battery that must be charged for 4 hours before using the unit on battery power.
- NOTE: The unit's backup battery is a sealed rechargeable like the Philips Nino 300 series.
I'm not sure I like this idea. But, I can live with it.
- BAD: It was extremely difficult to calibrate the stylus.
Simply touching the point on the screen did not work.
I had to move the stylus in a way similar to coloring in an area with a pencil.
Stylus calibration is extremely difficult and frustrating.
The problem might be due to the fact that I tried to calibrate it while the battery
This might be similar to the Philips Nino "EKG" problem.
And, yes, I lifted up the protective cover (great idea).
I will try to recalibrate after the battery is charged.
- BAD: As a result of the stylus calibration problem, it is impossible to use Jot.
I am forced to use the virtual keyboard for input.
- GOOD: The docking station seems to be more transportable than the Casio or Philips
docking stations. The docking station folds into a compact flat case.
No more odd sized docking stations to carry.
The docking stations also provides a positive locking mechanism for
the Jornada 420.
You will not wonder if the unit is properly seated in this docking station.
- SUMMARY: I like the bright easy to read color LCD display.
But, if the stylus calibration problem persists, I plan to return the unit.
- 23 February 1999 - After fully charging the battery.
- I left the Jornada 420 charging in the docking station for a full four (4) hours.
Here's what I found.
- I found two problems when I calibrated the stylus.
- The "crayon coloring" motion was still necessary during calibration.
- Pushing the "Action" button to accept the calibration did not always work.
- I performed a soft reset (push the reset button on the back of the unit).
Stylus calibration problem persisted.
- I performed a hard reset.
Same calibration problem.
- Remove the Lithium Ion battery.
- Press the reset button for at least five (5) seconds while the battery was removed.
- Place the battery back in the system
- Big sigh... It looks like I got a bad unit.
Guess I need an RMA to swap it for another unit.
- 23 February 1999 - Pressing onward despite the touch screen problem
- The color LCD is really impressive.
I compared it to a Casio E-10, Casio E-11, and Philips Nino 312
with and without backlighting turned on for those units.
Quite honestly, I've been happy with the E-10/E-11 in non-backlit
mode and the Nino 312 with back lighting turned on.
But the clarity and brightness of the 420's color LCD convinces me once
again that I prefer color.
This is same realization I went through after moving from a
gray scale HP320LX to the color HP620LX in early 1998.
- The placement of the record button and microphone on the side of the unit
makes a lot of sense.
It has the same feel as a dedicated micro-tape-recorder.
- The Start button (also on the left side of the unit) is a handy way
to bring up the Start Menu. You can also use it to both turn on the unit
and bring the menu with a single keypress.
- There are also four (4) "hard icon" buttons along the bottom of the screen
that can turn on and bring up the Contact List, Calendar, Task List,
and Landware's Omnisolve.
- Landware's Omnisolve is built into ROM.
I can't tell you how great it is to see a "real" calculator built into this P/PC's ROM.
The application can be used in either Algebraic (default) or RPN modes for die-hard HP RPN calculator fans.
And, yes, it is a bit ironic that an RPN calculator on an HP device is not an HP calculator :-)
- EzExplorer from Ezos is also built into the system to ease file management.
- bSQUARE's bTASK is also built-in.
This applet lets you navigate between active tasks.
It can also shut down one or all of the active tasks.
Very handy to have this applet built into the system.
- SUMMARY: There is a lot to like about the HP Jornada 420.
Now, I only need to find a unit that can perform stylus calibration properly.
- 25 February 1999 - Stylus use and expectations: A Talk with HP
- I had a chance to discuss my apparent stylus calibration problems and came away
with the following information (and one very handy tip).
- There does appear to be a problem with the behavior of the Action Key.
It is not accepted at random times.
- My stylus calibration problems appears not to be a calibration problem.
Instead, it appears to be a problem with my expectation of stylus
behavior based on months of using a Casio E-10/E-11 and Philips Nino 312
which behaves a bit differently from the HP Jornada 420.
During my conversation with HP, I started to move the stylus different
from my usual way (different pressure, etc.).
I am still not at the same accuracy levels I achive using my other P/PCs.
However, I am willing to try to change my stylus style
to accommodate the 420.
- The trick to calibrating a Jornada 420 is this.
All other P/PCs I've used only requires a quick tap at each calibration point.
My HP Jornada 420 requires that the stylus be held on the point for a full
second or two.
I can remove the stylus from the LCD surface only after the calibration
point has moved to the next location.
- Tip of the day.
Problem: Pressing the Start button on the side of the case
turns on the 420 and brings up the Start Menu.
Unfortunately, this button is easily depressed when being carried in a
This results in the unit being turned on when you do not intende for it to be on.
(1) Press the Start Button and keep it depressed until you see
the HP Settings menu appear.
(2) Press the on-off button on the front of the case and keep
it depressed until you hear a two-tone signal and see a
small yellow key in a red box appear in the status bar.
This means that the keys on the side of the case are locked and
cannot accidentally turn on the unit.
It also means, however, that you cannot use the standing start
voice recorder button.
(3) You can re-enable the side buttons by pressing the on-off
key and keeping it depressed until you hear two tones and see
the yellow key in the red box disappear from the status line.
- 11 March 1999 - HP Jornada 420 Observations & Annoying Quirks
- I left the HP Jornada 420 (and all my other Palm-size PCs) at home while I took a week-long
business trip to Los Angeles last week.
The Casio E-10 had a nearly dead set of Duracell Alkaline AAA batteries.
The Casio E-11 had a new set of the same type of batteries.
The Philips Nino 312 had a fully charged factory rechargeable batteries.
The HP Jornada 420 had a fully charged factory rechargeable batteries.
All the units had alarms and other settings left on.
This meant that all the units turned on and off many times while I was gone.
When I got back home, I found the following.
The Casio E-10 was dead. Popped in a new set of batteries.
Found that the backup batteries had kept everything in RAM alive.
The Casio E-11 batteries were all listed as good.
The Philips Nino 312 was worse than dead.
I could not recharge the main batteries after leaving it in overnight.
I had to remove the rechargeable batteries, place in a pair of AA
Alkaline batteries, and recharge the backup batteries (non-removeable type) first.
Then, I had to remove the AA batteries and recharge the main batteries.
Of course, I had to restore the system back from a backup on my desktop.
The 420 batteries were partially spent but still functional.
- 420 turns itself on when being removed from the cradle.
Here is the first of four annoying problems I have run into.
I place the 420 in its docking cradle.
The A/C line is connected and I synchronize it with my desktop.
I disconnect from the desktop and power down.
I remove the 420 from the cradle.
The 420 always turns itself on as I remove it from the cradle.
- 420 sponteneosly resets.
The 420 spontaneously reset (soft reset) itself yesterday.
It happened just after I clicked on a piece of e-mail in the Inbox.
- Battery indicator fluctuates.
The battery charge indicator started to behave oddly.
It keeps shifting the bar graph indicator between one of two settings.
It first started to shift between 1/2 and 3/4. Then, from 1/4 to 1/2.
Sometimes it would stabilize at the higher estimate.
Sometimes at the lower.
- Battery not recharging properly.
I tried to recharge the battery as soon as I got home last night.
After several hours the battery indictor indicated that it was
So, I left it in the cradle overnight.
Same thing. Battery not charged.
I ended up performing a hard reset.
Pulled out the main battery. Pressed the reset button for over 5 seconds.
Replaced the battery.
The power indicator showed a full charge after that exercise.
However, the indicator is now fluctuating between 3/4 and full despite
having charged the battery for over 12 hours.
- Unit spontaneously turns on for no apparent reason
After going through the acrobats described above, I took my
J420 to the office in the afternoon.
Quite frankly, I did not use it much.
I used it maybe 10 minutes total all day after recharging it.
When I got home I noticed the 10 minutes of use had dropped the
battery meter level to 1/2.
So, I place it in the cradle for another overnight charge.
A couple of hours later, I was sitting at my desktop with the J420
sitting in its cradle next to my CRT.
The charge light was green, but I decided to let it keep charging.
All of a sudden, I hear a click and I see the LCD screen pop on.
No alarms, etc. And the light turned yellow.
I shut the unit off and the light turned green again.
- 24 March 1999 - Debounce patch & grimy lid
- HP provided a modified TOUCH.DLL to try to help me deal with my
stylus debounce problem.
The modification seems to help a little.
However, I still have problems with characters like "s", "D", and "2".
Apparently, the momentary lifting of the stylus does not cause a problem
with the Casio E-10/E-11 or Philips Nino 312.
But, my stylus writing style causes problems when using the HP Jornada 420.
I've also found that the lower case "i" is difficult for me to
The problem may be related to the LCD screen surface.
My impression is that the surface is more textured that the other LCD screens
I use (with or without a screen protector).
This texture makes it difficult for me to move the stylus smoothly to produce
- The clear protective lid is still a good idea.
However, HP should probably consider using a different material.
The plastic used in the lid scratches easily by simply leaving it in
a pants pocket.
And, the lid takes on a greasy/grimy look as body oils from ordinary handling
sticks to the surface.
- 3 April 1999 - External Keyboard & Calligrapher 5.2
- I downloaded a 30-day trial edition of the Calligrapher 5.2 Handwriting
Recognition (HWR) software from Paragraph's web site
a few days ago.
Using Calligrapher 5.2 on the Jornada 420 seems to be more resistant to the
keybounce (screenbounce) problem I've been discussing here.
I'll probably end up buying a copy of Calligrapher in a few weeks
if it seems to make the 420 a more useful device.
- I bought the HP Jornada External Keyboard today.
Summary? I really like it.
You can read my detailed comments and see the photos of the unit on
an impressions page dedicated to this peripheral:
HP Jornada External Keyboard Impressions.
- 16 April 1999 - Retired the 420
- I called HP's service center on 14 April and spoke to a service rep who
listened to my major problems, asked a few reasonable probe questions,
and then said I should send my unit to the service center for warranty repair.
- I sent my HP J-420 to HP via FedEx on 15 April. HP paid for the shipment back.
- On 16 April, I received voice mail from a HP service center technician
saying, I think, that he could not find anything wrong with my system.
I say "I think" because the voice mail was garbled --
possibly due to a bad long distance line or poor quality telephone headset
microphone used by the tech.
In any case, I could not understand what was said to decipher the
technician's name or phone number.
So, I could not return the phone call.
Word to the wise, if you leave voice mail for someone who does not
know you, please say your name and phone number twice.
And say those to pieces of information slowly and clearly both times.
- At this point, I assume I will receive my unit back in the same condition
I sent it: Unreliable and essentially unusable for critical PIM
data entry and retrieval.
- Upon receipt of my J420, it will remain in the box.
I would not feel comfortable selling a used unit that I feel is unreliable.
Chalk it up to experience.