HP 95LX. (palmtop computer) (Evaluation)
by Peter Francis
Want something compact that does more than a pocket organizer? Hewlett-Packard's pint-sized gift to the world of computing, the HP 95LX, is a palmtop that runs DOS 3.2 and Lotus 1-2-3 in ROM.
This marchine weighs in at just 11 ounces, is slightly smaller than most paperback books, and fits easily in a coat pocket. Hewlett-Packard and Lotus Development merged a PC XT-class computer with a host of everyday applications and utilities to make the 95LX a real winner.
As a computer, this machine excels compared to talented but standard electronic pocket organizers like the Casio BOSS and Sharp Wizard. For starters, the 95LX runs DOS rather than a proprietary operating system. It has more than a glimmer of memory with 512K of RAM on board and RAM cards that can supply 128K ($199.95) and 512K ($399.95) of additional memory. As flash memory technology develops, 1MB and greater memory expanders will be available.
Furthermore, Hewlett-PAckard seems to have solved the battery problem with a CMOS power scheme that uses only two AA batteries and can power the diminutive machine for up to six weeks.
If that doesn't enough, the 95LX boasts a host of powerful software applications--all resident on a 1MB ROM chip. The lead application, of course, is Lotus 1-2-3, version 2.2, accompanied by a full-fledged personal information manager (not a scaled-down version of Lotus Agenda).
Also included are a communications application module, a file manager, a word processor, and a caulculator. This makes the 95LX the most powerful Hewlett-Packard hand-held calculator to date!
You can move data internally between the HP calculator, Lotus 1-2-3, the memo module, and the database. In addition, the 95LX uses infrared technology when you want to communicate with another 95LX. A number of long-distance telecommunications tools are being developed for this palmtop.
The 95LX is not without blemishes, however. Stacked next to some of the desktop organizers on the market, at $699, it dwarfs others with its price. As a grownup computer in the body of a pocket calculator, though, it packs a heck of a wallop when you consider its functionality. Hewlett-Packard will have to overcome the objections of the penny wise by pushing this point home.
Other objections may not be so easy to address. Limited by its tiny screen size, the 95LX runs into some compatibility problems with certain DOS software. Since its screen offers only MDA (monochrome) graphics resolution, graphics suffer. However, the graphing module for Lotus 1-2-3 has a magnification tool that lets you zoom in to magnify a graph up to four times its initial size.
Most annoying, the 95LX keyboard runs on the small side. While no palmtop can hope to offer full touch-typing capabilities, this size does limit your access to full PC computing power. Spend a few days with the machine, though, and hunt-and-peckentry should get the job done.
As for memory, even at 512K, no hefty Lotus spreadsheet will fit comfortably. Of course, the 95LX isn't meant to replace your desktop machine; it's a complement to its hulking desktop cousins.
Overall, this palmtop's assets clearly outweigh its shortcomings. Given the competition and ease of use integral to this Hewlett-PAckard bantam prodigy, it's hard not to look at this miniature XT and wonder, "Why didn't someone do this before?"