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|The Tuesday Letter
Hewlett Packard OmniBook XE3
It weighs in at around 3.5 kg, but the Hewlett Packard OmniBook XE3 is no lightweight when it comes to features.
The test unit I looked at came with a 10 GB hard drive, a Pentium III 700 processor, 64MB RAM, a DVD drive, integrated modem and LAN and a 14-inch screen.
There are also 2 USB ports, a PS/2 (mouse) port, a VGA port for an external monitor, an infrared port, a floppy disk drive, PC card slots, and a TV output port.
I found the keyboard easy to use, even on a crowded suburban train with the machine perched on my knees.
The touch pad, although intuitive, takes a bit of getting used to. Fortunately there is a neatly placed lock button to stop it being activated accidentally. Click buttons correspond to the left and right mouse buttons, but lightly tapping the touch pad has the same effect. Plugging in an external mouse automatically disables the trackpad.
The OmniBook XE3 comes with Windows 98 pre-installed. There were also a few other utilities to help new users. Printed documentation is a bit thin with the detailed manual being online.
I had no trouble connecting to the Internet, and all the software I installed performed well including Microsoft's Office 2000 suite.
The only time I referred to the online documentation was when playing a DVD for the first time and got a warning message to set the DVD region. I had no idea what was happening and the on-line manual was no help. I tracked down a readme file which informed me the user is required to set the DVD region the first time the player runs and that once set it could only be changed by rebuilding the entire system from the recovery disk.
Well, I wasn't about to let a small detail like that stop me from seeing was all the fuss was about.
I was impressed with the quality of the monitor The screen is remarkable clear and sharp when playing DVD movies, and hitting the Esc key toggles to full cinemascope mode getting rid of the unsightly Windows menu bars. With a battery life of almost 3 hours it may be possible to get in 2 movies before recharging is necessary.
I was less impressed with the quality of the built-in speakers and their Drive-in-like lack of volume.
A manual is also available in Adobe Acrobat format, but with no bookmarks it is difficult to navigate and I was not going to print out 145 pages.
With the hood down the OmniBook is only 5 cm thick. CD player controls on the front panel mean the machine does not have to be powered up and open to play CDs.
The speakers are neatly hidden on each side of the front panel. The speakers are adequate for small demos or presentations, but there is nothing remarkable about them. Fortunately the headphone jack is also placed at the front which makes it more convenient to access.
It is not possible to access any MP3 files using the front control panel. If you want to play MP3 files the machine needs to be powered up.
Four programmable one-touch buttons along the top of the keyboard give quick access to Help, Windows Explorer, Internet or mail
A small LCD status panel on the front also shows the battery level, the time and date.
The OmniBook is an impressive multimedia machine that should appeal to any suburban road warrior who believes in balancing hard work with a bit of fun.
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