There used to be two kinds of portable computer: the laptop for serious work and the lightweight plamtop. Both had their strengths, but with the laptop often damned as too heavy and the plamtop as being too fiddly and lacking the technological clout for anything but basic work, there was nothing to cater for the middle ground.
Enter the Hewlett-Packard Jornada 820. At just under 2kg in weight, it is a remarkably light laptop that people on the move will relish. With its adequate screen and keyboard, the Jornada not only allows users to type in notes and reports but to edit and format them, too. They would need a surgeon's dexterity to achieve this on a palmtop.
What really scores is that this Windows CE machine is always ready for use. Add to this its quietness and a 10-hour battery life - the computer seems to last days without a recharge - and this is an attractive package indeed.
Billed as a PC companion, the Jornada 820 connects with your PC and synchronises with your diary, address book and email in Microsoft Outlook and any other documents you have worked on.
It is clear this is much more the school inspector's or manager's machine and could be standard issue for them; a train traveller, for example, could load it with emails, enter replies on the journey and connect it up to send later on.
With a variety of ways it can be connected to other devices, the Jornada 820 feels way ahead of what's in today's classroom - there's a modem to go online, a PC card slot to connect to a network and a neat Compact Flash slot to add memory or read photographs from a camera.
Surprisingly, there is even a monitor socket to, say, present a PowerPoint slide show on a computer projector.
Hewlett Packard's machine is an elegant bridge between the palmtop and the notebook. In the quest for a handy portable, this is a benchmark.
Jornada 820e: Windows CE notebook with lithium battery, 56k modem, PC serial cable. Includes ports for printer, monitor, infrared, USB, PC card and CompactFlash card (pound;600 exc-VAT)