HPLX.NET REVIEWS PCL300 Pocket Computer Light

Vital Statistics

Publisher/Manufacturer: ASF
Contact: (800) 771-3600
Price: $29.95  

About the Product

This product claims to be "the ultimate lighting solution for handheld computing."  But is this true?  Let's examine the facts.

The PCL300 is the particular model of this light.  ASF also makes other lights, designed for laptops or even smaller PDA's such as the PalmPilot.  But it is the PCL300 that ASF targets the 200LX market with.

The light itself is similar to many reading lights that can be purchased in bookstores everywhere.  The basic idea is, the light has a base, a telescoping neck, and a light bulb.  Attach the base to the back of the screen.  Telescope the neck up so the part with the bulb in it stretches over the top.  Shine the light down on the screen and the keyboard.  It's very simple, really.

Naturally, one would assume there is not much that can be done to mess up a light.  So, you might decide to purchase the PCL300.  "After all," you might think, "it was specifically designed for palmtops!"  Unfortunately, investigation of the PCL300 leads me to believe that the designers were thinking more along the lines of the non-hinged, non-keyboarded Newton or Zaurus style PDA, rather than the 200LX.  The reasons I think this shall soon become clear.

The light ships with an impressive amount of hardware for its $29.95 price.  You get the light itself, a carrying case, some velcro strips to attach the light to your PDA, an adapter for your car, and four spare bulbs.  Two of the bulbs are coated red to dim the light; this is for pilots or other users who can't have a bright white light, or a glowing filament, accidentally impair their vision.  A very nice box comes with directions for most PDA's.  A very slick looking product.

Unfortunately, once you get down and dirty, the euphoria begins to break down.  In the first place, the light itself is quite large; as long and almost as wide as the 200LX itself.  The base is just a slab of plastic, and the telescoping neck is highly inflexible.  You can usually manage, however, to attach it to the lid of the 200LX and get it set up nicely.  Then the second negative appears: the light is not very small.  In fact, for a product called the "Palmtop Computer Light," it's grossly oversized.  It weighs 7.8 ounces, over two-thirds as much as the 200LX itself, and that's without batteries.  So, if you do manage to attach it to the lid, it will drag that sucker down faster than you can say "Hey, why is my display angle changing?"  And speaking of batteries, the PCL300 uses four of them.  AA's.  Why on earth do you need four AA's to power a stinkin' light bulb?  Those batteries are HEAVY!  The 200LX can get by on two, why should one lousy light bulb need more?  And AA batteries?  AAA would've been a better choice, in my opinion.  This sort of design might be good for where the machine the light is attached to is shaped like a Newton or Zaurus, but on our 200LX, with its hinge, it just isn't convenient.

As for the thoughtfulness of ASF in including those light bulbs, let me just say this: you're going to need them.  I hadn't had my PCL300 for a week when the bulb broke apart from the metal base.  Not a very durable light source...

Another the directions for the 200LX  seem to have been slapped together at the last minute on a separate piece of paper that looks like it was just printed out of the ol' laser printer and folded up by hand.  The method they describe for setting up the light is unclear at best, and it really just doesn't work out all that well.

The only good part of the light is that it does, in fact, provide decent lighting.  The keyboard is well illuminated, and the screen is fairly legible.  

The Verdict

If you only plan to use your 200LX on a hard surface, or if you only use your 200LX occasionally and mainly use a Newton or Zaurus style PDA, then the PCL300 would be a good choice.  But for the average user, I'd have to say: go for the Flexible Pocket Light instead.

Copyright 1999, David Sargeant.
Last Updated 1-2-1999

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