There has been great despair in the Palm camp as of the release of the Tungsten T5 (with good reason). Mauricio took advantage of this and threw me one of the new iPAQs to review, since I'm a Palm user for a while now - trying to convince me to change?
The HP iPAQ rz1710 is the replacement for the 1900 series, a low end, basic Pocket PC with enough grunt for basic users and a price to match (~NZ$400). But can it live up to the quality of its predecessors?
As with all the new iPAQs, HP has dropped the smooth rounded edges of its predecessors and have a new, harder look. It is not unattractive, but I’m far from convinced it’s an improvement. Nevertheless, it is conformable to hold and fits nicely in a pocket, being about the same size as the h4150. The plastic case makes it significantly lighter than my Tungsten T3, coming in at about 120g, although it does feel a little ‘cheap’. The controls are a little small and there is little tactile distinction between them, but have good feedback, and the directional-pad is comfortable and easy to use. As with most low-end devices there is no cradle supplied. Instead it comes with a USB cable and a charging adapter.
On the bad side, the stylus is a cheap plastic stick, functional but no more. And HP don’t provide you with any form of case or screen cover, so unless you’re keen on viewing a field of scratches you better invest in some sort of protection before throwing it in your pocket.
There’s no Bluetooth or WiFi, the processor is a slow 203Mhz Samsung and the memory is a very lacklustre 32Mb RAM, of which 27Mb is theoretically accessible. It gets worse however - after a hard reset only 16MB remains for use. There’s also a 10Mb flash drive, but that won’t save you from having to buy an SD card. And the SD card slot has no door, but instead is supplied with a plastic filler card, as found in the Tungsten T1/2.
Entry-level: low memory available after initialisation
Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition support means portrait and landscape screen
As with the other new iPAQs, you also get Outlook 2002 (2003 would be nice, but I can’t see Microsoft lining up to give it away) and Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, with its support for portrait and landscape screen orientation and Pocket Internet Explorer’s One Column formatting. It also support multiple functions for each hardware button. For example press and hold the Calendar button and Windows Media Player will come up instead. However, there’s no terminal services client or MS reader, and it often feels just a little sluggish. There are a couple of interesting toys though – you get HP Task Switch, a tool that allows you to easily switch between or kill running tasks, thus nullifying the major annoyance of Windows Mobile.
It also supports a new feature called HP Profiles. Users can define a configuration set (Silent, Normal, Meeting, etc) and associate some basic configuration with these. For example Sound on/off, Sound volume, backlight, brightness, power control. With a single stroke users can change from one profile to another, making it much easier to configure the PDA when needed.
HP Profiles simplify changing settings
There’s also a new view for the Today screen, offering easy access to photos and media. However, this view replaces the Today screen completely and the shortcuts cannot be added to or modified, making it fairly useless for day-to-day use, unless you use the device for multimedia only.
New HP today plugin givesa access to media files
Despite the slow processor, it plays music and video as well as can be expected, although high bit rate videos are obviously out of the question. The sound quality is quite good and the microphone is sensitive and clear. However, even the slow processor cannot save the battery life. The battery is built in, but will only last 3-4 hours, putting it on par with the appalling battery life of the Tungsten T3. Ouch.
How does it perform on a benchmark against other machines? I've used Spb Benchmark to collect performance information, and if you click in the chart you can have access to our Performance Centre, with other Pocket PC reviews and charts:
In summary, this device is a reasonable low-end device, but horribly overpriced. While a good competitor for PalmOne’s Zire 31 (which is NZ$100 less), it’s horribly outclassed in the Pocket PC world. And given Dick Smith (a New Zealand electronics store) are currently selling the iPAQ h1940 (with a 266Mhz processor, 64Mb of RAM and Bluetooth) for NZ$400 it cannot even compete against the devices it is replacing. There are plenty of devices competing for the low-end space, but this one is unlikely to lead the pack without a decent price drop.