I got to play with a HP iPAQ hw6500 Pocket PC Phone Edition and thought Iíd write up my impressions to share with you all.
The hw6500 seems similar in size to the old iPAQ h4150, with just a little more thickness and length to it. This means that it is a reasonable size. Comparing it with my i-mate Jam reveals that it is only marginally longer and half as wide.
Obviously I didnít have a chance to run SPB benchmark on the device to check the specs, but it certainly seemed snappy and responsive.
HP is great at putting good applications on their devices. The iPAQ hw6500 is no different: it includes the iPAQ backup (by Sprite Ė great software) as well as a couple of components of the ClearVue suite including their presentation viewer (again Ė excellent software to have in ROM).
Form factor Square Screen
There are a number of key differentiators between the hw6500 and other devices on the market. The first is the square screen.
The screen resizes nicely on the device thanks to Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition being screen size aware. This means that even if the application doesnít support square screens you can still view the full screen of the application by using the automatic scrollbars on the right hand side that dynamically appear if the form is a little too big.
Will this be an issue for you? The answer to that depends on the applications you use. Check your applications before you buy Ė if the applications you use donít support square screens then look for an alternative or lobby the developer to support square screens.
One thing to bear in mind is that the square screen doesnít get taken up with the soft input panel (SIP) if you use the hardware keyboard that is built in. This mitigates many of the screen resize issues that you might encounter Ė but not all of them.
The keyboard that is built into the iPAQ hw6500 is pretty good. The keys reminded me of the old click on keyboards for the h4150 that was pretty good but just didnít feel quite right to me.
The keys are all rounded on the top and they have quite a large travel distance, meaning that they keyboard is not as fast to use as it should be. The buttons are a little confusing at first too Ė Iím sure youíd get used to it over time though. For instance there is a blue button on the keyboard that appears to just turn on the keyboard backlight and thatís all... I was expecting this to be an automatic setting or one that was configurable in control panel (which it may have been but I couldn't find).
In addition the placement of the [Windows] key and the [Ok] key was a little odd.
My last gripe with the keyboard was the sometimes functional [Ok] button Ė there were times when clicking [Ok] didnít work as expected: rather than closing a contact (with an [Ok] button rather than an [X]) the edit screen would appear. Odd.
Otherwise, itís nice (IMHO) to be able to save the screen real estate by using a hardware keyboard. Itís also nice to not have to pull out the stylus all the time to get stuff done Ėalthough it can be quicker at times.
Obviously (you will probably know now) that the iPAQ hw6500 has Bluetooth and GPRS/GSM. Itís a shame in my opinion that it doesnít have Wi-Fi, but with integrated GPS I guess they couldnít stuff everything in there. Of course this means that syncing with Exchange server is still as slow as ever over GPRS (unless you use it with an operator that supports EDGE).
There are a few pocket PCs with dual slots already on the market (the HP iPAQ hx4700 for instance has SD and CF slots), however, I believe this is the first handheld to integrate SD and miniSD slots into a single device. Nice touch.
However with the SD card on the side it sort of limits your ability to have a WiFi SD card in the device. Still, itís great to be able to stuff 2GB+ of storage into the device Ė Iím not sure what it would do to the battery life though.
Dual slots: SD and mini SD
The camera is a pretty decent 1.3 Megapixel camera with a flash built in. The photos I took with it seemed to be clear and crisp, although I didnít get a chance to put the image on a larger screen to see how it looked.
Back shot with digital camera and flash
The hw6500 has a flip cover for the screen (I can hear Jornada users rejoicing). The cover only protects the screen Ė not the keyboard Ė so itís pretty small and unobtrusive which is good. I can see lots of non-geek people using this device talking on the phone with the flip cover unfolded though Ė which looks a little silly.
Quick play verdict
I think this device is quite nice and six months ago I probably would have jumped at the chance to own one. Now I think itís too close to the Windows Mobile 5.0 devices that have recently been announced and my money is probably better saved for something like an HTC Apache, HTC Wizard or HTC Universal (which is what it will be saved for). We are about to be spoiled for choice.
The most compelling features of this device for me are the integrated GPS, dual slots, camera quality and some of the in ROM applications. The drawbacks are the keyboard oddities and square screen (Iím not sold on it yet for a Pocket PC).