My hx4700

Last thursday, I’ve written about my iPAQ hx4700 and I’ve promised a more thorough review. Well, here it is:

First of all, I can’t understand all the moaning about the device being so big out there. Granted, it’s larger than most PDA’s, but much less bulky than all it’s predecessors (the last one I used being the iPAQ 5550). Also, it’s acutally lighter than the previous model.

And then there’s this plastic cover, all are complaining about. I can’t confirm that either. You can flip it around without problems or fear of breaking it. So, I actually think, the cover is quite great as it does not thicken the device while still providing excellent protection for the display.

Speaking of displays: This is where I absolutelty concur with the other reviewers: It’s great. Extremely great. And while I understand Microsofts intentions when they created this special-vga-mode (essentially you have the same amount of real estate on the screen as with the 320×240 resolution. It just looks better and more detailed), I got used to the extremely small look of the screen with SE_VGA enabled which is how I have my device currently configured.

SE_VGA turns off this pixel-duplication and provides real VGA resolution. Everything get’s quite smallish, but you know: I’m the resolution guy

Unfortunatly, none of the programs currently out there are prepared for this extended VGA mode. The glitches range from too much whitespace over cut icons to quite unusable screens (iPAQ wireless, the communications center of the device, being such an example). All in all, the high resolution outweights those glitches for me.

Turning this mode on and off requires a warm reboot, unfortuntately

The eye-candy software HP is providing with the device is quite useless: The screensaver does not make sense to me (I don’t have pictures I would place on it and the status information provided on the today screen is more useful anyways) and the today-applet is unconfigurable and not really featureful, too.

Spb Pocket Plus is much more useful for that matter.

While HP provides a copy of Pocket Informant on the ROM, the version is already outdated. Updating is possible, but is a tedious process if you want to profit from the 50% rebate.

Really useful is this bluteooth phone configurator. Getting a GPRS-connection to work has never been easier. The phone and even the mobile provider got recognized and automatically configured.

What I extremely dislike about the device is that it has only 64 MB of RAM. This lead me to install all the applications to the iPAQ File Store which is about 100 MB large. While this is a solution, it has two problems:

  1. Flash ROM is slower than RAM. Starting Mobile Agent (a GPS software) took long already when installed in RAM. Now imagine starting it from the ROM. We’re talking minutes here!
  2. The software installation is semi-automatic as I must change the folder on every installation.

As software can easily be reinstalled even on power loss (and thus empty RAM), I don’t see any advanteage of the overly big ROM at the cost of more useful RAM.

Battery live is average. One day worth of heavy usage, most of it connected via WLAN and some via Bluetooth and GPRS (have I told you, how great this bluetooth phone tool is? I guess I have, but saying it again is the least I can do to emphasize how great it really is ;-) ) about brings the battery down. This is neither more nor less than I’d had expected.

What I really looked forward to (besides better user experience while bathtub-surfing) was watching videos on the device. Lying in bed, ready to sleep and watching an episode of Stargate or so on the device which is turned off fast is much more comfortable than using the notebook or even the video beamer.

First, I was quite disappointed: Using Windows Media Encoder and the built-in WMP9 was quite laggish: Many framedrops, bad sound quality.

Where the device really began to shine was with XViD movies and Betaplayer: No framedrops, great picture quality and no encoding-time. Very nice.

Now, if AVI would be streamable and/or if the pocketpc would just be a little bit faster while transferring files, this would get really great.

As it is now, copying a movie to the device without plugging around SD-Cards is impossible. Neither ActiveSync (much faster over USB2) nor WLAN are fast enough for transferring a movie in a bearable time frame. I think this is either a problem in the OS or in the bus where CF and SD-Cards are connected to.

All in all, I’m very happy with the device. Its slick look, the metallic body and the more-than-sufficient performance make it a great update from my 5550. What I’d wish for on a future incarnation would be more RAM and a HID capable bluetooth driver so I could use my BT-keyboard with it to write my short stories in bed too (none posted here yet).

Oh and last but not least: Maybe you ask yourself about this touchpad of the hx4700. It’s no coincidence I forgot to write about it ’till just now: It’s unspectacular. On one side it somewhat kills gaming (which does not matter for me as I’m not using my PDA for gaming – I have my GPA SP for that), on the other hand it’s just there. Neither useful nor useless. Neither comfortable nor not. Neiter an innovation nor not. It’s just there.

I have not yet come across an occation where it really is useful, but having the cursor-mode on also is no disadvantage (besides the mouse pointer floating around), so it really doesn’t matter for me.