Sliding in at the very top of the Pocket PC high-end range, HP's new iPAQ hx4700 boasts a glorious 4" screen and WM2K3 Second Edition: JÃ¸rgen Sundgot gets up close and personal.
Hewlett-Packard, the number 2-ranking handheld manufacturer worldwide and a company whose name was on the verge of being synonymous with Pocket PCs until Dell arrived on the scene, is at it again. Virtually spewing new models, the company recently launched a whopping 6 new models in its iPAQ portfolio, much to everyone's confusion and pleasure - the latter of which applies particularly well to the model on review here, the hx4705. In most respects, that is.
There's no way of being nice about this, thus we'll just blurt it out: HP's hx4700 is a behemoth. At 131 x 77 x 15 mm and 187 g, this magnesium alloy-encased unit is larger than the vast majority of recent Pocket PCs - but in the name of fairness, its specifications mitigate this fact. For instance, the glorious, 4" colour display with its 16-bit colour depth and VGA (640 x 480 pixels) resolution surely takes its toll. With excellent viewability both indoors and outdoors, any QVGA user will find it a major improvement, as it is extremely clear and crisp - much due to its high resolution.
Just below the screen itself, we find another innovation, namely a first-of-its-kind touchpad as opposed to the traditional navigational pad. Registering four directions and an action press, this however leaves a far worse impression as not only did we experience minor incompatibility issues, but also found it to be difficult to discern between directions; completely void of any tactile feedback; and to be a general pain to get used to. Still, there are upsides: it's completely silent, and can also be used to control a mouse pointer to negate stylus usage entirely.
Flanking the touchpad, we find four flush hardware shortcut buttons with adequate tactile feedback as well as a microphone placed in the lower right corner. Above the screen, two LEDs to the left signal alerts of various kinds and varying states of wireless connectivity, adjacent to a light sensor for automatic backlight adjustment purposes. A suitably loud - yet expectedly on the tinny side - loudspeaker is placed to the right.
The left side of the hx4700 conceals a voice recorder shortcut button flush with the edge, as well as a slot to attach the translucent plastic screen cover bundled with the unit. Unsurprisingly, the SD/MMC Card and CompactFlash expansion slots are placed on top of the device, as are the power on/off button and stylus well.
Right alongside the two latter mentioned, we find a 3.5 mm headphone jack, which offers improved audio over previous iPAQs. Taking a cue from the iPAQ h4000 series, the bottom of the unit plays host to the Infrared port, as well as the USB 2.0 connector and levers for releasing the exchangeable battery of the unit.
For the connection-hungry, the hx4700 is briefly put a small piece of heaven. A broad smorgasboard of Bluetooth profiles is at hand, and whilst Wi-Fi support is the standard-fare 802.11b there is support for 128-bit WEP, all variations of WPA and also 802.1x and LEAP for the security-conscious.
That's not all, though, as the hx4700 offers - as the first iPAQ since the h2215 - dual memory and I/O expansion courtesy of its SDIO capable SD/MMC Card and CompactFlash Type II expansion slots. And, of course, one can find what comes close to being defined as 'legacy support' these days courtesy of an Infrared port as well as serial and USB connectivity.
Power users are sure to think highly of the iPAQ hx4700, as an Intel PXA270 624 MHz processor puts it right up at the top of the 'fastest Pocket PCs alive' chart. A considerable amount of memory is available to users, as the hx4700 offers 81.5 MB user available Flash ROM - or non-volatile - storage, and 48 MB of free RAM - or volatile - storage. Users would be wise to install all applications to Flash ROM, though, as a memory crunch will rapidly loom should a few applications be installed to RAM.
A roomy, exchangeable 1800 mAh Lithium Ion battery also graces the hx4700, enabling the unit to play back audio through Pocket Windows Media Player 9 for in excess of 6.5 hours consecutively. Although not overly impressive given the size of the battery, the results compare favourably with other recent high-end Pocket PCs.
The kind of performance lag which plagued earlier iPAQ models during intensive wireless usage is now eliminated, and the hx4700 runs Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC Second Edition smooth under virtually any condition. Disappointingly, Pocket Windows Media Player 9 gave a ghastly performance when playing back full screen video at 640 x 480 pixels in Windows Media 9 format. When utilizing third party software to play back an XviD video file at the same resolution, however, the results - as compared to a QVGA device - were nothing less than astonishing.
The Second Edition of the WM2K3 platform offers several improvements on features already present in First Edition, but the ability to natively switch between portrait and landscape modes as well as support for VGA resolution displays both stand out from the crowd. Combined, these abilities are a boon for those wishing to squeeze in more information - or simply be able to read what's on the screen without squinting.
Sadly, however, there are also drawbacks such as the Connection Manager, which - although slightly reworked - remains as confusing as ever, and the combination of WM2K3SE and VGA resolution causing a small number of application incompatibility errors.
Platform aside, the iPAQ hx4700 offers a slew of software, both pre-installed and bundled with the unit. Highlights include Phone Manager from BVRP Software, which eases iPAQ-to-mobile-phone communication and integration; excellent PDF and PowerPoint viewers from Westtek's ClearVue suite; the similarly impressive iPAQ Backup application; and the much-acclaimed Pocket Informant PIM replacement from WebIS in version 5.0.
HP also has several treats of its own making up the sleeve, including a straightforward and highly useful 'How Do I' help application; the better-than-Microsoft-Pictures HP Image Zone photo viewer; HP Mobile Printing, which is a dead giveaway, and also HP ProtectTools which offers added security through password protection and encryption. Last, but not least, there's also the iPAQ Audio Control Panel applet which multimedia enthusiasts will be happy to learn has gained a five-band equalizer allowing for improved bass.
The HP iPAQ hx4700 is at the time of writing available in North America and Europe, selling for $649 USD.
Massive screen; immensely powerful; superb connectivity
Oversized; a tad short on RAM; untapped display potential for multimedia
|If youÂ’re willing to forego portability - and a hefty price tag - for features, the hx4700 is nothing less than an excellent option. This handheld brims with connectivity options, and impresses with its speedy and aesthetically pleasing interaction courtesy of the brilliant, high-resolution 4" display and powerful 624 MHz processor. We donÂ’t care much for the touchpad, which performs only adequately and takes a while to get used to, but apart from this, the hx4700 is a very nice - albeit somewhat large and pricey - piece of kit.|
Price and availability
Available in the U.S. in December 1969, the HP iPAQ hx4700 is priced at $650 .
|SURVEYING THE MOBILE LANDSCAPE|
We have followed the trends in hardware, interface design and carrier business throughout the last 12 months, and through New Year's we'll be offering our unique perspective on the mobile landscape. What are the trends we expect to see into 2008?
"LG's VX8550 packs in plenty of features, and for the price buyers should be happy to find themselves playing music, navigating with GPS and watching videos."
"The A707 is comfortable and capable for messaging of all sorts, and it scores with its impressive call quality."
"The Mogul handles messaging as well as the best smartphones around, and business users won't be disappointed by the PIM functions or the tethered modem support."
"If you go on vacation for a week with your BlackBerry Curve, you won't need your charger."
"The LG Prada phone is pretty, stylish and unique. For folks who don't mind paying extra for a lot of style, and the Prada brand, that may be all that matters."
"The BlackBerry 8830 is a rare dual-mode phone, with global messaging for world travelers."
"We'll recommend this phone as a great calling phone for $50, and it does a few tricks on the side."
"The Web browsing experience on the iPhone is the best we've seen on a phone, and better than almost any device not running a full desktop OS."
"The T-Mobile Wing is a formidable messaging tool, and the smooth keys, each rounded to their own hump, are very inviting to the touch."
"Though far from perfect, the Muziq manages to surprise in ways that reinforce the music experience."
"With the i880, Motorola has managed to create a feature-packed Nextel phone that doesn't look like a Humvee."
"Wrapped in brushed metal, the VX8700 has the style of LG's Shine family, and its call quality was admirable."
"The M510 does offer up an appealing UI that's nice and colorful, and you can assign pictures or icons that appear on the main screen."