First, I’ll toss in the standard notation–the iPaq 5550 and 5555 are the same PocketPC, simply distinguished by insert-HP-explanation-of-the-week-here. Also, this is not a real review, just initial reaction.
Before getting it, I generally considered the iPaq 5000 series to be ugly due to it’s strange design elements around the fingerprint scanner. After having used it for a few days though, it no longer bothers me unduly. Like my Axim’s strange looking speaker, the front lump has become just another design element that I neither like nor dislike. The casing is pretty much identical to the iPaq 5400 series, as is the controls. To too great an extent, in my opinion–it still lacks a jog dial, and you still can’t remap the volume rocker on the side. Bah. When is HPQ going to implement standard features like this?
My first impression of the screen is that it’s a good bit brighter than my Axim’s, and about on par in color depth and vividness. Though it’s only 0.3 of an inch, the size difference is noticible, though of course it makes the pixels more visible as well.
It’s strange how the little touches grow on you. I’ve come to be fond of the iPaq’s antenna nub, the spring-loaded stylus, and it’s light sensor. The first simply looks cool, and of course adds to the wireless range. I haven’t completed tests on this yet, but the range seems fairly close to that of a 100 milliwatt CompactFlash WiFi card. The stylus is excellent quality, and the little push-and-pop spring mechanism is one of those things that makes me go ‘why doesn’t everyone do that?’
The light sensor, for those not familiar with HP-Compaq PocketPCs, is a tiny photo-sensitive cell that automatically adjusts the backlight depending on the ambient light. It may sound trivial, but it’s really quite useful. Think of roaming inside and out without having to pause to make sure that your backlight isn’t on in direct sun.
I love having WiFi integrated, and I’ve done a surpising amount of web browsing on the 5550. The new version of PocketIE is definitely an improvement. I’m not happy with the WiFi utilities included with the 5550, however. They’re underpowered, such that finding and connecting to networks is extraordinarily difficult if you don’t know every detail about their setup. You also get little information about the quality of your signal. If a connection attempt fails, you’re given no information to help figure out the problem. I think the software was designed to be simple for wireless novices, but you need to be an accomplished user to troubleshoot it, negating it’s minor learning curve advantage.
Likewise the Bluetooth. Despite having integrated Bluetooth, there aren’t any context menu options to send files and information via Bluetooth.
Besides design annoyances, I’ve experienced the following hardware/software issues so far:
WiFi turns off for no particular reason. I haven’t been able to figure out why it does this–it doesn’t seem to be related to on/off state, battery, range, anything. Usually it will come back on if I cycle it once, though sometimes it needs a soft-reset.
Sound disables itself for no reason. All the boxes under Sound in the settings menu will periodically uncheck themselves, muting the iPaq and effectively disabling any alarms.
Heat. This is strange, but the 5550 has a definite heat problem. When in use, the upper back portion of the casing becomes noticibly warm to the touch. I know some Lithium-Ion batteries heat up while charging, but the battery isn’t affected. The problem area is between the battery and the top edge. Most of the time it’s a mild heat, and is dissipated by my hand, but a few times I’ve pulled the iPaq out of it’s cradle and had that area be uncomfortably hot, a good 20-30 degrees above room temperature. Please bear in mind, this does not seem to affect the unit’s performance, it is simply worth noting because I’ve never had heat problems with any other handheld.
I will be delving into the iPaq 5550 in much greater detail when I post my full review. Stay tuned.