Years ago, every PDA came with a cradle. These days you have to buy one separately. If you have an iPAQ 210, one of the options for this is available from BoxWave.
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The design of this cradle is simple in the extreme: a hollow black plastic box with a niche and support for the iPAQ on one end, along with USB and DC jacks on the other.
A blue LED lights up on the front to indicate whenever the cradle has a USB connection.
The DC power supply is a standard barrel jack of the same dimensions as those commonly used with many Pocket PC accessories, including the iPAQ itself. Included in the box is a 5 volt, 1000 milliamp AC adapter, and a mini-USB cable. The AC adapter is rated for both North American 110v AC and European 220v.
The basic build quality of the cradle is fine–nothing exceptional, but it’s solid and not about to come apart at the seams.
The connection to the iPAQ is solid enough that you need not worry, while being loose enough that you can still pull it out of the cradle one handed.
The cradle’s listed as RoHS compliant, meaning it’s certified free of lead and other hazardous substances.
Quality OK, Design… Not So Much
Unfortunately, while the cradle’s basic build quality is acceptable, it has several significant problems with its design.
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For starters, the placement of the clear plastic support means that it can’t be used with the 4400 mAh extended battery sold by both HP and Mugen Power. The cradle version with the battery charger could still charge this battery in the spare bay, but you definitely can’t charge it in the iPAQ.
Which brings us to the second major problem. The cradle connects solely using the iPAQ mini-USB port, rather than the 24-pin proprietary docking connector. Not only does this make it impossible for the more technically inclined to modify the cradle in order to get at the other functions, like stereo output and USB Host, that are included in the 24-pin connector; it also limits the speed with which the device can charge.
Careful tests by iPAQ 210 owners have shown that the mini-USB port on the iPAQ is limited in how fast it can charge the battery. Only around 500 milliamps will be accepted from this connection, no matter how much is supplied. No such limit applies to the power input on the 24-pin connector, allowing it to charge the iPAQ much faster.
Without that connection, cradle users are going to have to settle for a slow charge: approximately 6 hours for the standard battery, and likely 12 or more for the extended 4400 mAh battery. Those might be fine for overnight charging, but for topping up battery power quickly, it’s not going to do much.
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BoxWave shipped me a cradle that didn’t include the optional spare battery charger, so I can’t test this function.
And without the battery charger, I apparently can’t test the AC adapter either–for reasons passing understanding, connecting just the AC adapter does NOT power the iPAQ. It quite literally doesn’t appear to be connected to anything at all: no power to the iPAQ, no light on the cradle, zilch. Plug it in only via mini-USB to a powered connection, and the thing lights up like a fireworks display.
I went into this review expecting to like the cradle, but to be honest I’ve been very disappointed. If all you’re looking for is a basic desktop stand, with simple sync and charge capabilities, this works. But the premium price, combined with the limitations of the design, makes it not worth the expense.
I don’t like to beat up on BoxWave, because they usually produce good accessories, several of which I use myself. But this cradle is a clear exception. Were it on sale for $20, or if it offered something additional, like a USB port and 3.5 mm stereo output, then it would be a different story. But this is like paying fillet mignon prices for oatmeal.
- Optional second battery slot
- Can charge from USB
- Doesn’t work with extended battery
- Doesn’t connect via 24-pin dock
While it has some advantages, the high price and limited capabilities of the cradle make it appealing only to those who need a very basic setup.