Let me begin by creating a little bit of controversy. It’s my view that there’s been only one truly important Pocket PC since Microsoft launched the platform back in April 2000 — the Compaq iPAQ 3600 series. Every model before then was noticeably underpowered, overweight and nearly useless outdoors, and every model since then owes its very existance to the success of the iPAQ.
Sure, other manufacturers have embellished here and there, adding dual expansion slots, WiFi, and replaceable batteries, but none has taken a mighty leap, none has forged an entirely new direction in the Pocket PC world.
Let me go out on a limb by stating that the new iPAQ h1910 Pocket PC from Hewlett-Packard is THE most important Pocket PC since the launch of the original iPAQ more than two and a half years ago. It’s bold, it’s beautiful, and it blazes an exciting new path for Pocket PC.
But that’s not to say that it’s a perfect device. It isn’t. HP made a number of difficult and critical tradeoffs in order to make the h1910 a reality. In fact, if you match the h1910’s specifications against any of the current Pocket PC models on the market, you might be disappointed. There’s no super-fast processor, no oodles of RAM, no dual expansion slots, and no wireless. Still, it’s an important device, more for what it means to the future of the iPAQ line than to the present.
We can barely wait!
If HP’s Jornada 560 Pocket PC and T-Mobile’s Pocket PC Phone produced a love-child, this would be it. The iPAQ h1910 Pocket PC is the picture of understated beauty. While it may not turn as many heads as Sony’s clamshell Clie NX70V, it will likely turn the right ones.
The h1910 is incredibly thin and light, thinner and lighter than anyone thought a Pocket PC could be. While not quite as thin and light as the legendary Palm V handheld, it is noticeably thinner and lighter (4.3 ounces versus 5.6 ounces) than Palm’s new Tungsten T.
On top, you’ll find the Secure Digital slot, stylus, microphone, and the stereo headphone jack. The slot accepts both SD and MultiMediaCard (MMC) memory cards, but since it is not SDIO it won’t handle some of the other interesting peripheral cards, including digital camera cards and Bluetooth cards. The stylus is very lightweight and thin, a bit too thin and light for our liking, while the microphone does a respectable job for recording voice notes.
The stereo headphone jack is another one of those compromises. It’s not the standard 3.5mm size, but rather its 2.5mm little brother. HP includes a set of earbuds with the h1910 but anyone who’s had a Pocket PC knows that you’ll want the best headphones you can get to ensure the best sound. This stereo jack limits that ability.
On the side, you’ll find the infrared port and the Record button, as well as a lanyard loop for those of you who like to add a strap to your PDA. We’d prefer the infrared port on the top, but it’s hard to be picky when HP’s done such a remarkable job squeezing everything into such a small space.
The h1910’s buttons follow the curve of its shell. The five-way directional pad in the middle is reminiscent of the Tungsten T’s, except smaller, and it contains the monophonic speaker.
Overall, we give the HP iPAQ h1910 Pocket PC an EXCELLENT rating based on form.
Speed. As we mentioned earlier, the iPAQ h1910 isn’t the fastest horse in the race. Powered by Intel’s PXA250 XScale application processor running at 200MHz, it sacrifices over-the-top speed for battery life. (Although some hard-core enthusiasts have found a way to overclock it to 300MHz.) We think that’s an excellent choice, especially in light of XScale’s stumbles regarding the real-world speed of its 300MHz and 400MHz processors.
Memory. Here’s where it gets sticky. The iPAQ h1910 comes with only 16MB of NAND Flash ROM, enough to hold the Professional Edition but not enough to hold the Premium Edition of Pocket PC 2002 (which includes MSN Messenger, Terminal Services Client, Windows Media Player and Reader). NAND Flash memory is different from the more typical NOR Flash memory found on most Pocket PCs in that it does not allow programs to be executed in place (XIP). Instead, they must be copied to RAM and executed from there. Therefore, 16MB of RAM must be reserved for this, 16MB of RAM that you can’t use to hold your contacts and calendar entries. So, if you look at the system information screen that displays your memory, you’ll notice that the h1910 has only 46.74MB available. And if you decide to load Windows Media Player, Reader, and all of those other apps that come with Pocket PC 2002 Premium Edition from the CD, you’ll be down to about 36MB. Yes, it’s a far cry from 64MB, but you can always purchase a Secure Digital memory card to store things on.
Multimedia. As with all iPAQs, the h1910 is a master of multimedia, with one hitch — the 2.5mm stereo headphone jack. But don’t worry, HP includes stereo earbuds with the h1910, since it might be difficult to find headphones that use a 2.5mm connector.
Screen. When you think iPAQ, you think beautiful display, and the h1910 is no exception. Its 3.5″, 65,000 colors TFT LCD is outstanding both indoors and outdoors, thanks to its transflective technology. Easily one of the best screens on a PDA we’ve ever seen.
Communications. This is where the iPAQ h1910 finds itself seriously lacking. There’s no built-in wireless support — no 802.11b, no Bluetooth. And since the SD slot doesn’t support SDIO, there’s no chance of adding it on. (That is, unless HP provides a SDIO upgrade as it has previously.) So, it appears that using infrared to connect to an IR-enabled cellphone is the only means for connecting wirelessly to the world, unless HP comes up with something.
Expansion. Still, the biggest shortcoming of the h1910 is not its toned-down processor, its lack of RAM, or its less-than-standard stereo adapter. The biggest shortcoming is its lack of expansion options. Yes, gone is support for the iPAQ Expansion Packs, or sleeves, as they were commonly known. While we weren’t alone in our love-hate relationship with the sleeve concept, and fully understand that it needed to be left behind eventually, it seems that without SDIO your options are extremely limited.
Power. The h1910 is powered by a 900mAH rechargeable — and replaceable — lithium ion battery. Again, while this may seem like a small battery, it’s simply another tradeoff. HP chose a battery that would meet both its size and weight and battery life goals.
Applications. To keep the price of the unit down (and to avoid taking up ALL of your RAM), HP includes a very small set of applications with the h1910.
Overall, we give it an AVERAGE rating based on function.
The iPAQ h1910 Pocket PC lists for $299, however, you may find special offers and coupons bringing it down to $249. Quite a bargain when you think that only last year it was difficult to find a Pocket PC under $400.
Some may argue that due to its weak technical specs, the h1910 isn’t a good value, especially compared with the new Dells and ViewSonics. But the h1910 has no competition if you’re looking for an ultra-portable Pocket PC under $300.
Therefore, we give the HP iPAQ h1910 Pocket PC a GOOD rating based on value.
The HP iPAQ h1910 Pocket PC breaks the mold. It’s the thinnest and lightest Pocket PC to date, far smaller than we would have ever imagined. And if HP can add Bluetooth to the mix (either through an SDIO upgrade or possibly in the next model), we’d never leave home without it.