Remember the catchy Virginia Slims slogan, “You’ve come a long way, baby?” Well, maybe Hewlett-Packard should consider using something like it to promote the newest addition to its iPAQ family of handheld computers, the HP iPAQ h2210 Pocket PC (also referred to as the iPAQ h2215).
While the original iPAQ — launched by Compaq in April 2000 — suffered from a myriad of annoying problems and shortcomings, including dust under its touch-screen and its lack of built-in expansion slots, the h2210 is nearly perfect. It’s small and lightweight, fast and expandable, and capable of handling the ordinary tasks — from managing your calendar to looking up an address — as well as the extraordinary ones, like playing videos and connecting to other wireless devices and networks.
And it’s strikingly beautiful to boot (trust me, pictures of the h2210 simply do not do it justice). Best of all, at $399 the iPAQ h2210 Pocket PC does all of this without breaking the bank. Not bad when you consider what you got for that price just three years ago.
It also runs on the Premium Edition of the latest version of Microsoft’s operating platform for handheld computers, now called Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC (Click the link to read our in-depth report.)
Granted I’ve spent only a few days with one, but I have no hesitation in stating that, no doubt about it, the HP iPAQ h2210 Pocket PC is simply the best iPAQ, the best Pocket PC, and quite possibly one of the best handheld computers I’ve ever used.
So how does “You’ve come a long way, iPAQ” sound?
When Hewlett-Packard first announced its intent to merge with Compaq last year, many Jornada handheld lovers were concerned — and rightly so. Their biggest fear — that “the new HP” would eliminate the Jornada line in favor of the iPAQ — was realized soon thereafter. However, in an attempt to assuage their disappointment, HP said that it planned to incorporate key elements of the Jornada into future iPAQs. Still, few Jornada lovers actually believed that this was anything more than lip service.
Well, HP walked the talk.
The iPAQ h2210 Pocket PC combines the best of both worlds — iPAQ and Jornada. From the iPAQ, it brings an exceptional color screen and a fast processor — two areas where the Jornada had stumbled — and from the Jornada legacy comes a removable battery and a built-in Compact Flash slot (no, Compact Flash is not dead quite yet).
Plus, there’s a touch of the Jornada’s classic design in the latest iPAQ — for example, its smooth and contoured plastic shell. The only feature Jornada enthusiasts will miss is the Jornada’s flip lid. HP has instead chosen to include an elasticized nylon slipcase with the h2210.
The result of this merging of product lines is an incredibly attractive device that you’ll be proud to be seen with, and that will certainly do the job.
Size and weight
At only 0.61″ thick, the h2210 is considered thin but not ultra-thin, as are HP’s h1900 series handhelds and Toshiba’s new e350 Pocket PC. But at just 5.2 ounces, it’s as light as the e350 and noticeably lighter than Palm’s Tungsten T. In general, the h2210 is comfortably pocketable. Sure, there are smaller PDAs out there, but few can do all of the things the h2210 can do.
A tour of the outside
On the top side of the unit (see picture below), you’ll find the standard fare: a microphone, for recording voice notes; a stylus, which is thinner and lighter than most stylii; a stereo headphone jack (sorry, no headphones or earbuds are included, but it is the standard 3.5mm plug); and an infrared port, which works extremely well when beaming information to another handheld or when used as a remote control, thanks to the Nevo software that comes loaded on the device.
Also on top are two expansion slots: a Secure Digital slot that is SDIO capable and a Compact Flash slot that supports Type I and Type II cards. The CF slot comes with a plastic slug to keep dust and dirt out. But the downside of using a slug is that it’s easy to lose, not like a hinged door that’s attached to the unit. Still, who’s complaining when you’ve got a thin device with dual slots!
The only thing on the bottom of the h2210 is the connector port, which connects to the cradle or directly to the charging cable using an included adapter. It’s the same connector used in the iPAQ 3800, 3900 and 5400 series, so you should be able to use many of the same accessories, like keyboards and cables, provided device drivers are available for the new version of the OS.
HP did something unique among PDAs with the sides of the h2210 — that is, absolutely nothing. There are no buttons, switches, or dials of any kind on either side (see image below). Not even a Record button for taking voice notes. (However, you can remap one of the application buttons to the Voice Record application, if you’d like.)
Now, there will certainly be cries of foul from some folks about the lack of a jog wheel or the missing Record button, but the only thing I have to say about it is — bravo! And double bravo for adding rubberized grips to the sides (similar to the ones found on Dell’s Axim Pocket PC). This device feels as perfect in my hand as any device I’ve ever held — and as you can imagine, I’ve held a lot of them.
On the front side of the h2210 are four small but shiny chrome application launch buttons (set to launch Calendar, Contacts, Inbox and iTask), a directional pad, and the Power button. All of the buttons are deeply recessed, so you’ll never find yourself accidentally pressing them. And the 5-way directional pad is smooth and easy to operate. Above the display, there are two small LEDs: an amber charging LED (that can also flash green to notify you of an event) and a blue Bluetooth LED.
Finally, on the back, HP has located the speaker, the reset button, and the battery door that leads to the removable battery. There are also a couple of holes near the top that we surmise are intended for clip-on accessories, such as flip lids.
Cradle and charger
The h2210 comes with a USB synchronization cradle that has enough room to charge both the h2210 and an auxiliary battery (notice the Aux Battery LED on the front of the cradle and the indented back of the cradle where you can store your second battery — not included).
However, you don’t have to use the cradle if you just want to charge your h2210. It comes with an adapter that fits onto the end of the AC power cable and connects to the bottom of your iPAQ, so you don’t have to purchase a separate travel charger.
Overall, we give the HP iPAQ h2210 Pocket PC an EXCELLENT rating based on form.
Speed. Powered by Intel’s PXA255 XScale application processor running at 400MHz, the iPAQ h2210 Pocket PC is as fast as any handheld we’ve seen. It appears that all of the problems with XScale and Pocket PC have been sorted out. Whether playing an MPEG video, opening a JPEG image, or reading an eBook with Microsoft Reader — or all three at the same time! — the h2210 doesn’t miss a beat. While I’m more of a believer in real-world response times than benchmarks, I did run a few tests and the h2210 topped our charts.
Memory. The h2210 comes with 64MB of RAM and 32MB of Flash ROM, of which 3.8MB is available as File Store. However, only 56MB of the RAM is available as main memory, and 10MB of that is reserved by the operating system. That leaves about 46MB of RAM for you to load apps and data into. As we pointed out with the h1910 back in December, it’s a far cry from 64MB but you can always purchase a Secure Digital memory card to store things on.
Multimedia. The h2210 is an excellent multimedia handheld. Its superb display and fast processor, coupled with Windows Media Player 9 Series for Pocket PC, make it a highly capable MP3 and video player. It also includes an iPAQ Audio app that enables you to make bass and treble adjustments (and control the microphone gain, as well).
Display. As with most of the prior iPAQs, the h2210′s 3.5″ (96 mm) color display is exceptional. Since it is a transflective display — meaning it can light up the screen with either its own backlight or using ambient light — it is viewable both indoors and outdoors. It is a 16-bit display so it is capable of displaying images using a palette of more than 65,000 colors. While not quite as vivid and color rich as the amazing screen found on the h1910, it is still an excellent display (although some have said that there’s a noticeable “screen-door effect,” whereby a grid-like pattern appears around the pixels).
Along with the standard apps for controlling the backlight and screen alignment, HP includes a ClearType Tuner app that enables you to adjust the level of anti-aliasing, or smoothing, of the text characters.
Communications. The h2210 comes with integrated Bluetooth wireless support (using WIDCOMM’s Bluetooth for Windows CE software) and a Bluetooth Manager app that includes a Business Card Exchange feature. The Bluetooth Manager is a wizard that steps you through the process of connecting to the Internet through an access point or cell phone, synchronizing your device to a PC or laptop using ActiveSync, or joining a personal network of devices, possibly to participate in a multi-player game.
You can also use an 802.11b Compact Flash card to connect to Wi-Fi networks. However, device drivers for many Wi-Fi cards are not yet available. (Check the Brighthand Discussion Forums for the latest information on device drivers.) And when Wi-Fi SD cards become available, you’ll be able to use those too, since the h2210 supports SDIO.
There are also Ethernet Compact Flash cards to enable you to connect to wired LANs, and Digital Phone CF Cards to tether to data-enabled cellphones. And, of course, there’s infrared, so if you’re still using an IR-enabled cellphone to connect to the world, that will still work.
Yes, there are a multitude of connectivity options with the h2210.
Expansion. Gone are the days when the only way to expand an iPAQ was by using Expansion Packs, or sleeves, as they are commonly called. The h2210 has what previous iPAQ owners have always dreamed about: two built-in expansion slots. This obviates the need for sleeves, and we couldn’t be happier.
Incorporating a Compact Flash slot into the h2210 allows it to use not only current memory cards, including the IBM Microdrive, but also future types of communications cards, such as 802.11g. This appears to be a smart move by HP, as SD is almost but not quite there yet in some areas.
Power. The h2210 is powered by a 900mAH rechargeable — and replaceable — lithium ion battery, first introduced in the h1910. HP claims it will yield up to 12 hours of usage, but your mileage may vary.
Applications. The big gotcha with the h2210 — and Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC — is that not all Pocket PC 2002 apps run on it. But we’re sure that many of them will be fixed and released by their vendors in the near future. (Again, you can keep abreast of the status of each app on the Brighthand Discussion Forums.)
HP includes the following exclusive apps with the h2210:
- iPAQ Task Manager — to access and launch programs easily
- Diagnostic Tool Kit
- iPAQ Backup — utility for Backup/Restore to Main Memory, Memory Card, or iPAQ File Store
- iPAQ Image Viewer by Westtek– view images and create slide shows
- Nevo — a slick Universal Remote Control application that I had no problem using with my digital cable TV box
- iPAQ File Store — non-volatile Storage in flash ROM
- Adjustable Standby Settings — utility for adjusting power conservation modes
- Utilities — Self Test, iPAQ Audio, Power Status
Overall, we give it an EXCELLENT rating based on function.
What can we say? The iPAQ h2210 Pocket PC is everything iPAQ owners have longer for. It’s portable, connectable and, at $399, it’s reasonably priced. Therefore, we give the HP iPAQ h2210 Pocket PC an EXCELLENT rating based on value.
Yes, you’ve come a long way, iPAQ. The HP iPAQ h2210 Pocket PC is without a doubt the best Pocket PC we’ve ever used. But whether it is the breakthrough device that enables it to catch up to Palm, or remain the world’s number two handheld maker, has yet to be seen.