Brighthand Reviews the HP iPAQ h4155

by steve Reads (255,424)

They said it couldn’t be done. That creating a pocketable, multimedia-capable handheld with a magnificent color screen, fast processor and, heaven forbid, two forms of wireless was an impossibility — a contradiction of terms, so to speak. Well, it seems that no one informed HP of this apparent conundrum. Its new iPAQ h4155 Pocket PC does just that, and it may well be the best looking device on the market to boot.

With a 400 MHz processor, 64 megabytes of RAM, a Secure Digital slot (capable of handling SDIO cards), and built-in 802.11b and Bluetooth wireless capabilities, the iPAQ h4155 hits the technological mark. And at just 4.8 ounces and half-an-inch thick, with an incredible look and feel, it’s not your father’s Pocket PC. It’s sleek and sexy and, well, darn near perfect. If you can afford the $450 for this baby, we say take the plunge.

Form

iPAQ h4155 Pocket PC

The HP h4155 Pocket PC is an object of pure elegance, with a simplicity of design that could have just as well come out of Cupertino. It borrows its basic design from the original h1910 Pocket PC launched by HP nearly a year ago, with a few minor changes.

The front of the h4155 is silver, low-gloss and remarkably fingerprint resistant, with chrome buttons and a small black Power button at the top. On either side of the Power button are small LEDs that blink various colors depending on what you’re doing. The left one blinks blue when you’re using Bluetooth, green when you’re using Wi-Fi. The right LED blinks orange when the device is charging and glows solid orange when it’s fully charged.

The majority of the front of the device is occupied by its screen, a beautiful color display that has become one of the lynchpins to the iPAQ’s success. The backside, meanwhile, is matte black unpolished plastic, making it less likely to slip out of your hand. Kudos to HP for being the first to address this usability issue in this manner.

iPAQ h4155 Pocket PCThe h4155 is also incredibly thin and lightweight, continuing the recent trend toward svelteness in the Pocket PC arena. At 4.47″ tall, 2.78″ wide and 0.53″ thick, it’s comparable in size to Palm’s Tungsten T3 handheld (see picture). However, it’s noticeably lighter (4.8 ounces versus 5.5 ounces) than the Tungsten T3.

On top, you’ll find the Secure Digital slot, stylus, microphone, and stereo headphone jack. The slot accepts both SD and MultiMediaCard (MMC) memory cards and supports SDIO, so it can handle some of the other interesting peripheral cards that have begun to appear. Top view of the iPAQ h4155 Pocket PCThe stylus is extremely lightweight and thin, a bit too thin and light for our liking, while the microphone does a respectable job of recording voice notes.

On one side, you’ll find the Record button, which we’ve discovered is far too easily activated when removing the device from the included black slipcover. However, you can reprogram this button to any application you like (or disable it) to avoid this problem. On the other side is a slide latch to remove the back panel, underneath which you’ll find the replaceable lithium-ion battery.

The infrared port is located on the bottom of the unit, along with the standard synchronization and charging port. The h4155 comes with a three-piece cradle set that includes a power cord with an adapter that enables you to charge the device without the cradle. And the cradle has a recessed area for charging an auxiliary battery. (We recommend getting one if you plan to do extensive wireless access.)

The h4155′s buttons follow the curve of its shell. The five-way directional pad in the middle is small and square but responsive and easy-to-use. It also contains the monophonic speaker, which produces remarkably crisp, clear sound.

Function

Front view of the iPAQ h4155 Pocket PC Speed. The iPAQ h4155 is powered by Intel’s PXA255 XScale application processor running at 400MHz and runs the Professional Edition of Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC. We experienced no slowdowns or waits, even when running multiple apps. Applications launched quickly and large JPEGs open almost immediately.

The tradeoff for having a more powerful engine, however, is that it uses more battery power. As you’ll read in a moment, HP addressed this issue with a significantly higher capacity battery than that found in the h1900 series.

Memory. While the iPAQ h4155 comes with 64 MB of RAM, only 56.77 MB is available for your use. The rest is allocated to the system for internal processes. Still, this is plenty of space to store your files and applications. HP, along with Sprite Software, have included a backup utility that allows you to schedule backups of your system. You can even do PIM Mirroring to ensure that you do not lose a contact or calendar entry. And there’s a nifty File Explorer app to browse the files on your device.

Multimedia. As with all iPAQs, the h4155 is a master of multimedia. It has a standard stereo headphone jack for listening to music (neither headphones or earbuds are included) and a gorgeous screen for watching videos using Windows Media Player 9, which comes with the device. Videos play smoothly (and in landscape mode, if you wish) and music files (either MP3 or WMV) sound rich and full.

As Ed Hardy mentioned in his review of the iPAQ h1940, Windows Mobile 2003 doesn’t handle volume the same way Pocket PC 2002 did. With Pocket PC 2002, the system volume and the Windows Media Player volume were the same. With Windows Mobile 2003, they are separate. However, the system volume affects the Media Player volume, so that if the system volume is turned down, music plays very quietly, even if you turn the volume slider in Media Player all the way up.

Screen. The h4155 has a 3.5″ display capable of displaying 65,000 colors. It is excellent both indoors and outdoors, thanks to its transflective technology. You can adjust the backlight, although we found the medium setting to be an excellent compromise of power saving and brightness. You can also enable Clear Type if you wish. There’s even a ClearType Tuner application to let you fine tuner the amount of text smoothing.

The display still has the slight yellow cast found on the h1900 series. This is apparent only when viewing the screen from certain angles. However, this isn’t something that you should worry about or that should prevent you from considering this device. Bottom line, it’s an outstanding color screen.

Communications. This is where the iPAQ h4155 shines. Not only is there built-in 802.11b and Bluetooth, both are nearly painless to use. The iPAQ Wireless app makes it simple to turn on and off either wireless mode. We had no difficulty connecting to our Brighthand office Wi-Fi network and to a T-Mobile HotSpot at a local Starbucks. In fact, the combination of how easy it is to turn Wi-Fi on and how the Connection Wizard detects and configures access to wireless LANs is a joy. And Bluetooth seemed just as simple, detecting and connecting to my cell phone, laptop and other Bluetooth devices without a hitch.

Expansion. The iPAQ h4155 has a single Secure Digital slot that supports SDIO in addition to regular SD and MMC memory cards. But with built-in 802.11b and Bluetooth, as well as plenty of RAM, you should be able to function nicely with one slot.

Power. The h4155 is powered by a 1000 mAH rechargeable and replaceable lithium ion battery. This is more than 10% more capacity than the battery found in the h1900 series iPAQs and you’ll need it. Next to the screen, radios — like the 802.11b and Bluetooth radios found in the h4155 — use the most power. Again, we recommend investing in an auxiliary battery, which you can keep charged in the cradle.

Applications. HP offers an incredible suite of software with the h4155. You’ll find dozens of productivity, security and mobility applications on the companion CD (some full versions, some trial versions) in addition to the games (Jawbreaker and Solitaire), calculator, utilities and Microsoft apps (Reader, Messenger, Pocket Excel, Pocket Word, Pocket MSN, Pictures, Terminal Services Client).

Value

The iPAQ h4155 Pocket PC lists for $450. While this may seem pricey compared to the sub-$300 devices we’ve seen lately, it’s really not. You’ll quickly discover that you can do a lot more straight out of the box with the h4155 than most other handhelds. So there won’t be as many accessories that you’ll feel compelled to purchase, except for maybe a high-capacity Storage card and possibly a keyboard and auxiliary battery. And then there’s all of the extra software you get.

Bottom Line

The HP iPAQ h4155 Pocket PC does what many said couldn’t be done. It packs a ton of the latest technology, including wireless and mobile multimedia, into a sleek, sophisticated package — and it does it all for under $500. Looks like another winner from HP.


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