Brighthand Reviews the HP iPAQ rz1715

by Reads (152,824)

The iPaq rz1715 is the closest thing HP has to an entry-level model, and the only one in its current lineup that has a list price below $300. In fact, the company has recently dropped the cost of this Pocket PC to $250, making it a pretty good deal for what you get.

While this is definitely a “bare-bones” model, it has enough to satisfy a first-time handheld user, and some growth potential so it won’t have to be replaced in a few months.

Look and Feel

The impression I got the first time I picked up the rz1715 is it’s surprisingly small and light. There aren’t a lot of handhelds I think you could carry in your shirt pocket, but this is one of them.

HP iPAQ rz1715 The rz1715 is 4.5 inches tall, 2.75 inches wide, and 0.5 inches thick (114 mm by 70 mm by 13 mm). It weighs just 4.2 ounces (120 g).

For a couple of years, HP had a reputation for making very stylish handhelds. Sadly, this is now a thing of the past. The rz1715’s appearance is professional, in a boxy, boring way. You won’t be embarrassed to pull it out in a meeting, but no one is going to turn to you and say, “Ooh, what’s that?”

The Screen This iPAQ has the standard screen for a Pocket PC, which is 240 by 320 pixels, typically called QVGA. You can get screens with four times this resolution (VGA), but you’ll have to pay about twice the rz1715’s price to get it. And this screen is just fine for displaying images from your latest vacation or letting you read Microsoft Word documents.

Unlike older Pocket PCs, this screen can be easily switched between portrait and landscape modes.

Buttons Just below the screen are four buttons for launching applications. You can also do this by tapping on an on-screen icon, but the buttons are a lot faster.

Of course, the rz1715 comes with a lot more than four applications, so HP has set it up so that each button can do double duty. Pushing the button once can launch one application, while holding it down can launch a completely different one.

These buttons are set on either side of a directional pad, often called a D-pad. This lets you perform some tasks one handed, but I usually find it quicker and easier to just get out the stylus and tap on the screen. About the only time I use the D-pad is when I’m scrolling around in large documents or playing games.

Under the Hood

This iPAQ runs Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition on a 203 MHz Samsung S3C2410 processor.

I’ve heard many people say that this processor is too slow, but I disagree strongly. True, it isn’t up to the job of running the most cutting-edge multimedia applications, but other than that it does just fine.

The standard applications like the address book and the calendar respond virtually instantaneously. This is important, as they are the ones first-time handheld owners generally use the most.

I wanted to test some of this handheld’s limits, so I played a few games of Astraware’s Strange Adventures in Infinite Space, a fast-paced action game with lots of graphics. The rz1715 performed just fine.

Storage If the rz1715 has a weakness, it’s in the amount of RAM it has: just 32 MB, of which 27 MB is available to the user.

Pocket PCs use RAM both as a place to store applications, and a place to hold them when they are running. As such, 27 MB is barely adequate.

Fortunately, the rz1715 has a couple of other options for storing applications. It has a 10 MB File Store, which is sort of like a tiny hard drive. Files and applications stored here won’t be erased if the device runs out of power or undergoes a hard reset.

Obviously 10 MB isn’t a lot, but the rz1715 also includes an SD card slot for storing additional files and applications.

Prices for SD cards have dropped tremendously in recent months, especially if you buy them online. I’d suggest you get at least a 64 MB card, which will set you back about $20, or even less if you work at finding a good deal.

Software

This isn’t going to be a complete review of all the applications that are part of Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC. However, I’m sure most of the people who are reading this are considering buying a rz1715 as their first handheld, so I’ll go over some of what it can do.

Calendar The two biggest uses for handhelds are as an address book and calendar. Of course, the rz1715 comes with very good applications to handle these jobs. In addition, these can be synchronized with Outlook on your PC so you don’t have to maintain two separate lists. The device comes with a copy of Outlook 2002, by the way, in case you don’t have it already.

The email application can also be synchronized with Outlook. I do a lot of email reading and writing on my handhelds, and the rz1715’s spell checker comes in very handy.

Of course, this application supports attachments. Most of these can be opened with apps that come on this handheld. There’s also a free Adobe Acrobat viewer available if you get a lot of PDF files.

Pocket Office The rz1715 comes with Pocket Word and Pocket Excel, which can open and modify files from their desktop equivalents. These apps are probably best described as “acceptable.” They don’t support all the features the desktop ones do, and they have the bad habit of whacking out things they don’t support.

For example, say someone wants you to look over a Word document and emails it to you. When you open it in Pocket Word, any images embedded in it won’t appear. If you find an error in the document, make a change, and then email it back, when the document arrives it won’t have the embedded images any more. Still, it is nice to be able to read the files you get as attachments, even if modifying them sometimes causes problems.

Multimedia The rz1715 comes with Windows Media Player for Pocket PC, which allows it to play MP3 files and video in the Windows Media format.

If you are considering frequently using this device as a portable MP3 player, I’d suggest you get a bigger SD card than the 64 MB one I suggested earlier. MP3s tend to take up about a megabyte per minute of music, so I’d say 128 MB is the smallest you should consider. That will give you room for your music and your other files and applications. Or you can go whole hog an pick up a 2 GB card, but those cost about what the rz1715 does.

You’ll probably want to listen to music through a pair of headphones, though a pair isn’t included with the rz1715.

A monophonic speaker is located on the rz1715’s back. This is loud enough that you probably won’t miss your alarms, but isn’t really suitable for listening to music

Like all Pocket PC models, the rz1715 has a built-in voice recorder, which is handy for making short notes to yourself when you don’t have both hands free.

In addition, it includes iPAQ Image Zone, which not only displays pictures, but can also put them together in a slide show.

Text Entry

One of the sticking points for people thinking about getting a handheld is they are concerned that entering their information into it is going to be a hassle.

Like all Pocket PCs, the rz1715 gives you multiple options for entering text, at least one of which should suit everyone’s taste.

Keyboard The one that’s probably most popular with first-time users is typing words out with the on-screen keyboard. While this is familiar, it usually isn’t the fastest way to enter text.

Another method you might like is Transcriber. This lets you use the entire screen as a place to write messages — in cursive or print — just as if you were using a notepad. The rz1715 then converts your handwriting into printed letters and numbers. This works pretty well, as long as your handwriting is good.

Another option is Letter Recognizer, in which you enter text, one letter at a time, into a box at the bottom of the screen. This works better than Transcriber if your handwriting is bad.

And finally, there’s Block Recognizer. If you are an ex-Palm OS user, you’ll recognize this as Graffiti. This is potentially faster than the other text-entry methods, but it requires you to learn a simplified version of the alphabet.

If you end up really getting into your Pocket PC, you might consider getting an external keyboard. This makes typing emails and documents much easier. Several companies make portable keyboards that communicate with handhelds via the infrared port. My favorite of these is made by Think Outside. When open it’s about the size of the keyboard on a laptop, but folds to be about half that size, which makes carrying it around much easier.

Please keep reading Part II


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