HP iPaq rx3715 Review

by Reads (100,788)
  • Pros

    • Feature packed
    • Bluetooth
    • Wifi

  • Cons

    • No flash
    • No VGA


by Antoine Wright

The HP iPaq rx3715 sits at the top of the line of HP’s iPaq rx3700 series of PDAs that currently includes the iPaq rx3115 and iPaq rx3715 Pocket PC devices.  This review covers the rx3715 feature set which includes a built-in camera and more memory than the iPaq 3115.

Below follows our review and some comparisons to other PDAs. Check it, and feel free to comment about the review, or ask other questions within our discussion forums.

Review Outline

  1. Summary
  2. Specs
  3. Form and Function
  4. Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition
  5. Benchmarks
  6. Screenshots/Pictures
  7. Comparison to PalmOS Devices

In The Box

Here’s a look at the box youll get the iPaq rx3715 in and the contents all spilled out:

view larger image

view larger image

Summary

In contrast to other reviews that I have done, I have decided to put the conclusion first, and then expound on the main points thereafter.

The rx3715 is possibly one of the most feature packed and balanced PDAs on the market today. With features such as Bluetooth, WiFi, and Consumer IR, the ability to go wireless is nearly unparalleled by any handheld. You are also treated to an excellent 1.3MPx HP Photosmart camera, though no flash does limit its usage. Plenty of RAM (196MB total) ensures that you will not easily run out of space, though if you want to install more than just a few games or other applications, you will want to purchase a SD card to keep the internal RAM free for running programs. If you are coming from a PalmOS PDA, doing basic tasks may not seem as fast, but you will appreciate the more powerful hardware and the dual wireless options. Overall, it is hard to find a fault in the rx3715 other than its price. For $500, it is about $150 more than the Dell Axim x30 624MHz Combo. For that reason, and the lack of a VGA screen resolution, I would say that you may be better off looking at other devices. But this is a good PDA, if not a questionable buy, no matter how you look at it.

Specs

Operating System Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition
Storage Space 196 RAM (128MB ROM – 96MB for iPaq File Store; and 64MB RAM – 56MB usable)
Screen Size and Type 240×320 pixel QVGA 3.5″ TFT active-matrix display, with Portrait and Landscape display
Processor Speed and Type Samsung S3C 2440 processor @ 400MHz
Physical Dimensions 4.5″ x 2.8″ x 0.64″ (length x width x depth)
Weight 5.6 oz
Wireless Bluetooth / Wi-Fi 802.11b / Consuer IR
Camera 1.3 Megapixel HP Photosmart

Form…

I have been a PalmOS user for all of my PDA life. I enjoyed the size of the devices and the simplicity of its functions. When I received the iPaq, I knew that I was in for a serious learning curve, as well as a few surprises.

First of all, I was very impressed at the size of the rx3715. I also own a PalmOne Zire71 and the rx3715 is thinner and just as wide, but a bit longer, while packing a higher resolution camera, BT and WiFi wireless technologies, and more internal RAM. Holding it is comfortable. You don’t get the same feeling from it though as when holding a Palm m515 or HP 1900-series iPaq. It doesn’t feel light, but it doesn’t feel heavy either. My device was very well made and did not have any creaks or cracking. I do wish that the SD card slot made it easier to take out the card. The slight indentation at the middle of the slot is not as pronounced so it is a bit harder to press in the card so that it springs out.

From user’s perspective, I do not like any of the buttons. The rx3715 has the normal button setup for PocketPC devices with the exception of what the buttons do. Here is a table that shows what I mean:

 Buttons from left to right  Short Press Brings Up…  Long Press Brings Up…
 Button 1  iPaq Mobile Media  Calendar
 Button 2  HP Image Zone  Contacts
 Button 3  Nevo Media Devices  Message
 Button 4  iTask  Rotate Screen
 Button 5 (on the left side)  HP Photosmart Camera  Record Voice Memo

On the PalmOS, I am used to having to download a program to get that many applications on the hardware buttons. It was good to have that functionality built in. The problem I had with the buttons was in their form, not function. The buttons, especially the directional pad, were just too small for my fingers. They were also flush with the rest of the device, making them hard to use for trying to quickly get into programs. If they had some kind of indentation to them, or were concave (like the best buttons ever on a device, a la the Palm m515), then they would be extremely user friendly.

The included cradle really fits with the industrial design theme of the rx3715. It is nicely weighted and holds the rx3715 at a good angle for clicking on the screen to get a quick number or see the DockWare (included software) screen saver display the time and a few pictures. One thing that I do not like about the cradle is that the rx3715 does not sit within the cradle very securely. A small knock (often happens with me since I move the cradle around a lot) can unseat the rx3715 and disconnect your device from ActiveSync. If you knock it off just right, you will have to restart your computer to get ActiveSync active once again.

…and Function

In terms of actually using a PocketPC device, I was extremely pleased with the hardware given. The Samsung processor did work well for most of the tasks that I threw at it. I did find though that it was not as snappy as my Palm in getting in and out of the basic PIM apps. I have over 400 contacts on my Palm and just over 60 on my rx3715 and the Palm just feels much faster. I cannot explain why that is. I also thought that it was slower in waking up and shutting down after hitting the power button. That part was weird to me because I never thought that I would see a circle “waiting� icon when shutting down the iPaq. Just to be sure that it wasn’t something that I left running, I soft reset the device and it did it again. I guess that it is just the way that the PocketPC powers down. I am more used to the instant on and off of the PalmOS.

comparison of Palm Zire 71 to HP iPaq rx3715 (view larger image)

The screen of the rx3715 is great even in its lower 320×240 pixel resolution. There are plenty of colors to go around and the rx3715 uses each one extremely well. It does not get washed out in the sunlight, but it does suffer from some glare when looking at it from strange viewing angles (those angles that you get when trying to write on it while showing it to someone else to either side of you). I do wish that it was of a higher resolution though. Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition does support VGA screens and although there are extension programs that enable this functionality, it doesn’t look very well. I much rather prefer to have the square 320×320 resolution of PalmOS devices or the even higher HVGA resolutions of PalmOS devices. The text is too blocky. Enabling Clear Type does help some, but after seeing a higher resolution screen for so long, to take a step down really does hurt one’s eyes (my laptop’s screen resolution sits at 1400×1050 pixels so please understand that if anything, I am particular about seeing pixels on the screen).

The item that most impressed me was the camera. Other than needing a flash (come on HP, you could have done that), this camera is excellent. As with most non-dedicated digital cameras, it does its best work outside on a nice sunny day. There, the automatic white balance does a great job of capturing every possible color. The fact that you can take pictures at 320×240 (QVGA), 640×480 (VGA or .3 megapixels), or 1280×960 (SVGA or 1.3 megapixels) make this camera very versatile for close up pictures, or larger pictures of landscape areas. The Photosmart camera also can take video footage. You have your choice of QVGA, 176×144 pixels, and 160×120 pixels. I do not think that these are good enough to show on a High Definition television, but I think that you can show them on a regular TV and it will not be too bad. If you do plan on using the video function a lot, you will want to purchase a SD (secure digital) memory card to hold the video.

Speaking of SD. The only item that you may need the SD slot for is for memory expansion. There are infrared and Bluetooth keyboards, Bluetooth GPS units, and Bluetooth printers available (plus you already have the camera and wifi built in so no need to buy extra accessories for those). SD flash memory is getting very inexpensive (saw a 256MB card for $56 at Staples, web stores are even cheaper) so you might want to grab a few cards and play the role of Spike Lee.

The one program that still doesn’t work for me is the Nevo Media Server. The Nevo Media Server is a program that sits on your desktop or laptop computer and through the WiFi connection with the rx3715, you would be able to stream music to the iPaq. It is a heck of a neat idea and I wish that I would have gotten it to work. I did read on one PocketPC site that a person upgraded their desktop operating system to Service Release 2 of Windows XP and things just worked fine. I am still on the waiting list to install the service release as I am not yet convinced that the major bugs have been worked out of it yet.

Windows Mobile 2003

Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition is what the rx3715 comes with. I never used the first edition, so I do not have a frame of reference to say what has improved. I have used a PocketPC 2000 and 2002 device and can say that it is a ton smoother in operation. It also seems to glide from application to application better than the older operating systems. I found that there were plenty of programs available for the rx3715, but many of them would give me a warning alert when installing a program saying that the program was not made for the operating system that is contained on the device. I am guessing that is because many programs made for the first edition of WinMobile may not work in the second edition.

When using Windows Mobile Second Edition Landscape Viewing is a built-in feature

Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition comes with Inbox (also called Messaging on the rx3715), Windows Media Player 9, Outlook (Calendar, Tasks, and Notes are treated as separate apps but they all sync to Outlook), Pocket Word, and Pocket Excel. Inbox, the Outlook apps, and Windows Media Player 9 all perform as expected. I saw nothing earth shattering there. But I did notice that Pocket Word and Excel leave a lot to be desired. I use Word a lot, and sometimes have some good style sheets going on my documents. Pocket Word stripped out all of the formatting. Pocket Excel was not much better either. I would suggest looking at other word processing and spreadsheet applications if you are going to do more than just reading your documents on the rx3715. The PalmOS with Documents-To-Go (by Dataviz, www.dataviz.com) is miles better here (and it comes as additional software on all but the least expensive PalmOS handhelds).

On the other hand, I did like the Today screen. That was something that I saw many years ago and wish that my Palm could do out of the box. I installed Facer (by PocketCraft, www.pocketcraft.com) so that I would have some of the same functionality that the PocketPC Today screen offers. It is close, but some of the plug-ins available I really like. I currently use Calendar+, TasksPlus, TodayPlayer, and MagicBar. I wish that there were some more free ones, but if you really want to do everything from the Today screen, you will pay for what you want to do.

Benchmarks

I did run some benchmarks on the rx3715. Personally, I have never put much importance in the raw numbers of a benchmark; I have gone on how the device “feels.� But I do include the benchmark numbers here for those who would like to put the rx3715 up against its other PocketPC brethren.

Benchmarking software courtesy of Spb Software House (www.spbsoftwarehouse.com)

Test 1

Test 2 – done 3hrs after the first test

Write 1 MB file (KB/sec) 745.10 993.40
Read 1 MB file (MB/sec) 43.20 76.10
Copy 1 MB file (KB/sec) 753.20 1257.70
Write 10Kb x 100 files (KB/sec) 997.20 2437.80
Read 10Kb x 100 files (MB/sec) 97.80 255.0
Copy 10Kb x 100 files (KB/sec) 1113.50 3201.90
Directory list of 2000 files (thousands of files/sec) 56.60 57.40
Internal Database Read (records/sec) 758.90 1189.60
Graphics Test: DDB BitBit (frames/sec) 2.660 5.2850
Graphics Test: DIB BitBit (frames/sec) 33.910 63.5350
Graphics Test: GAPI BitBit (frames/sec) 2.5550 2.590
Pocket Word document open (KB/sec) 4702.20 4857.40
Pocket Internet Explorer HTML load (KB/sec) 2468.30 3021.30
Pocket Internet Explorer JPEG load (KB/sec) 1260.40 1689.20
File Explorer large folder list (files/sec) 2678.30 3022.0
Compress 1MB file using ZIP (KB/sec) 3271.20 3455.0
Decompress 1024×768 JPEG file (KB/sec) 514.60 730.70
Arkaball frames per second (frames/sec) 6.27250 6.34050
CPU Test: Whetstones MFLOPS (Mop/sec) 4450.90 4710.90
CPU Test: Whetstones MOPS (Mop/sec) 1143.60 1251.60
CPU Test: Whetstones MWIPS (Mop/sec) 9238.70 9422.10
Memory Test: copy 1MB using memcopy (MB/sec) 16.8470 18.3210

Like I said, I am not a man of numbers. But it seems like the rx3715 does much better when it is not full of files and such. I do not have any other PocketPC devices to compare it to, but if you check out some of the other PocketPC reviews here, then you will see that it does compare well too many of the devices.

Screenshots and Pictures

view larger image

Comparison to PalmOS Devices

The hardest part about doing this review was changing the way that I had to think about how to interact with my PDA. I am very much accustomed to reading the many debates about PalmOS versus PocketPC. Personally, I had not too much to say since all of my experience until now was just in friendly passing or helping others do some simple things. Now that I have had a chance to live with the device for a while, it really isn’t that bad. But I do believe that MS is more or less playing a game of placing a PC within your pocket and waiting for the hardware to catch up to the structure of the OS. The PalmOS, on the other hand, was built as a low resource organizer and is growing into a fuller OS. In many respects, I cannot compare the two without installing similar software onto the PalmOS so that it is becomes even with the sold-as configuration of the PocketPC. If I were to do that, the preferred device would fall towards what hardware that I would need. In that case, I would have to say that the only wireless that I need in a PDA is Bluetooth, but that I would like to have as much internal RAM as possible. At this point, PocketPC devices are the only ones that fulfill that need. If the rumors of the Tungsten T|5 are correct, then there is no doubt that I would prefer that PalmOS as I like the idea of a simple OS that I have to add to in order to make it more functional. For me, the PocketPC is really too much like my laptop and not enough like its assistant. If I needed all of that in that small of a device, the rx3715 would be an easy choice (lest there was an hx4700 that could be had). The rx3715 is about as feature packed as a PDA can get.


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