REVIEW: HP iPaq h2215 (h2210) Review

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This article serves as an HP iPaq 2210 and iPaq 2215 Review.  The iPaq 2215 is the latest PDA offering from Hewlett Packard, it’s a mid-range offering and targeted at both consumers and business users.  With a sleek design, dual expansion slots, Bluetooth connectivity and endless other features tucked into a small factor there’s a lot to like about HPs latest offering.

HP iPaq 2210 & 2215 Review

iPaq 2210

The HP iPaq 2215 (released 6/23/2003, MSRP $399.99, view latest pricing), introduces a new design for the iPaq line of PDA devices and also brings to us the new Microsoft Mobile 2003 Operating System.  Sales of the iPaq 2215 are targeted at what HP is calling ‘Mobile Professionals’.  I’m not sure exactly how HP defines a Mobile Professional, but what it really boils down to is that this device is a business oriented PDA that will be purchased by individual consumers (like you) and used for both business and entertainment purposes.  The iPaq 5000 series of PDAs are most certainly targeted at sales to enterprise buyers while the iPaq 1900 series sits at the low end range of iPaq’s and are designed to be affordable for consumers yet still very functional and easy to pocket.  With that said, the focus of this review is on the iPaq 2215 so lets delve into this excellent offering from Hewlett Packard and determine whether the features it provides are what you’re looking for and deserve your hard earned $399.

HP iPaq 2215 Overview

Before going too far into this review I’d like to clear up any confusion you might have as to what the difference is between the iPaq 2215 and iPaq 2210 PDA.  The simple answer to this question is that there is no difference between these devices.  The iPaq 2210 and 2215 are the same device with different model numbers due to HP’s method of tracking device sales through different channels (i.e. online sales versus retail store or business to business versus business to consumer).  As a consumer on the street just get used to asking for the iPaq 2215 in your local electronics store, this is what I will refer to the device as since it is the model number I own.

With that confusion aside let’s focus on the overall feature aspects of the iPaq 2215.  The 2215 brings to the Pocket PC world the smallest dual expansion PDA on the market.  The dual expansion is served using Secure Digital and Compact Flash II memory expansion slots.  In other words, this device allows you to store extra data such as large media files using one type of expansion, for instance a CompactFlash Microdrive with up to 2GB storage, and use the other expansion slot (the SD slot if the CF slot is in use) for add-on accessories to the iPaq 2215.  The Secure Digital expansion is SDIO compatible, meaning you can use any type of accessory built for this slot and are not just limited to memory cards as is the case with the iPaq 1910.  The Compact Flash expansion slot accepts both CF I and CF II type cards.

The dual expansion is impressive and a key feature of the 2215, we see this functionality in the Dell Axim X5, but as I mentioned before it is the small size of the iPaq 2215 that sets it apart.  Providing a small form factor but not crimping on features is the holy grail type of device many have been searching for.  Here’s the stats on the 2215 dimensions in comparison to the Dell Axim:

Length Width Height Weight
HP Ipaq 2215 4.54 in. 3.00 in. .61 in. 5.1 oz
Dell Axim X5 5.1 in. 3.20 in .70 in 6.9 oz

The 2215 has wireless Bluetooth capability built into its small and sleek design.  Also included as a wireless connectivity choice is consumer level iRDA, meaning you can send infrared beams across the room and not just within five feet,  this means that using the bundled Nevo universal remote control software you can easily control all the audio and video hardware in your home…or at the local electronics store for that matter.  What’s missing?  There’s no built in Wi-Fi to allow you sit in the local Starbucks and browse the web via the T-Mobile Wi-Fi hotspot they have setup there.  Oh you don’t pay big bucks for the privilege of browsing the web in a coffee shop?  Well, you won’t be able to do it  at home either unless you buy a Compact Flash Wi-Fi expansion card for around $100 (and have a wireless point setup of course!).

Last but not least in this overview section is the processor and memory stats.  The iPaq 2215 has 64 MB of RAM and 32 MB of ROM with approximately 57 MB of RAM available to the user for Storage and the rest goes to the Microsoft Mobile 2003 OS and other built in applications.  The Flash ROM (non-volatile memory that does not need power to maintain state) has a rather dimunitive 3.83 MB size.  Flash ROM is memory storage area that you can manage via the iPaq File Store application, files stored in this area will survive even a hard reset of the device.  The iPaq 2215 features an Intel 400 MHz XScale PXA 255 processor with a 100 Mhz bus.  There was some expectation of a 200 MHz bus, but regardless of this fact the 2215 is still very fast and outperforms any previous iPaq device.

HP iPaq 2215 In The Box

 

Nothing dazzling about the iPaq 2215 box, just a functional cardboard container, no fancy Tungsten T like packaging.  Let’s open the box and pull everything out to see what’s inside:

iPaq 2215 Box Contents

Included in the iPaq 2215 box is the

  • Cradle for synching
  • A nylon case holder with cushioning for mild protection of your iPaq
  • The power cord with dongle that allows for charging while in the cradle or via the serial input on the bottom of the iPaq 2215
  • Getting started guide with CD containing ActiveSync 3.7 and Outlook 2002
  • iPaq 2215 device (of course)
  • Removable / Rechargeable 900 mAH battery
  • Warranty (1-year) and device registration information

HP iPaq 2215 – A Gripping Design

The HP iPaq 2215 is sort of a blend between the iPaq 1910 and the Dell Axim design, many also say it is a bit of a throwback to the old HP Jornada design.  Whatever the case, it definitely has some unique features — or lack of features depending on how you look at it — in its design set.  I say lack of features because HP took the interesting step of stripping any buttons from the sides of the device.  No reset button, no voice record activation button and no jog-dial.  Some people may disagree with this.  Personally I’ve never had a device that I don’t sometimes bump the record button on the side and inadvertently record dead air.  I’d like to have seen a design that prevents this, but am probably happier just to see the button gone if that’s not possible and especially since I rarely use the record feature.

iPaq 2215 on top of the Toshiba e750 and under the Sony Ericsson t68i, notice no buttons on the side of the 2215

Instead of any buttons on the side we get rubber grips that run from the top of the device to about 60% of the way down (the top image in this article displays this nicely), enough so that your fingers will wrap the rubber area and not the plastic casing area.  I’m a fan of this, I will say that the rubber grips are nowhere near as industrial feeling or effective as the Dell Axim grips, but they are more sleek and lend themselves to a nicer look, but I wouldn’t say they’re going to superglue the device to your hand and prevent all drops.

The actual case of the iPaq 2215 is plastic, and there’s no hiding that either.  The buttons offer a very nice chrome look and metallic reflection, but I think that kind of makes the casing look more dulled down and non-metallic.  Having said that, I’m much happier having a lighter less expensive device using plastic casing rather than dishing out more for a heavier more spaceship looking PDA.  Just make sure to get a case that absorbs any major falls the iPaq 2215 might take, I don’t know what the shock absorbtion would be like with its casing!

The button layout on the front of the iPaq 2215 is very straight-forward and sensible.  Same as ever, you have four shortcut buttons for (from left to right) calendar, contacts, email and then a quick application launcher.  If you push the quick app launcher and it pops up a menu you can select programs from to run, this utility has been built into the iPaq line for some time. The application buttons are a little on the smallish side, but overall they’re easy to get to and have nice feedback.  In between the directional buttons is the D-Pad (directional pad), a 5 way directional control that allows for up, down, left, right and inward pressing.    I really like the D-pad.  It’s super easy to manipulate in any direction, push and just feels great in general.  The D-pad is on the sensitive side when it comes to scrolling, but the button sensitivity can be adjusted by experimenting with the repeate rate in the buttons settings on the control panel.

   

At the top-right of the device is the power button, it’s easy to push when necessary but hard to push by accident, just as it should be.  On the top left we have two lights.  Here’s a rundown of what these lights are communicating to you:

  • Solid amber light indicates the battery is fully charged
  • Flashing amber light indicates the unit is charging
  • Flashing green light is notification of an event or alarm
  • Flashing blue LED indicates that the Bluetooth radio is on

In the picture to the left we see the iPaq 2215 charging outside of its cradle using the supplied AC adapter and dongle that attaches to the bottom connector on the iPaq


A view of the top of the iPaq 2215 reveals the dual expansion slots (black areas)

On top of the iPaq 2215 we have the openings for the SD expansion slot and the CF expansion slot.  The CF slot comes with a slug inserted for protection of the opening.  The SD slot does not have a plastic piece inserted to protect the area, I guess HP figures you’re going to fill that slot with a memory card right away, a pretty safe assumption in most cases actually.  Also on top is the 3.5 mm headphone/microphone jack.  I was happy to see the 3.5 mm jack instead of the smaller proprietary type used on the iPaq 1910 which forced you to use the headphones that shipped with the 1910.  I like being able to use my self-chosen high quality headphones to jam to MP3s!  Putting the jack at the top of the device is key too, that way you can put the 2215 in a case and still access the jack on top easily.

the holes in the back area is actually the device speaker for the 2215

The back of the iPaq 2215 is the same as any other really, uninteresting.  The only things to be said about this area is that we have the door to open and access the removable / replaceable battery and the speaker is actually located here too.  Not so sure why HP decided to put the speaker on the back, it points away from you and generally a speaker should output in the direction of the intended audience.  A design compromise to work in all the other cool features I’m sure.

the iPaq 2215 is about the same size as my wallet in length and width

If any of this design review sounds negative, let me just assuage any fears of the 2215 not being all its hyped up to be design-wise by saying the 2215 rates #2 on my list of best designed Pocket PC devices on the market — right behind the iPaq 1910.  It’s better than the Axim in design look and feel and much nicer than the somewhat clunky looking Toshiba 700 series offerings.  I love the lightweight of the iPaq 2215 and the only reason I like the 1910 design better is because it’s slimmer — obviously due to the fact it doesn’t have to cram in dual expansion.

My wallet is fatter than the iPaq 2215, but not because I’m rich unfortunately

Expansion and Accessories

Dual expansion is a beautiful thing that allows a user to use one expansion slot for memory expansion and the other for an accessory expansion such as a Wi-Fi card, modem, GPS or what have you.  Gone are the days of needing a sleeve add-on to the iPaq to allow for upgrades to the device, it’s all done through CF or SDIO expansion with the iPaq 2215.  In fact, you can’t fit the iPaq expansion sleeves of yester-year on this device.  Good riddance to the expansion sleeve I say.  Another important thing to mention about accessory expansion for the 2215 is that you can use old accessories from the iPaq 3800, 3900 and 5450 models on the connector at the bottom of the PDA.  For instance, if you had aims to use HP’s folding keyboard that you had with your iPaq 3850 with the new 2215 then you’re in luck — it works!  Many of the third party accessory products for these old devices should work with the new iPaq 2215 as well (remember, this is for those that didn’t require the expansion sleeve) although some may need some driver updates.

With purchase of the iPaq 2215 you receive two accessories, a cradle and free nylon case.  The cradle is decent, but nothing to write home about, it’s a little on the light and easy to knock about side.  However, its job is to provide a handy place to synch and charge your PDA while not in use, and it does that just fine.  It will also charge any spare batteries you have outside of the iPaq 2215, no need to have the battery inside the device in order to charge it.  The nylon case really isn’t much of a value-add in the purchase of the 2215.  You’ll have to buy another case if you want true protection for the device since this nylon case just won’t cut it.

Battery Life Expectancy

The battery for the iPaq 2215 is a 900 mAH Lithium Ion rechargeable.  HP claims it has a 12 hour life, I don’t know how they squeezed that out but I haven’t been able to reach 12 hours without needing a recharge.  I wish manufacturers were more honest about what to expect to get in terms of battery life from a PDA.  Having said this, I never once ran into a situation where my battery was drained at the end of an entire day of use without charge.  In general I’ve been getting 6 – 7.5 hours of real use per charge (not saying I have to charge every 7 hours, sometimes it takes 3 days for me to use the 2215 for that length of time).  I ran one test in which I cranked up the screen brightness all the way (that’s brighter than you’ll need) and forced the screen to stay on at that brightness, turned on bluetooth search and forced it to stay on, then played 6 wma audio files in a continuous loop.  I started this process with 100% battery life at 11:36 a.m. and at 3:24 p.m. the device finally got down to 0% charge and displayed a swanky count down screen and turned off.  That’s 3 hours and 48 minutes of abusing the battery, this may seem low but it’s actually pretty good relative to many other Pocket PC devices on the market.  The iPaq 2215 still isn’t as good as the 1440 mAh battery that comes with the Dell Axim, but the trade off is you get a smaller battery and less weight with the 2215. 

 

iPaq 2215 Wireless Capability

The iPaq 2215 comes with built-in Bluetooth, this enables you to print from the device to a Bluetooth enabled printer using HPs printing software that is built into the iPaq 2215, or you can use Bluetooth to pair with a Bluetooth enabled phone so that you can dial into an ISP and receive the internet on your iPaq 2215.  Bluetooth is becoming more of a standard in PDAs, and I’m happy that the latest round of iPaq releases all feature this communication standard.  Below you see a picture of my Bluetooth capable Sony Ericsson t68i making friends with the iPaq 2215.  The new wireless and Bluetooth management software built into Windows Mobile 2003 made the pairing process very straight forward:

t68i: “Hello iPaq 2215”, iPaq 2215 “Hello Sony t68i, let’s talk Bluetooth”

The iPaq 2215 also comes with consumer level IR so you can beam infrared signals all the way across the room and not just by pressing it up against another device you’re trying to communicate with.  Since HP bundles Nevo Universal remote software with the 2215 you can use the infrared on the device to control your audio and video equipment.  This software is incredibly cool and it’s easy to setup up partnerships with all your A/V equipment.  I just love having a graphical interface for controlling my TV / Cable / Stereo and having it all integrated.  I don’t care if my neighbor thinks I’m a geek for using a PDA as a remote control, neither should you.

iPaq 2215 Screen

As is usual  for any iPaq device, the iPaq 2215 features a fantastic display.  The specs on the display are very standard: 240 x 320 pixels, 3.5″ diagonal 16 Bit TFT Transreflective display.  The display is bright when taken all the way up to the highest brightness setting, it is not recommended to keep it there since it is the top drain on the battery and simply not necessary.  I will say that the 2215 still is not quite as bright as the 1910 display though, that screen is amazingly brilliant so if you are a total sucker for a bright screen then go with the iPaq 1910 or wait for the iPaq 1940.

iPaq 2215 Software

The software included with the 2215 is a fairly attractive bundle, HP is always more generous than most other manufacturers in including software that you might end up paying $20 to purchase with another device.  Following is a breakdown of the HP exclusive applications you get with loaded on 2215:

  • iPAQ Task Manager: access and launch programs easily
  • Bluetooth Manager
  • iPAQ Backup: utility for Backup/Restore to Main Memory, Memory Card, or iPAQ File Store
  • Nevo: Universal Remote Control
  • Adjustable Standby Settings: Utility for adjusting power conservation modes
  • Utilities: iPAQ Audio, Power Status
  • Diagnostic Tool Kit* – (* on CD in select skus)
  • iPAQ Image Viewer*: view images and create slide shows (* on CD in select skus)
  • iPAQ File Store*: non-volatile Storage in flash ROM (*on select skus only)

Here is a list of the Full version applications that come on the companion CD:

  • Adobe PDF Viewer
  • IPresentation Mobile Client LE
  • Peacemaker
  • Pocket Watch
  • hp Web Registration
  • Presenter-to-go
  • Active Sync
  • Outlook Desktop
  • Real Player Mobile
  • ClearVue Suite
  • Afaria Management
  • iPAQ Image Viewer (on CD in select skus)
  • Diagnostic Tool Kit (on CD in select skus)

And now a list of the applications that come with the Microsoft Mobile 2003 Operating System:

  • Calendar, Inbox, Contacts, Tasks, Voice Recorder, Notes
  • Pocket Word
  • Pocket Excel
  • Pocket Internet Explorer
  • Calculator, Solitaire
  • Jawbreaker
  • File Explorer
  • Infrared Beaming
  • Clock
  • Align Screen
  • File Explorer
  • Memory
  • Volume control
  • Asset Viewer

HP was nice enough to provide Outlook 2002 on the companion CD and not the usual Outlook 2000 that I’ve received with every other Pocket PC purchased.

iPaq 2215 OS – Microsoft Mobile 2003

a view of Microsoft Mobile 2003 Wi-Fi detection in action

The new features with Microsoft Mobile 2003 are mostly under the covers, meaning you might be disappointed if you’re looking for a graphical revamp or new amazing features.  Sorry folks, but next year is when we’ll see the amazing upgrades that make a PDA act like a laptop and allow us to output to an SVGA screen or projector via the handheld’s cradle.  Here’s a short list of what you will see new in Microsoft Mobile 2003 though:

  • Zero configuration Wi-Fi – New Zero Configuration Wi-Fi makes it easy for you to find and connect to any 802.11 wireless local area network (i.e. WLAN or Wi-Fi). When your Wi-Fi enabled Pocket PC* encounters a hotspot whether at home, work or a coffee shop, you’ll be asked if you want to connect. Once you connect, the settings are saved so that next time you are in the range of same wireless network, all you have to do is say “Yes”! The result is that you can now move easily from one Wireless Network to another without a lot of hassle.
  • Bluetooth Support – Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC now has Bluetooth support* making it simple to link your Pocket PC and other Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices. For example, if you have a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone, you can now use it as a modem for your Pocket PC to access the Internet. You can also beam data such as contacts or pictures to other Bluetooth-enabled devices.
  • New Connection Manager – the new connection manager has been redesigned to allow you to more easily connect* to your corporate network or to the Internet. Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC has added support for multiple VPNs, 802.1x, IPSec L2TP VPN and 128-bit SSL and 128 bit CAPI encryption. Together, these features help ensure that you don’t get locked out of your company’s secure network.
  • Enhanced Messaging Support – Composing email messages is easier than ever with Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC. The new auto suggest feature suggests email addresses as you type so that you find them faster. Auto-correct automatically fixes common spelling errors as you type. Signature support eliminates the need to re-type a closing for every message. Together, these features help you respond faster while you are on the go.
  • Improved Pocket IE – Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC also improves the browsing experience with an enhanced Pocket Internet Explorer (pIE). Improved support for a larger number of web standards allows both greater access to and better display of a larger number of web pages.
  • Windows Media Player 9 – New support for industry leading Windows Media 9 Series Audio and Video and the ability to playback local or streaming broadband content at data rates of 300kbs combine to deliver the richest and highest quality mobile entertainment experience available on the Pocket PC.
If you want more details on what’s new in MS Mobile 2003 then visit the bargainPDA article that Adama Brown has composed.

One important thing to note is that some applications that worked for Pocket PC 2002 will not work under MS Mobile 2003. One such application that suffers this fate is Microsoft Money. Oops. Overall though most applications should be fine, if you’re concerned about a particular application we recommend checking out that software vendors website or calling them, many developers will upgrade their apps and provide a free update if Windows Mobile 2003 does indeed stop the application from running properly.

iPaq 2215 Perfomance

I’ll be brief in going over the performance of the the iPaq 2215 because it can easily be summed up by saying it’s overall better than any other Pocket PC on the market.  The iPaq 2215 features an Intel PXA255 X-Scale 400 MHz processor with a 100 MHz bus speed.  The new Microsoft Mobile 2003 OS is said to be optimized for this type chipset (it actually prefers a 200 MHz bus, but nevermind) so it appears the OS might be helping out the performance somewhat with the iPaq 2215.  I generated the following benchmark test report comparing the iPaq 2215, Dell AXIM X5 and Toshiba e755 performance metrics from the Spb Software House website, bold numbers represent top performance:

  HP iPAQ 2215 (2003, 400Mhz) Dell Axim X5 (2002, 400Mhz PXA250) Toshiba e755 (2002, 400Mhz)
Spb Benchmark index 1146 752 1073
CPU index 1784 912 1234
File system index 1126 855 1270
Graphics index 567 434 651
ActiveSync index 2155 1518 1479
Platform index 1204 629 850
Write 1 MB file (KB/sec) 1257 657 1200
Read 1 MB file (MB/sec) 27 15.9 20.7
Copy 1 MB file (KB/sec) 1262 716 1180
Write 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec) 905 477 768
Read 10 KB x 100 files (MB/sec) 9.78 5.26 7.6
Copy 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec) 799 376 626
Directory list of 2000 files (thousands of files/sec) 19.6 112 153
Internal database read (records/sec) 1339 398 503
Graphics test: DDB BitBlt (frames/sec) 52.3 41.8 42.3
Graphics test: DIB BitBlt (frames/sec) 22.8 12.3 29.9
Graphics test: GAPI BitBlt (frames/sec) 60 47.1 72.4
Pocket Word document open (KB/sec) 100 22.5 28.3
Pocket Internet Explorer HTML load (KB/sec) 7.96 4.73 6.67
Pocket Internet Explorer JPEG load (KB/sec) 208 79.7 105
File Explorer large folder list (files/sec) 564 238 291
Compress 1 MB file using ZIP (KB/sec) 225 65.5 89.1
Decompress 1024×768 JPEG file (KB/sec) 606 423 567
Arkaball frames per second (frames/sec) 51.4 38.2 55.7
CPU test: Whetstones MFLOPS (Mop/sec) 0.077 0.061 0.076
CPU test: Whetstones MOPS (Mop/sec) 55.4 54.1 55.4
CPU test: Whetstones MWIPS (Mop/sec) 5.02 3.96 4.94
Memory test: copy 1 MB using memcpy (MB/sec) 102 65 90.6
ActiveSync: upload 1 MB file (KB/sec) 201 142 135
ActiveSync: download 1 MB file (KB/sec) 356 249 274

As you can see, the iPaq 2215 pretty much so sweeps this awards ceremony!

Conclusion

Overall I’m very happy with the iPaq 2215.  It’s a fun device and I absolutely love the fact it is highly expandable yet still small and lightweight with a fantastic design to boot.  I give it a definite buy rating.  At $399.99 it’s a fairly decent buy, but the Dell Axim costs almost half that so you’ll have to justify spending an extra $200 to get the iPaq 2215.  Right now, to be honest, if I were on a budget I’d find it hard to reason spending an extra $200 to buy the 2215 over the Dell Axim 400 MHz.  If the devices were the same price I’d definitely go for the 2215, so if you have to have the latest and the greatest then go with the iPaq 2215, if not save yourself some money and go with the Dell Axim. 

If you want to see all the specs for the iPaq 2215 then visit the spec list we have here on the site or visit this link at HP to see an exhaustive listing of all the device specs.


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