As with most Pocket PCs, both devices ship with color, quarter-VGA displays. Now, courtesy of Windows Mobile 2003 SE, these and other Pocket PCs ship with support for switching between landscape and portrait modes. Unlike Palm OS devices, which place the landscape-portrait toggle in an ever-present task bar, the display-orientation control is buried a few clicks down in the Axim and iPaq. We suggest reassigning a button to control this function.The Axim includes a tab in the power configuration tool for scaling back the units processor speed or for allowing it to scale automatically. The iPaq we tested hangs its hat, in part, on security; the unit ships with a built-in biometric fingerprint reader and a set of device security applications called HP ProtectTools, which provides for bolstered password options and data encryption. We could set up HP ProtectTools to accept anything from a simple four-digit PIN to a fingerprint plus strong passworda wide range within which to choose a protection scheme appropriate for the data the device will carry. Click here to read about three upcoming iPaq handhelds that offer the HP ProtectTools software. Part of the promise of biometrics is that it could make security simpler for the user, but this wasnt the case for us during our tests of the iPaqs fingerprint reader. We typically had to reswipe a finger four or more times before achieving a scan good enough to satisfy the device. Of the improvements Microsoft made in this latest Pocket PC version, the one we found most welcome is Pocket IEs new One Column layout setting. As its name suggests, this setting squashes everything on a Web page into a single column, so no horizontal scrolling is required. This feature, which has been standard on PalmOnes Blazer browser for a while, mangles the intended structure of Web pages heavily but renders text very well. However, theres a lot more wed like to see from Pocket IE, starting with tabbed browsing or other multiple-Web-session capability, the current lack of which seriously limits the usefulness of Pocket IE. In addition, wed like to see a better bookmarking tool in Pocket IE, one that makes it simpler to create and possible to manage bookmarks from the device. The Axim and the iPaq now include WPA support for the units 802.11b connections. We tested this WPA support with both devices on our test network without a hitch. While Microsoft has added handy improvements to its Pocket PC, large parts of the platform, such as Pocket Word and Excel applications, appear to have been abandoned, as theyve seen little change in the last few years. Along with more attention to its Pocket Office applications, wed like to see Microsoft overhaul the Pocket PC interface, which has remained the same since the first Pocket PC. Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.
Both devices are powered by removable, lithium-ion batteries, which, based on our experiences during testing, will power the devices for about a day and a half of moderate use, including frequent use of the devices radios.