Review: Hewlett-Packard's iPaq rx5900 Travel Companion lacks cell phone capabilities, but its GPS, connectivity and multimedia options are impressive.
Hewlett-Packards iPaq rx5900 Travel Companion may not be a smart phone, but it is smart. With a GPS receiver, the Windows Mobile-based device offers business travelers effective navigation, connectivity and entertainment options.
eWEEK Labs tested the iPaq rx5900 on the road while covering the 2006 DemoFall conference in San Diego. The device comes equipped with mobile versions of Microsofts Office suite applications, but we found that the PDA really excelled when it came to navigation.
Our review unit was loaded with Microsofts Windows Mobile 5.0 for Pocket PC with the Security Feature Pack (an update that enables Windows Mobile 5.0-based devices to take advantage of the wireless features in Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2.)
The iPaq rx5900 features a 400MHz Samsung SC32442 processor. The device we tested came armed with 80MB of storage memory, 54MB of program memory and 400MB of available memory on the 2GB of GPS-related Flash memoryin short, plenty of memory to meet our various application needs.
The iPaq rx5900 has a manufacturers suggested retail price of $599, which is high for a GPS-enabled PDA without cellular network connectivity options (like those of Research in Motions Blackberry 8703e on the Verizon Wireless network).
However, the iPaq rx5900s price is on par with GPS-specific devices such as Pharos Traveler GPS 525.
Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how the new iPaq compares to Dashs forthcoming Dash Smart device, which uses the same form factor as the iPaq rx5900 but has the ability to connect to cellular networks.
The iPaq rx5900 weighs almost six ounces. It measures 4.74 by 3 by 0.65 inches, and it features a 3.5-inch QVGA display with LED backlight.
The iPaq slips into a coat pocket or purse, and its screen size makes it easy to glance at maps while driving or to watch videos (not while driving). The processor had no problems handling video during our tests.
Security is the focus of DemoFall Day 2. Click here to read more.
Along with the integrated SiRFStar III GPS chip set, the iPAQ rx5900 comes with 802.11 b/g wireless. We easily connected our review unit to a Linksys WRT55AG wireless router over a network secured with WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy).
Unfortunately, the iPAQ rx5900 has no option for connecting to a WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access)-secured wireless network.
The iPaq rx5900 also supports Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate), which allowed us to connect the device to a Bluetooth-enabled Nokia 6230 cell phone to get around the lack of a cellular modem. While this setup is probably not ideal for most business travelers, it works.
The iPaq rx5900 is most capable when acting as a GPS navigation system. Travel directionswhich can be announced by either a female or a male voiceare clear and easy to understand.
And, since the iPaq rx5900 has Bluetooth connectivity, voice prompts can be routed to an A2DP-compliant Bluetooth device, such as a headset or a car stereo.
The new iPaq includes the TomTom 6.0 navigation software, which comes preloaded with 2GB of U.S. and Canadian maps. The maps are stored in Flash ROM, so we were able to update them by connecting to the Internet via Wi-Fi and over Bluetooth to our Lenovo ThinkPad x60 test machine.
While testing the GPS capabilities in San Diego, we ran into some problems finding a signal close to the Lindberg Airport. Once we were on the road, though, the GPS easily located our desired destination and directed us there.
The iPaq rx5900 does not have an external antenna, but this did not seem to affect the units ability to find a signal.
The new iPaq also is no slouch when it comes to multimedia: We found its built-in microphone to be great for impromptu podcast recordings, and the devices speaker was surprisingly loud and clear when playing music files.
We were able to play videos in full screen (off of a 2GB Secure Digital card) in Windows Media Player with acceptable viewing quality.
For those who actually need a PDA for business purposes, the iPaq rx5900 comes with the standard mobile versions of Microsoft Office applications, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Internet Explorer. The unit also includes Microsoft Outlook 2002 for Pocket PC.
The iPaq rx5900 comes with two mini-USB synchronization/charge cables, an AC adapter, a case, a car charger and a windshield mounting kit.
Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at email@example.com.
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