Review GSM-communicator HP iPaq h6340
HP occupies the second position with the number of PDAs sold and the first position with the proceeds volume. The company has the widest and balanced model line. The PDA market is getting thinner, overall sales are ever falling. Potential buyers gradually switch their attention to smartphones/communicators. All traditional PDA makers pin hopes on the smartphone market, almost all of them either have a smartphone in the product line or plan the release. HP doesn't make an exclusion, it has been preparing its entry to this relatively young market for a long time.
The first device unveiled under HP brand in 2002 was HP Jornada 928 communicator powered by Texas Instruments (TI) processor. I'd say it's a pilot balloon, then there was a 2-years break. The device didn't become popular, at that time the market wasn't ready: short battery life, large dimensions and weight, high price level, no mature demand. The most important thing was that the model didn't meet demand in the corporate sector, which was the very target. After the mergence of giants HP and Compaq there was announced HP Jornada 989 (design similar to the Jornada 928, XScale 400 MHz processor). However it was cancelled and never reached commercial production. Compaq in its turn was preparing the iPaq 5600 series (both GSM and CDMA versions), which looked like the iPaq 5400 (the same shell for both series, thus the users of the iPaq 5450 always wonder, why the PDA is equipped with the SIM slot). This model was also cancelled, as the company thought it lacked in prospects. The company started looking quickly for other partners able to project and make a competitive product, before it laid its main hopes with the Korean LG.
The situation became more or less clear in 2003. Two years ago, on March 14, 2003, Texas Instruments introduced WANDA reference design (abbr. Wireless Any Network Digital Assistant) being developed in the second half of 2002 (you can learn more details at developer's site). At that time the functionality of the device seems fantastical - Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GSM, GPRS, very long battery life, acceptable dimensions. Many even didn't believe such a device might exist, as it was beyond time. Texas Instruments said that WANDA would be available for contractors within three months after the announcement. Company's outlook was to release the device under operators' trademarks, it hoped to follow the success of HTC. At the moment the joint HP is negotiating with TI, they've agreed that WANDA exclusively belongs to HP. The Taiwanese company Compal is engaged in technical refinement and production of the device (by the way this ODM-maker applied the WANDA kernel while projected Motorola MPx, follow the link to read the review).
Then goes the year of device completion, the software gets improved. Eventually in September 2004 the device appear in US shops, several months pass and it comes out in Europe. Because of the long development cycle, on the release date the device turns out to be a bit out-of-date, and it enjoys an average attention. The operating system onboard is Windows Mobile 2003, the first edition. Well, that's the brief market history of this device.
The model is available under different indices. HP iPaq h6315 is the base model in the US, distributed with T-Mobile contracts. HP iPaq h6310 represents the same version, but without a camera. HP iPaq h6340/h6345 is the European version without a contract and a camera, and HP iPaq h6360/h6365 has the camera. In Russia it will be available without a camera. However you shouldn't get disappointed with the fact, as this is an old VGA camera with poor functionality and an average quality of photos. We've tested HP iPaq h6340.
In its class this is a somewhat big device, especially with the keyboard attached. You'd better carry the communicator on the belt and packed in the case, or in the pocket of your jacket. In other places it will look awkward and be confusing. The external antenna looks old-fashioned, there is none in the new models by rivals. Compare the dimensions:
Design doesn't rouse any excitement, it's neutral. It resembles HP iPaq 2210, especially with its bottom part. The communicator fits the hand. The ergonomics is improved with rubberized sides, so the device doesn't slide in your palm. The assembly quality is high, I've noticed no backlash. The material of the shell is plastic.
The joystick is located under the screen, it is small, soft and isn't much comfortable in games, it feels like that in the iPaq 2210. Here 4 application buttons (Talk, End, Calendar, Contacts) are comfortable, but small. Above the screen are 3 LEDs (each per a wireless adapter), a power button and a phone speaker.
On the left side you can see a soft reset button, a voice recorder button, protected with a rubber gag 3.5 mm stereo jack for the headset (that's a non-standard solution, usually a 2.5 mm jack is installed and there is an adapter in the kit).
The top side has an infrared port (SIR) and a silo. The stylus pen is typical for the new HP line. The right side is unexpectedly crowded with elements: volume control buttons, a SD/MMC slot (SDIO supported), a Wireless button (to switch on/off wireless adapters). All elements come disguised from the naked eye, twisted with the rubberized surface and feature a tough stroke. The back panel hides a battery compartment, extra speaker of average call tone level (very often you don't hear the melody of the incoming call), and a gag at the camera place.
At the bottom are the standard connector for the synchronization cable and the cradle, two slots for keyboard bindings.
We faced no problems attaching and removing the keyboard. The existence of such a keyboard is a plus, but it is the only plus. The keyboard lacks some buttons (for example, a context menu button), you'll notice it at once, if compare with HTC Blue Angel.
The device got taller and larger with it, displaced center of gravity doesn't allow comfortable working with the smartphone, there is no backlight, no localization, the buttons are small and inconvenient. Then we'd pay your attention to software defects. WM2003 doesn't provide a full support of external keyboards, the manufacturer didn't work hard to minimally adapt the keyboard by program means (as in case with HTC Blue Angel). A simple example - you want to dial a number and launch a required application. You logically assume that the grey digital area will be switched to the upper case, so you can single-handedly dial the number. However it doesn't happen. You should hold the blue button at the same time. There are plenty of such small details, we provided just one example.
In practice, many refuse to use the keyboard in HP iPaq communicator, as they find this solution half-done and raw.
By features and quality it's a standard Pocket PC screen - a transflective TFT matrix, 320x240 pixels, 3.5" diagonal, 65K colors. We can witness a definite trend with Pocket PC smartphones - a shorter screen diagonal, decreased from 3.5" to 2.8-3". HP will follow the trend only in its next models. The quality fits standards with color rendering, performance under the sun light. I'd note that the screen gets yellow, if you look at it angularly, like in HP iPaq 1940 (the matrix by Sony). The fact doesn't affect the work, being just a psychological issue. There are many backlight levels, and the lowest backlight level ensures a comfortable handling in the dark - an additional plus.
The kit includes a horizontal case of good quality and with magnet clips. There are two pockets for storage cards, which is very convenient.
We were pleased to find a slot for spare battery in the cradle. The cradle features different design from other devices in the new HP series, it's strict and laconic.
The Li-Ion battery is capacious of 1800 mAh. There is a SIM lock under the battery compartment, nothing special here.
The iPaq h6340 lasted for 6 days: 2 days under the Moscow MTS (10 minutes talk per day, about 10 SMS, 1.5 hours of organizer, half an hour of internet, Bluetooth on) plus almost 4 days under the French roaming (up to 5 minutes talks per day, 20 SMS at all, half an hour per day of organizer function). It's unprecedented for smartphones and communicators! The fact can be explained by a weak processor and a battery capacious at the most.
Battery life measured by our standard tests. Under the maximum load (video playback from the storage card, the highest backlight) the device was good for 7 hours 30 minutes till the battery was completely drained. A record! Almost 23 hours in the read mode is another record. In the MP3 mode - 21 hours 51 minutes. A record again! Besides you can also find in retail a double capacity battery, so you can double the results. The longest battery life turns out to be the strong point of the communicator, so other defects do not matter any longer.
Bluetooth version is 1.1. This model comes with Broadcom drivers (earlier WIDCOMM). All necessary profiles are available, the settings are at maximum. There is the only software defect - when we tried making a call via Bluetooth-headset, the device didn't respond, only a hard reset helped (we used the latest ROM update). In this situation we advise you either to wait for a new ROM update, which will solve the problem with Bluetooth work, or check the work with the headset in the shop.
This wireless adapter works without any reprimands and shows good sensitivity. However the built-in Wi-Fi manager has poor settings (you can use an exterior Wi-Fi manager).
All wireless adapters can work simultaneously, there is an implemented Wi-Fi - GPRS roaming (higher speed Wi-Fi connection in priority).
The device has standard 64 MB of RAM onboard, 55.03 MB available to the user. This is enough for normal functionality. The flash memory available makes up 20.91 MB, which is average. However flash-cards (including SD/MMC) become cheaper and the size of flash memory doesn't matter that much.
The heart of the smartphone is Texas Instruments OMAP1510 chipset working at maximum 168 MHz. I'd say right away that it is enough for standard applications (e-mail, calls, notes, calendar). The device might buzz for a while when you work with menu, but that's not crucial. In other aspects the productivity is low and insufficient for video and heavy games. The productivity has been sacrificed to long battery life.
We used the SPB Benchmark package to test the productivity of the handheld. For this purpose we've chosen several models with similar specs, including some relatively old ones. As we see the overall result doesn't seem impressive.
To test graphics productivity we ran tests of the PocketQuake game in the mute mode (turn the sound off by nosound 1 console command, leaving other settings unchanged). It's an averaged figure by two tests (Demo 1 and Demo 2). The low results confirmed our expectations:
The PDA is hardly meant to watch video, see the rest results with BetaPlayer.
The handheld is powered by Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC Phone Edition. This is a previous version of Windows Mobile operating system - it means it's impossible to rotate the screen, to stretch a web-page into a column, like in Opera browser. The Phone Edition version is extended with several applications to manage phone functions of the communicator.
HP Image Zone. It's traditional HP application to view photos.
iPaq Backup. It's a functionally utility to backup data, one of the best in its class. It can handle the backup on schedule, store organizer events in the non-volatile memory.
HP Profiles adjusts sound volume and melody of the ring tone, backlight level, vibration alert, time for the screen to sleep when idle, power supply to wireless adapters. It's a very useful program, which extends standard OS functionality.
SIM Contacts works with contacts stores on the SIM-card.
You can launch SIM-menu from Windows folder, as it is not included in Main Menu. I'd also mark ClearVue Presentation and ClearVue PDA (to view MS Power Point presentations and PDF documents), on the disk there is the full version of this office package.
The network reception quality proves to be good, traditionally everything is up to standard. The vibration alert is higher than average. When the device came to the market, its design and filling weren't out of date yet. The implementation of the keypad is poor. The old OS version is used. Despite of the long development process and the update, the software doesn't seem ideal, there are some shortcomings (Bluetooth, unstable keypad work, sometimes it doesn't respond till the reset). The productivity performance is not enough for resource-intensive applications.
The major advantage of the iPaq h6340 is the record battery life in all modes, the results are out of the reach. This plus might be a crucial one for some users. Another strong point is the simultaneous support of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, there are few such communicators at the market now. There is a rich sales package. The communicator costs $670 without a contract. We'd recommend HP iPaq h6340 for those who need maximum battery life or Wi-Fi, and won't choose HTC Blue Angel because of its higher price.
In several months we'll see two new HP communicators - HP hw6515 and HP hw6715. They differ in an integrated QWERTY-keyboard, a built-in antenna, a square screen, a GPS-receiver, a miniSD slot, Bluetooth and an Intel XScale PXA262 520 MHz processor. The one has extra SD/MMC slot, the other - Wi-Fi adapter, that the difference between them.
Published - 30 April 2005
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