Average user rating
- Mini keyboard is a good example of its type
- SD and miniSD expansion slots
- quad-band GSM/GPRS phone, GPS receiver and navigation engine built in
- Lacks Wi-Fi
- disappointing battery life
- GPS navigation system comes with only one free city map
- non-standard screen size causes software compatibility issues
Combining a Windows Mobile handheld, a GSM/GPRS phone and a GPS receiver in a single device was an inevitable development, and it's no surprise that HP has been the first to achieve this. The company has often pushed the boundaries of handheld hardware design, introducing such features as fingerprint recognition and a touchpad. The £379 (ex. VAT; £445 inc. VAT) iPAQ hw6515 Mobile Messenger is a high-end device that will suit mobile professionals who want to carry the minimum number of devices when on the move.
The iPAQ hw6515 Mobile Messenger's dimensions of 7.1cm wide by 11.8cm deep by 2.1cm high and 165g weight are not particularly remarkable. However, there are several striking design features. For a start, the GPS receiver is completely integrated within the device. We have seen several handhelds with built-in GPS receivers, running both Windows Mobile and Palm OS, but up to now there has always been a visible external antenna.
The hw6515 has a mini-QWERTY keyboard, and above it a strip of buttons provides Call and End keys, shortcuts to the built-in Contacts and Messaging applications (with long press options to launch other applications), and, in the middle, a mini joypad.
The 3in. screen is protected by a smoky-grey plastic shield that lifts up if you need to tap at the screen rather than view it through the shield. The shield is easily removed if you’d rather use a full protective case. The screen itself is square, with a resolution of 240 by 240 pixels -- the first Windows Mobile device with such an aspect ratio.
Elsewhere there's a slot for the rather lightweight stylus on the top right edge, a camera activation button and a volume control on the top left, an infrared port on the bottom left, plus power and 2.5mm headset jacks on the bottom edge.
There are two expansion ports, both on the right-hand side. While it's not unusual for handhelds to support two Flash memory formats, the combination here is unique: an SDIO-compliant SD card slot and a miniSD slot.
The back of our review unit housed a lens for the built-in 1.3 megapixel camera, with the smallest self-portrait mirror we’ve seen and an LED flash. Another model, the iPAQ hw6510 Mobile Messenger lacks the camera and costs £355 (ex. VAT; £417 inc. VAT). A section of the back casing is removable, and underneath it sits the removable Li-ion battery and a slot for your SIM card.
Alongside ActiveSync and Microsoft Outlook 2002, the iPAQ hw6515 Mobile Messenger comes with a stereo headset, an extremely solid belt-clip-style protective case, a docking cradle (which unfortunately has no slot for charging a spare battery), a mains power adapter, a printed quick-start guide and a slightly more in-depth user guide.
The processor behind the iPAQ hw6515 Mobile Messenger is Intel’s PXA270 running at 312MHz -- by no means the most powerful available for a Windows Mobile handheld. Although there is a total of 128MB of memory (64MB of RAM and 64MB of Flash ROM), user-accessible storage is relatively limited. HP says that up to 56MB is free for the user, although after a hard reset our review machine offered 43MB of RAM and a further 11.5MB of Flash ROM -- a total of 54.5MB.
HP touts the iPAQ hw6515 Mobile Messenger as a global communications device. To that end, its integrated GSM phone is quad-band with support for GPRS and -- uniquely for a connected handheld -- EDGE. Bluetooth and infrared are integrated, and of course there's the aforementioned GPS receiver.
A notable absentee is Wi-Fi. This is presumably excluded because of operator concerns about Voice over IP (VoIP) services, and perhaps device bulk, but its absence is a pity. Wi-Fi can be added via SD card, but the resulting protrusion from the right edge of the device will be irritating. Adding Wi-Fi will also put further strain on the battery, which already has plenty to cope with in such a feature-laden device.
HP has augmented the standard Windows Mobile 2003 software suite in several ways. The Today Screen is adorned with power and storage meters, while the ClearVue PDF and Presentations viewers provide useful tools for business users.
The built-in GPS receiver is accompanied by navigation software from TomTom, but unfortunately no maps. To obtain your single free city map, you need to log onto the TomTom Web site and download it. Further maps must be purchased as required.
The 1.3 megapixel camera is capable enough, with a maximum still image resolution of 1,280 by 1,024 pixels, video shooting at up to 352 by 288 resolution and a range of tweaks such as LED flash, a self timer and effects like sepia and negative. For a device aimed at mobile professionals, the user interface for the camera software has a 'consumer' look and feel and, most annoyingly of all, uses only a small segment of the screen's space to frame images.
We found the QWERTY keyboard fine for tapping out short messages such as emails or SMSs but, as is usual with such units, would not want to use it for serious data input. There is no '£' sign, and a number of other symbols are missing, so you’ll have to resort to the Windows Mobile soft keyboard or handwriting recognition on occasions. That said, shortcut keys to the Today screen and for tap-and-hold menus reduce the need to resort to the stylus.
The integrated GPS receiver proved effective. We got an adequate signal sitting by a window in our office, and it retained a connection even in built-up areas. TomTom’s navigation engine was up to its usual high standard as well.
Not surprisingly perhaps, battery life was mediocre. Our usual MP3-looping battery rundown test delivered 4 hours 33 minutes of music and a further 20 minutes of life after playback stopped.
Although we are unhappy about the lack of Wi-Fi and disappointed by its battery life, the hw6515's innovative square screen could prove to be the biggest drawback. Bundled Windows Mobile applications all render well, but we had mixed experiences with third-party software, some of which did not cope with the unusual screen size. No doubt software developers will modify their products in due course, but incompatibilities could prove annoying in the short term.