Compaq brushes up iPaq

New iPaq model will give users instant expandability, including much better integration with Bluetooth devices
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

Compaq's next iPaq handheld computer will feature closer integration with Bluetooth wireless add-ons, a new built-in expansion slot and an improved battery, according to details leaked onto the Web on Thursday.

The H3835 is to kick off the new 3800 series, according to reports, and will complement the current 3600 line. A 3765 model is also upcoming, but according to rumours this appears to be nearly identical to earlier models, except for running Microsoft's new PocketPC 2002 operating system.

The 3800 series also shares many specifications with existing models, running a 206MHz Intel StrongARM processor and coming with 64MB of SDRAM and 32MB of Flash ROM memory. Earlier models came with 32MB or 64MB of SDRAM and 16MB of Flash ROM.

No release date has been confirmed, but product details have appeared in the inventory systems of some US retailers, indicating the launch could be soon.

The principal improvement with the 3800 series, if the reports prove correct, will be the addition of a SD card slot, an innovation recently adopted by Palm Computing with its newer handhelds. SD cards are slightly smaller than a postage stamp and are currently used for memory expansion, although they will ultimately be used for add-on hardware as well.

The new model will use a 1400 mAh Lithium Polymer rechargeable battery, an improvement over previous versions, according to reports.

It also appears to be customised for Bluetooth, with a built-in status indicator near the SD card slot. Users will still have to add Bluetooth connectivity themselves, however, by purchasing an expansion pack that lets the iPaq accept Compact Flash cards. The first Bluetooth CF card was released earlier this month by Anycom.

Another significant change will see the handheld's power and USB connectors combined into a single slot, making it incompatible with some of the hardware accessories used with previous models. The 3800 models will have their own synchronisation connectors and detachable keyboards.

In terms of design, the new iPaq will keep much the same look as its predecessors, with a shiny chrome casing, but will add a black plastic element at the top around the SD card slot, power button, speaker and indicator lights.

The iPaq is one of the most popular of the handhelds running Microsoft's PocketPC operating system, which has been gaining ground on market leader Palm Computing. Also popular is Hewlett-Packard's Jornada line, which recently got its own upgrade, but analysts speculate that with the coming merger of HP and Compaq the Jornada could disappear.

Compaq declined to comment on unreleased products.

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