Compaq iPAQ H3850

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With the iPAQ H3850, Compaq retains the old look and 206MHz StrongARM processor, adding new hardware power with a Secure Digital (SD) card slot, a 16-bit colour reflective LCD and 64MB of RAM, along with the new Pocket PC 2002 operating system and new voice-control software. When it arrives in retail outlets in late October, it will sell for £469 (ex. VAT).

The most noticeable cosmetic change is the addition of the SD memory card slot at the top of the unit, which is also where the unit's built-in speaker is now housed (it used to live underneath the directional pad at the bottom). An upcoming model, the H3870, will include an integrated Bluetooth adapter and cost £529 (ex. VAT).

By sticking with essentially the same design as that of the H3600 series, the H3850 has the advantage of being compatible with existing iPAQ sleeves, allowing users to add CompactFlash memory cards and PC Card modems, among other accessories. The H3850 ships with a screen-cover sleeve, a welcome improvement over the black slipcover that comes with other iPAQs.

Compaq has managed to increase the capacity of the battery without increasing its dimensions. Instead of 8 hours of battery life, Compaq says you should now be able to get up to 10 hours. Also, gamers will be glad to know that the buttons below the screen can now recognize two simultaneous button presses. This is vitally important when playing games that require you to move and fire at the same time.

For the business-minded, Compaq has bundled Voice Command And Control, which lets you dictate commands to your Calendar, Contacts and Inbox. There's also a special data-encryption package, the Insignia Java Virtual Machine, and other useful software included on the CD-ROM.

Clearly, the addition of the SD card slot and the more colourful screen make the iPAQ 3850 a compelling device. But at the same time, with Toshiba and Casio offering their own alluring Pocket PC models, it's unlikely that we'll be able to declare an outright winner in this round as we did with the H3650 18 months ago.