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HP iPAQ 514 Voice Messenger

  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent

Pros

  • Windows Mobile 6
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • Supports SIP- and IP-PBX-based VoIP
  • Clever Voice Reply system for voice email
  • Attractive price

Cons

  • Lacks 3G support
  • Average-quality screen

Hewlett Packard’s iPAQ 514 Voice Messenger is the first Windows Mobile smartphone we've seen from the company. This may come as a surprise given that HP has been involved with Windows Mobile since its launch in 2000 and was one of the pioneers of the connected Pocket PC.

HP is very clear about the target market for the iPAQ 514 Voice Messenger. This is not a 'bells and whistles' smartphone, but a deliberately low-cost, low-key device. This, along with features like Voice Reply and easy settings for IP telephony over Wi-Fi, may prove attractive to many business customers.

Design

The grey, black and silver livery of this Windows Mobile 6 smartphone is nothing special, and nor is the general arrangement of buttons and keys. HP has kept the design admirably simple, and has not broken any moulds.

The iPAQ 514's controls will therefore look very familiar to anyone who has used a Windows Mobile smartphone. There's a large square navigation pad with an OK button in the middle. To its left sit the Call button, a button that takes you to the Windows Mobile Today screen and a softmenu button. To its right are the End, back and second softmenu buttons. The Call, End and OK buttons are silver, while the remainder are black.

Beneath this bank sits the number pad. Although the buttons above it are relatively large, the number pad is a little cramped. However, all but the silver buttons are made of a tactile shiny black plastic and are raised at the centre, which makes it relatively easy to hit them for number dialing.

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We have noted that the iPAQ 514 Voice Messenger is a relatively low-cost smartphone — for a SIM-free unit, at any rate. Naturally, HP has had to make one or two compromises to reach its price point, and one of these relates to the screen.

The display is a little small compared to those on other modern Windows Mobile smartphones measuring just 2in. from corner to corner. And while we are used to seeing 320-by-240-pixel resolution, this one is 176 by 220. If you are not used to the higher resolution of other displays, you may well not have a problem with these specifications. However, if you intend to look at a lot of Web pages, the lower resolution and smaller screen means less of each page will be visible at any one time.

Side buttons have been kept to a minimum. In keeping with this device's voice-centric approach, a button on the right edge allows you to run the built-in Voice Commander software (more of which later). On the left edge is a volume rocker.

Also on the left edge is a connector for the provided headset. This is a 2.5mm connector, while the headset comprises a mono earbud. When briefing us about the iPAQ 514 Voice Messenger, HP insisted that its target market of business users would not require a stereo headset. We aren't entirely convinced, and if users do wish to substitute a stereo headset they will also need to find a 2.5mm to 3.5mm converter.

The casing is made entirely of plastic, which helps to keep the weight down to an acceptable 102g. Overall, the iPAQ 514 Voice Messenger feels a little chunky because it's not as thin as some other handsets. However, with dimensions of 107mm tall, 48.6mm wide and 16.3mm thick, it can't be described as oversized.

Features

The iPAQ 514 Voice Messenger runs Windows Mobile 6. Not only are there significant on-device enhancements over Windows Mobile 5.0, but business users whose companies run Microsoft Exchange Server have access to other new features — although the full complement is only available to those running Exchange Server 2007.

The Texas Instruments OMAP 850 processor running at 200MHz was chosen, HP told us, because of its relatively low power consumption. There is 64MB of SDRAM and 128MB of ROM, and after a hard reset, our review sample reported 48MB available for your storing applications and data. A microSD card slot on the left edge provides for further storage capacity.

It's a shame that the iPAQ 514 Voice Messenger is not a 3G device. Instead, it's connectivity runs to quad-band GSM with GPRS and EDGE support. However, HP has integrated both Bluetooth (1.2) and Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), and where the latter is concerned is very keen to push the fact that this smartphone is ideal for mobile IP telephony.

To that end, the device will integrate with an IP-PBX infrastructure within an office environment, and can be used to make SIP-based VoIP calls. Indeed, on the Windows Mobile Today screen there is a shortcut for managing Internet calling. Click through this and you can choose to set the iPAQ 514 Voice Messenger for Internet calling whenever the opportunity is available, only if the cellular network is not available, or never.

Despite its primary business focus, the iPAQ 514 Voice Messenger has an integrated digital camera at the back of the casing. This shoots stills and resolutions up to 1.3 megapixels (1,280 by 1,024), and video at 176 by 144 pixels. It has no flash but there's a small self-portrait mirror is adjacent to the lens. There is a burst mode and self timer, you can set brightness, there are white balance settings for different lighting conditions: sunlight, cloudy, night, fluorescent and incandescent and there is a three times digital zoom.

HP includes Voice Commander software in the iPAQ 514 Voice Messenger. As the name suggests, this allows you to control the device by talking to it: you can activate calls and compose messages, have incoming email and SMS messages read out, call voicemail, have appointments read out, run applications and play music. We found this software to be quite responsive.

You get Office Mobile on the iPAQ 514 Voice Messenger. This allows you to view PowerPoint documents and edit those in Excel and Word formats. The editing facilities are rather limited though, and you can’t create new documents from scratch (although an easy workaround is to use existing documents as templates and ‘Save As’).

The most innovative feature of the iPAQ 514 Voice Messenger has to be HP Voice Reply. This will appeal particularly to anyone interested in using this device for mobile email. Clearly the number pad is not conducive to writing long replies to incoming email. But sometimes a reply is required — and is required quickly.

To that end, you can choose to record a spoken reply to an incoming email. This is automatically attached to a message and sent to the recipient. Data compression means a spoken message lasting about 30 seconds produces an audio file in WAV format of about 60KB.

Performance & battery life

There is no charge light on the iPAQ 514 Voice Messenger. Instead, when it's powered down and you plug it into the mains, the entire front screen lights up and gives a visual impression of how full the battery is. This is fine to use during daylight, but if you charge the handset overnight in a hotel room, you’ll become only too aware that the screen is on.

Battery life is pretty strong. With the screen forced on, the SIM on and Wi-Fi and Blueooth off we forced the iPAQ 514 Voice Messenger to play music continuously, which it did for 8.5 hours. Clearly if you use the Windows Mobile push email solution or take advantage of IP communications this longevity will be diminished, but we feel this handset should see most people through a working day without the need for charging. Just beware of that lit-up screen when you charge it at night!

HP has done well to get the iPAQ 514 Voice Messenger down to an attractive price point, and although some compromises have been made along the way, on the whole they are sensible ones. We would have liked a 3.5mm headset connector, and 3G support would have been useful; but overall, HP’s first foray into the Windows Mobile smartphone market is very impressive.

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