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Hewlett-Packard used to set the standard for Windows Mobile handhelds, with the remainder of the market trailing in its wake. But that time is long gone, and the company now slugs it out with a small army of competitors. HP's latest device, the <a href="http://h10010.www1.hp.com/wwpc/uk/en/sm/WF05a/21675-21679-21679-21679-297609-12815440.html">iPAQ rw6815 Personal Mobile Messenger</a> is intended to be small in size and big on connectivity. How well does it live up to that billing?
Hewlett-Packard used to set the standard for Windows Mobile handhelds, with the remainder of the market trailing in its wake. But that time is long gone, and the company now slugs it out with a small army of competitors. HP's latest device, the iPAQ rw6815 Personal Mobile Messenger is intended to be small in size and big on connectivity. How well does it live up to that billing?
The rw6815 certainly has a small footprint for a Pocket PC device: its 58mm width is not unusual, but its 102mm length is on the short side. Combine this with a thickness of 19mm and the overall feeling is of a squat, stubby device. At 140g the rw6815 is a little weighty, but not overly so.
HP provides a lift-up plastic cover for the screen — an idea it has tried before. You can see the screen contents through the cover, and you can interact with the device without needing to lift the cover as it doesn't obstruct any of the front or side buttons.
We're not convinced of the cover's utility at all. However, it's loosely hinged on the top left and right corners of the device, and is easily removed without any tools, so you can dispense with it readily enough. With or without the screen cover fitted, you can further protect the rw6815 by carrying it in the supplied protective case, with belt clip.
Despite its squat size, the rw6815's screen measures a healthy 2.7in. from corner to corner, with a resolution of 240 by 320 pixels. There's room beneath the screen for a fairly large navigation button and a bank of just four additional buttons — Call and End keys and two softmenu keys. There are no front facing shortcut buttons for launching applications. The navigation button is ridged and we found it a little uncomfortable under the thumb.
To the left and right of this bank of buttons are two stereo speakers. It's difficult to actually hear stereo output from them, but they do deliver a high volume and they look good.
Much of the rw6815's case is made from silver-coloured plastic, but it's edged by a band of metal that houses various ports and connectors. On the left is a volume rocker, on the right the infrared port, a button for using the camera and one for using the voice recorder. Hold this down and a recording starts; tap it and the software opens so you can listen to existing recordings.
On the bottom edge is the mains power connector and a 2.5mm headphone port. The top edge houses the main power switch and the miniSD memory expansion slot.
In addition to the protective case, the rw6815 comes with a stereo headset, a set of international travel adapters for the mains power charger, a PC connectivity cable, PC synchronisation software and a printed manual.
The iPAQ rw6815 Personal Messenger is a tri-band GSM handset with GPRS and EDGE — but not 3G — support. It's powered by Intel’s PXA272 processor running at 416MHz.
There is 64MB of RAM and 128MB of ROM, and our review unit had 114MB of free memory for storing applications and data. You can expand the memory complement via miniSD cards — the slot is easily accesible at the top edge of the device.
There is a built-in 2 megapixel camera, with the lens, self-portrait mirror and LED flash in the usual location on the back of the device. The camera shoots stills at resolutions up to 2 megapixels – 1600 x 1200 pixels.
Hewlett-Packard includes its Photosmart Mobile software, which, among other things, allows you to print JPEG and TIFF images to a suitably equipped Bluetooth printer.
With infrared, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi all integrated, the iPAQ rw6815 Personal Messenger would seem to have the full range of wireless communications options. Unfortunately, though, the Wi-Fi connection is the 11Mbps 802.11b standard, rather than the faster 54Mbps Mbps 802.11g.
Hewlett-Packard also includes voice command software and a utility that allows you to use the iPAQ rw6815 Personal Messenger as a modem with other devices such as a notebook computer.
Performance & battery life
Our usual battery test involves playing music continuously from an SD card until the battery runs down, with the screen forced to stay on. We achieved 8 hours and 15 minutes of music under these conditions, which is on the low side in comparison to other Windows Mobile Pocket PCs we have tested recently.
The overall look and feel of the iPAQ rw6815 Personal Messenger is not quite as solid as we would like. The plastic parts feel, well, plasticky, and we aren’t excited about the screen protector. Nevertheless, it feels ergonomic enough, its stubby shape and size making it quite comfortable to hold.