Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
HP iPAQ hw6515
- GPS receiver, convenient form factor, integrated keyboard
- No native Wi-Fi, laggy, Poor battery life, Slow satellite acquisition time
With this phone, camera, GPS and PDA combination, HP has very nearly hit the spot
Price$ 1,199.00 (AUD)
That's the name of the game. Who wants to carry around a phone, PDA, camera, GPS, MP3 and video player? Nobody, that's who. This is why we are increasingly seeing manufacturers starting to get smart about the types of devices they bundle together. It's still early days yet, and you'll often end up buying something which does one or two things well, and the rest appallingly, but the trend is there.
The iPAQ hw6515, a combination mobile, PDA, 1.3 megapixel camera and GPS, simply screams digital convergence. Upon first hearing about it, we were thrilled - could this be the ultimate all in one device we have been waiting for? Our enthusiasm tempered somewhat, having been disappointed so many times before. But here's the thing - after spending over two weeks with the hw6515, we think HP have come remarkably close to creating an outstanding piece of convergent hardware. With some minor hardware and software modifications, the hw6515 could be setting the standard.
First, let's talk about the size. While the unit is big, it isn't incredibly massive as some smartphones are prone to be. In actual fact, we are quite partial to the size of the hw6515. Of course, we would love a phone the size of the iPod nano, but realistically, that just wouldn't be practical and in our opinion, the hw6515 achieves an almost perfect balance between size and functionality.
In addition to the unusually shaped 3 inch 64k colour screen, HP has also managed to squeeze a full keyboard underneath, as well dedicated buttons for using the phone. True, the keyboard does add size to the unit, but it sure makes life easier if you are text addict. We do think the keyboard can be improved, as the buttons are uncomfortable with an annoying rounded shape and are not particularly responsive for that matter either.
The screen is of course a touchscreen, so if you don't like using the keyboard, you are able to use the onscreen one or the handwriting recognition should you prefer. One thing unusual about this display is the resolution - 240 by 240 pixels, and this meant that many applications required scrolling, something you wouldn't see on normal sized screens. Apart from that minor issue, we can't complain about the screen at all and joy of joys, HP has included a screen flip cover as standard, giving you that extra bit of protection from scratches and everyday wear and tear.
The power button has been placed on the top of the unit, with two flashing indicator lights next to it, showing whether you are charging or have Bluetooth activated. Two memory slots (that's right - two) are on the right hand side, while the headphone jack is unfortunately positioned underneath. A somewhat fiddly volume button is on the top left, along with a camera shortcut. As you can see, the hw6515 is a busy little device, with flashing lights, buttons and slots just about everywhere you look. As a friend told us "It makes you look important."
Important people like us tend to have a lot going on, so we were eager to test out the PDA functions on the hw6515. How did it go? Pretty well for the most part. Although it runs on the older Windows Mobile 2003 and not version 5.0, the usual Microsoft Office applications are supported, as well as Calendar, Contacts and Tasks. Perhaps our only criticism of the PDA functionality is the speed of the processor - it can get laggy, especially with multiple programs open or while using the GPS.
In the memory stakes, HP has outfitted the unit with 44MB of RAM and 12MB of ROM, which is called the iPAQ File Store. Data stored on the ROM will not be lost, even in the event of a hard reset. In further good news, there are two memory slots, one for an SD card and one for a mini-SD, meaning you can really stack on the memory. Is this important? Terribly. And for two reasons.
The first, and the biggest flaw of this unit, is that it doesn't support Wi-Fi natively. All is not lost however, as you can purchase a 256MB SD Wi-Fi card, which both stores data and adds Wi-Fi functionality to the unit. The second reason this is important is because the hw6515 is also a GPS - and all that GPS data has to go somewhere - and that somewhere is on your SD card. This means you can use the SD slot for the GPS application and Wi-Fi and the mini-SD slot to store your data - just be aware to budget for extra expense of buying these cards.
As a phone, the hw6515 performs remarkably well. Call clarity was clear and we had no issues with echoes or static, as we have had with other units. Ergonomically speaking, it isn't as comfortable to hold as a sexy number from Nokia, but it's not a brick either. An intriguing find with this unit as that there is no quick way to 'lock' your phone. You can set a PIN on the phone and this locks after a few minutes of inactivity, but we couldn't find a quick way of doing this manually. The phone performance does leads us onto the second flaw of the unit though - and that is battery life.
It's appalling. At times we struggled to nurse the unit through a single day, and you can forget about making long calls. Battery life was drained dramatically when Bluetooth was on or calls were made, although we did appreciate the convenience of USB charging. GPS usage was also taxing on the battery. A failure of the HP GPS implementation is that most in-car units offer in-car charging cable for long drives, but the hw6515 doesn't include this as standard. Beware if your GPS dies, leaving you stuck in the middle of nowhere.
In fact, we had many problems with the GPS receiver in the unit as on most occasions, it stubbornly refused to pick up signals. The satellite acquisition time is perhaps the longest on any GPS unit we have tested. Our friendly tech support person informed us that we could download a file that contained the satellite positions for the next two days in order to improve connection times. Connection times did actually improve - but we question the practicality of making users download a file every two days. Still, we can't complain too much as we loved the convenience of being able to hop in the car with our phone and use the Tom Tom GPS software.
HP has exceeded our expectations with the hw6515. We think it comes very close to being exactly what mobile professionals need. A software upgrade to Windows Mobile 5.0, the inclusion of native Wi-Fi support, improved battery life and a faster processor would make this device a convergence masterpiece.
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