iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






HP iPaq 1940

November 11, 2003

The new iPAQ PDA series consists of several interesting advanced models which define further development of MS Pocket PC based computers. The h1940 model has some completely new features. This is the first PDA based on the new Samsung S3C2410 processor. Also, this is one of the first solutions on a new version of the Pocket PC named Windows Mobile 2003. Finally, this is the first sub$300 PocketPC that comes bundled with the Bluetooth adapter. It's also interesting to compare this model to its predecessor, h1910, as the former has the memory size typical of the mid-level Pocket PCs, which makes a positive effect on its functionality.

The box contains few accessories: a battery, a charger (110V), a USB data cable, documentation and a software CD (MS ActiveSync 3.7 (latest version that supports Windows Mobile 2003), Pocket Outlook, several demo and full versions of PDA programs).


The iPAQ h1940 has the design identical to the previous model. The h1910 got a warm welcome due to its smaller dimensions and lighter weight. It's very convenient to wear such wallet-size device in the inner jacket pocket. However, there's also a strap eye let in the left-hand upper corner on back. Such solution is adopted from cell phones, but I don't think it suits PDAs since they are noticeably larger and have rather sensitive screens.

The iPAQ h19xx has excellent weight and size, as well as an attractive elegant design. The case is made of silvery plastic which as you know can be easily scratched (especially its back side). There's a thin layer of bright black plastic between the front and back panels which widens near the SD/MMC slot. In spite of the smooth outline the section with the information connector and the one with the recording button and the IR port on the left make it thicker in those places. But this is not a big problem, and the design is rather attractive.

The controls are typical of the Pocket PC: there are 4 applications shortcut buttons and a 4-way joystick with a built-in confirmation button in front under the screen, a power button above and a recorder button on the left. It's all like in the h1910. This model, as well as all Compaq/HP models, doesn't have a scroller which is widely used in other Pocket PCs. All the buttons are conveniently positioned and easy to handle except the power one which you have to press hard and keep for a while. It could be considered a protection from unpurposed clicking if it were not for the fact that sometimes the system turns on without such problems. This is the only considerable disadvantage of the h1940 design.

The stylus is inseparable, metallic, cylindrical with a plastic tip and a removable plastic cap equipped with a pin for reloading the PDA. The stylus is light and small, and it won't please people who prefer massive styluses.

The Display is made of a transreflective TFT matrix of a standard resolution of 320 x 240 pixels and 65,535 colors. 

The h1940 has a Li-Ion 900 mAh flat battery similar to those used in cell phones. The battery is housed behind, in a special niche covered with a lid. The battery compartment has a hatch that hooks to the PDA body with lugs and a latch. The battery has no special fasteners and sits in there due to the frictional force. It's not difficult to remove and insert the battery. The lid isn't going to get loosen, it can be easily removed, but sometimes it gets distorted. Besides it juts out over the PDA surface affecting the overall look.

It's considered that a removable battery is advantageous. Well, it isn't not a problem to buy an additional battery, but they are not cheap and even two additional batteries won't provide charge for even for a week (at a more or less intensive usage). For that purpose you'd better use capacious external batteries or chargers working from solar energy or muscular strength. That is why the only advantage of a removable battery is a possibility to replace a damaged one without addressing the service center.

Functionality and software

The HP iPAQ h1940 is based on the new Samsung S3C2410 processor clocked at 266 MHz and equipped with 32 MB Flash ROM and 64 MB RAM. 56.7 MB RAM is available for a user, as well as 13.24 MB flash memory. These figures look better compared to the previous model - the h1910 had cheap slow ROM of 16MB, and a part of the OS code used the RAM leaving only 48 MB for a user. Although 5MB ROM was dedicated for File Store, the Pocket PC 2002 packed into so little memory didn't allow installing the Windows Media Player (that is why it offered 48 MB RAM, otherwise it would offer only 36 MB). The new model has standard memory modules and fast ROM.

The PDA features the Secure Digital (SD)/MutliMedia Card (MMC) slot supporting the SDIO protocol, so that you can use various expansion cards of the SD format. Apart from the data cable you can use the IR port and Bluetooth adapter to connect PC. As you can see, the h1940 looks better than its predecessor again.

The iPAQ h1940 runs under the Windows Mobile 2003 also known as Windows CE 4.20 (as indicated in the system properties). By releasing the new platform version Microsoft is going to make the Windows more widespread in PDAs and smartphones. The new system has some improved features, but you would notice only several important changes.

The Windows Mobile 2003 has a new player version - Windows Media Player 9. It supports the new version of the audio and video encoding - Windows Media v9. Another improvement is the video playback support in the landscape mode. MP3 and WMA, as well as WMV formats, are also supported. Unfortunately, MPEG-1 and MPEG-4 files can't be played, and you should use other players to run such clips. Unfortunately, the Pocket DivX;) 0.8 (latest version) suffers audio quality losses and sometimes breaks. The MPEG-4 will be supported in the Windows Mobile 2003 only in the newer player version.

The connection management is now simpler. The manager icon is always available in the main window (i.e. not only during the connection) so that you can quickly select a connection more convenient or adequate at the moment. You can choose among modem, corporate network, VPN and other connection types. The configuring wizards and windows look much simpler. You can control digital security certificates which simplify automatic wireless connection to LAN servers on the Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003 platforms.

The new version of the Pocket Internet Explorer supports animated images in the GIF format, as well as SSL. But there are no more changes - neither multiwindow mode is supported, nor you can save of a copy of a local page. The post client supports the signature templates separately for every account number created in the PDA. Such changes were also noticed in the RoverPC P6 which is already taken out of production.

Apart from the Solitaire game this PDA also offers the Jawbreaker - a puzzle where you are to gather groups of balls of the same color. This is an analog of the popular desktop Clickomania game.

The other utilities and their features are similar to the Pocket PC 2002 - applications for contacts, calendar/organizer, to-do list, post client, notes, recorder, Pocket Word, Pocket Excel (which didn't change since the last OS version), Microsoft Network service program named Pocket MSN (a bit altered design) etc.

Apart from standard utilities of the Windows Mobile 2003 there are also several tools from Hewlett-Packard. They are iPAQ Image Viewer (note that the standard suite of the Pocket PC 2003 and Windows Mobile 2003 doesn't include a viewer of JPEG images: this function is after the Pocket Internet Explorer). It allows viewing thumbnails, full-screen images, scaling images, rotating them, viewing image properties and arranging a slide show. The next utility is iPAQ Backup which let you archive data (organize data bases, other bases, system register etc.) into internal or external flash memory.

Test results

We started our tests with the VOBenchmark and then turned to the Spb Benchmark from Spb Software which includes a wide range of tests for almost all aspects of PDA operation. The diagrams and summary tables are available here

The first test suite of the VOBenchmark estimates performance of the Samsung 2410 CPU. The processor is based on the ARM9 architecture and has a higher clock (266 MHz) and a higher integration degree compared to other ARM compatible chips - the processor integrates some peripheral controllers earlier based on different dies. This made possible to reduce the cost of the hardware platform. The Samsung 2410 is actually positioned as one of the components of a Pocket PC system with a color display for the sub$200 niche. So, this is a very cheap CPU with a sufficient performance level for undemanding users.

The VOBenchmark shows that the Samsung 2410 is much more efficient than the Intel PXA250 (XScale) 200 MHz used in budget Pocket PCs. The advantage over the 206MHz Intel StrongARM of the similar architecture is not that considerable. At the same time, it falls behind the PXA250 400 MHz used for higher-class Pocket PCs by 30-40%.

The Spb Benchmark proves it. The Intel XScale PXA255 was used as a competitor, but it was clocked at 400 MHz and got equal results with the PXA250 400 MHz in the CPU tests. In the MFLOPS and MWIPS the PXA255 beats the Samsung 2410 by 35%, and by 48% in MOPS. The PXA255 also outscores the Samsung 2410 by 40% in the integer CPU Index test. Compared to the PXA250 200 MHz the Samsung works faster by 70% in the MFLOPS and MWIPS, and by 35% in MOPS.

The graphics tests demonstrate that this system is pretty efficient, like in the h1910. In the VOBenchmark of one-color rectangle rendering, which actually measures the video buffer fill rate and performance of the video buffer/LCD tandem, both lower-level PDAs have much higher scores than the competitors. The picture in the vector graphics tests is more complicated as the performance depends both on a video subsystem and CPU. The fast video controller and the efficient CPU made a good combination - the h1940 outscores the h1910 whose PXA250 200 MHz is much slower, and it takes leading positions in the most tests. In the turbo mode the ASUS MyPal A600, an example of another kind of the system balance (fast 400MHz XScale and average-level video system), performs pretty well, but it yields to both iPAQs. Although the Spb Benchmark is more complicated, its scores are still very close to the Graphics Index of the h1940 which looks better than the others. The h1910 score also high results here, and I think that the h1940 fully inherits the platforms of the h1910, which was only adapted for the new processor. That is why it's not only exterior that brings together both PDAs.

The fast video controller delivers smooth management for users even on the h1910 with its weak processor - it prevents delays in rendering of animated pictures in the menu, windows etc., i.e. it manages to make up for the low system performance in day-to-day business tasks. But more or less heavy tasks like video playback would reveal its real performance.

One more benchmark demonstrating the overall PDA performance is video playback in DivX with the Pocket DivX;) 0.8. This program is not fully compatible with the h1940, but it managed to play the file and take measurements. It lost no frames out of 1530, but the image quality was too bad in dynamic scenes as it seemed that the pixels got mixed. It means that the new-generation budget PDAs based on the Samsung 2410 are not fully suitable for video playback in the DivX/MPEG-4 especially if image quality is vital. Taking into account the high image quality in the lower-level iPAQs the competitive PDAs based on the same platform will look even worse.

The Spb Benchmark battery life tests helped us estimate power consumption of the h1940. Unfortunately, the Windows Mobile 2003 is not fully supported as the test application couldn't automatically start the Windows Media Player needed for measuring scores in the following modes: "video playback at maximum backlight" and "MP3 playback with display turned off". Time taken for the Pocket Word and File Explorer at the maximum backlight was 3 h 45 min. It's not much.

Impression and conclusion

It's difficult to compare the HP iPAQ h1940 to the previous models as well as to other Pocket PCs. This is a model of the new class, an inexpensive PDA with the wireless connection supported. Its direct competitors are Palm Tungsten T, Tungsten T2 and Sony Clie TG50. They are positioned for a higher-level market sector but their features and prices are comparable to the h1940.

Like the first model of the h19xx series, the h1940 looks attractive due to its design and price. This is the device that looks more expensive than it really is. This PDA has small dimensions, a stylish original and elegant appearance, a light weight, good materials the body is made of, and excellent build quality. At the same time, this device is convenient to wear and it has everything a standard mid-level PDA usually got. The integrated Bluetooth adapter is a vital add-in as it provides synchronization with PC (you don't have to take off the cover) and with a cell phone, as well as it allows establishing the mobile Internet connection and sending/receiving e-mail (you don't have to "undress" your phone).

If the h1910 (as well as the h1930 with 16 MB ROM) made a user to choose between the image and functionality, the h1940 has this problem solved. It is beautiful, functional and inexpensive. The only downside is its short battery life, i.e. you will have to charge the battery every day. But it's acceptable for most users of multimedia PDAs (I don't account for owners of economical monochromic Palms).

The computer doesn't have any competitors in the Pocket PC sphere, - they are expected with the mass production of the new-generation PDAs from Asian companies, but it won't happen soon as the manufacturers are only announcing them (like Mitac). Dell's Axim X3 targets a higher market segment, while ASUS MyPal A620 is well expandable but lacks a radio interface.

As compared to the Palm Tungsten T and T2, the H1940 has smaller dimensions and lighter weight, a lower price, better parameters (performance, memory size, similar management and program structure in the Windows Mobile 2003 (Pocket PC and desktop Windows), while the Palm has a more reliable solid metallic body, a universal design with a slider, a wide range of software and lower prices for it. The Sony Clie TG50 combines all advantages (and disadvantages) of the Palm OS 5.2.1 with a compact size and light weight, like that of the h1940, but it has a one-finger keyboard and is more expensive. So, the HP iPAQ h1940 is the best among inexpensive PDAs that offer wireless connection, and it's going to have few true competitors in future.

Ivan Melnichuk (ivan_melnichuk@ixbt.com)

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