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Hewlett-Packard iPAQ h2210 PDA Review

October 24, 2003



Hewlett-Packard' new line of PDAs demonstrates the manufacturer's flexibility in designing models of different levels, and perfectly meets the needs of respective groups of users. The entry-level models h1930/1935 and h1940/1945 combine the original image design, high-quality material and a low price at the expense of limited functionality. As a result, the device looks dearer than it really is, in contrast to other models of this class the appearance of which indicates their budget level. That is why HP's PDAs look very attractive for beginners or those who are going to replace their old primitive models with newer ones. Such users are not ready for taking advantage of all platform features (in particular, for using special peripherals), but they are prepared to use basic features and enjoy such a beautiful device. The top iPAQ models, including the latest h5500/5550, have a very expensive exterior and specific functional features which justify PDA's price for the class targeted - top managers. The h2210, which we are testing today, is a typical workhorse that combines a utilitarian feature-rich design and a moderate price.




The iPAQ h2210 is an inexpensive PDA (priced at around $350) based on the Pocket PC platform, equipped with a 400MHz XScale processor, integrated Bluetooth adapter and two slots for SD/MMC and CompactFlash cards.




In the box you can find the PDA itself, a charger, a USB cradle, documentation and a software CD. 

Design

The design of the HP iPAQ h2210 reminds that of the most popular mainstream PDA - Dell Axim X5. But HP's product looks more elegant and follows the style of top iPAQ models. Also, the h2210 is smaller than the X5, and generally looks better.




In front you can see standard 4 application short-cut buttons and a 5-way joystick. The joystick easily tilts in all directions, but it's a bit tough to press, that is why there's a certain risk of incorrect response - if you press it not right in the center, the joystick may tilt rather than go down. In all other respects, it's pleasant in use. Above you can see a power button recessed into the PDA body so that you don't press it occasionally, and charge and Bluetooth LEDs.

On the side panels you can see nonslip coating which makes this PDA similar to the Dell Axim. It's not rubber but something like kapron or polyethylene with a velvety texture. It's more slippery than rubber but less than hard plastic. You feel more confident with such coating when holding this PDA in your hands. Maybe this is just a psychological effect, but anyway, it's very pleasant to handle this device.




Above is headphones-jack (full-size mini-jack) and a mic-in. In the center are expansion slots - an open SD/MMC slot and a CF slot with a lid. On the left is a stylus hole. The speaker of the h2210 is on the back, like in most Sony models.

The stylus is solid, nonseparable, plastic and relatively heavy. It's bigger than styluses of compact h19xx models, but still, it is pretty small. I think that those who prefer small styluses will definitely like this one.




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

The PDA is powered by a Li-Ion 900 mAh battery. Like in the h19xx, the battery is flat and can be removed. The dimensions and design are like in the h1940, but they are not interchangeable - the batteries in the h2210 and h1940 differ in the way the pins and lugs are positioned.




The battery is housed behind, in a special niche with a tape that makes it simpler to take the battery out. Like in the h19xx, the battery has no special fasteners and sits in there due to the frictional force. The battery compartment has a hatch hooked up to the PDA body with lugs and a latch. It's not difficult to remove the hatch, and I don't think it will get loose with time.

Functionality and software

Hardware: the HP iPAQ h2210 is based on the Intel PXA255 (XScale, a higher bus clock speed compared to the PXA250) clocked at 400 MHz, 64 MB RAM with 57.11 MB available for user, and 32 MB ROM. The ROM has a section for user data, a traditional flash disc of 3.84 MB. Its size is smaller than in the h1940 and h1910 because of additional utilities flashed into the ROM.




The h2210 is equipped with two expansion cards - the SD/MMC slot supporting the SDIO (Secure Digital cards), and the Compact Flash. Also, it has a built-in Bluetooth adapter. The peripheral support is pretty good - the built-in wireless connection module allows you to use the CF slot for other peripherals. The range of additional CF devices is the widest and even greater than that available for the SD. As a result, the H2210 can simultaneously use a wireless connection, additional memory and one of multiple CF accessories (GPS module, Wi-Fi adapter, modem, LAN card etc.). There are no more models up to $400 with such excellent equipment.

The H2210 runs under the MS Windows Mobile 2003 - a new OS version earlier known as Windows CE and Pocket PC. Apart from standard features the h2210 offers some improvements in the system applets and utilities and some additional applications.




Turning on/off of the screen, as well as its brightness, can be separately adjusted for the self-contained and external power supply modes; each scale has 25 points.

The new ClearType Tuner allows you adjust the degree of font dithering through a 13-point scale; I can't say that it's a very useful feature.

The iPAQ Audio applet allows adjusting bass compensation and signal balance in the headphones, and configuring options of mic's amplification adjustment.




The Power applet has the charge LED redesigned and Standby tab added. The latter indicates the approximate time left until the battery runs out of charge. Next to the backlight adjustment link is the link to the IR port options, which can save energy when disabled.

Here are some more applications untypical of the Windows Mobile 2003:

Diagnostic Toolkit checks operability of the sensitive screen, controls, audio and video systems, file system, and also contains information on the system configuration and system resources status.




iPAQ Backup - a standard utility that archives PIM data (contacts, timetable etc.), other databases, file system service data and register into the File Store or memory card.

iPAQ Image Viewer - one more HP's utility which allows viewing images including JPEG ones, in the full-screen mode, scale them, arrange a slide-show etc.




Microsoft Reader and MSN Messenger - these programs are optionally included into the Pocket PC 2002 and Windows Mobile 2003. The h2210 does have them.

Pictures - is one more image viewer. It looks similar to the iPAQ Image Viewer but its interface is more convenient. 

Test results

We used VOBenchmark, SpbBenchmark and MPEG-4 Pocket DivX;) Player v0.8 to estimate performance and other qualities.




The new 400MHz XScale is nearly as efficient as its predecessor running at the same frequency. They go on a par in integer calculations and floating-point ones, judging by the VOBenchmark diagrams. The Spb Benchmark demonstrates their parity in the MOPS test, while the newer processor takes the lead in the MFLOPS and MWIPS, that is why its total scores are higher than those of the PXA250.

The video subsystem has a good potential. The tandem of the fast CPU and the speedy graphics controller makes the h2210 a definite leader in the vector graphics tests. In the VOBenchmark the new HP is 2-3 times as fast as its closest competitor  - h1940, and 3-10 times as fast as the ASUS MyPal A600, which is equipped with the older 400MHz processor and a relatively slow video subsystem. In Spb Benchmark the h2210 goes ahead in the most tests but in some programs its performance drops down (like that of the other HP and PXA255 based models), which is hard to explain. We compared the scores of the h2210 to the database delivered by the test developers, and it seems that some data are incorrect since the comparison of certain models in these parameters reveals quite unexpected and unexplainable results.




Operation with the memory, especially when not just a simple search but moving of data volumes is needed, is one more aspect where the PXA255 and the new iPAQ architecture looks advantageous. The VOBenchmark and Spb Benchmark demonstrate higher scores of the h2210.

When playing an MPEG-4 video clip with the Pocket DivX;) Player 0.8 the HP iPAQ h2210 delivers excellent performance - we ran the clip used for all PDAs several times and this model lost no frames out of 1530. In the dynamic scenes the quality worsens but not that much as in other PDAs. But it looks like a problem of the clip the bitrate of which was not set high enough at encoding.




The rundown time test proves that the h2210 is very energy efficient. The "Maximum backlight, standard usage" benchmark that emulates operation with several standard applications of the Windows Mobile 2003 at the maximum brightness level demonstrates that it's able to run as long as 5 hours 38 minutes in such mode. At the brightness level of 20-25% and with applications like light games, e-books, and the organizer the computer can work during 6-7 hours. The figures are almost twice higher compared to the h1940 equipped with the Samsung processor and the same 900 mAh battery.

So, the HP iPAQ h2210 shows better performance and effectiveness in most cases compared to its competitors not just of the same price but also more expensive ones. The test scores can be found in this archive.

Impression and summary

The HP iPAQ h2210 got a very high score. It has pretty good equipment, high performance and excellent energy efficiency; it's also user-friendly and inexpensive. It's a rare find. Such an attractive price/quality ratio explains the company's aggressive attack aimed at increasing the share in this market sector.




This model has no equal competitors. This is the only new PDA up to $400 equipped with a built-in Bluetooth adapter and a couple of expansion slots. Its closest counterparts are iPAQ 39xx and Fujitsu-Siemens Pocket LOOX - they were released long ago and positioned for the higher-price niche. Even now they are more expensive than the h2210. The competing applications of the same price range look either poor or slower than those in the h2210. The Dell Axim X5, which has the same processor clock and two expansion slots, is deprived of the Bluetooth adapter and has worse weight/size parameters, though it's a bit cheaper. The HP iPAQ h1940/1945 which also has a Bluetooth adapter and belongs to the sub$400 range is deprived of a CF slot, has a slower processor and is less efficient. In comparison with the widespread Pocket PC based models - clones of the Mitac Mio 338 - the HP looks better as at the price difference of $50-80 it shows a completely new level of performance and a richer feature set. Among Palm compatible models the closest are Palm Tungsten T and T2, and Sony Clie TG50. All of them have a Bluetooth adapter but they are more expensive and got a slower processor and less memory. It wasn't a problem earlier taking into account the difference in the programs' size, but the multimedia data processing makes requirements to the memory size equal for the Palm and Pocket PC. The TG50 also has a poor design with a built-in one-finger keyboard. Besides, none of them has a CF slot, i.e. they can't take advantage of a wide range of peripherals.

The HP iPAQ h2210 is one of the most optimal solutions in the $400-500 price range. It can be a good choice both for the individuals and corporate users. It's primarily meant for those who consider functionality, performance and price the most important factors and who prefer a utilitarian low-key design. 
 

Ivan Melnichuk  (ivan_melnichuk@ixbt.com)


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