Toshiba was the first company to offer a Pocket PC with built-in Wi-Fi (802.11b) connectivity. Now, HP has upped the ante by delivering an iPaq that's not only equipped with Wi-Fi but also boasts Bluetooth and a fingerprint scanner. As this PDA's steep price and features list suggest, the H5450--which supports most existing iPaq sleeves--targets corporate customers and spare-no-cost, mobile professionals who must have the latest and greatest gear. If you count yourself in that group, this fully loaded but somewhat hefty Pocket PC will have strong appeal. But more price-conscious consumers will choose to magnify the H5450's small but significant flaws and opt instead for the smaller, less powerful H1910. As you might expect, a fully loaded handheld such as the H5450 isn't going to be superlightweight. This model tips the scales at 7.26 ounces and measures 5.43 by 3.3 by 0.63 inches. The H5450 has roughly the same dimensions as earlier iPaqs, so it's compatible with many of the line's accessory jackets. This handheld also boasts the H3900-series' same sharp, 65,000-color, transflective TFT display.
|Aside from an extra nub at the top, the H5450 is about the same size as earlier iPaqs.||How deep? The unit isn't much thicker than a deck of cards.|
Other than those anomalies, the H5450 has a standard iPaq design in most respects. Above the screen is a speaker, around which you'll find various colored LEDs that denote, among other things, whether Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are enabled and if your battery is low. All the common Pocket PC buttons reside below the screen, as does the microphone. On its top, the unit has a consumer-grade IR port, which sits next to a Secure Digital (SD)/MultiMediaCard (MMC) slot. The only ingredient missing here is a CompactFlash slot, but with built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi--as well as an SD slot--who needs it?
|Jacket required: HP provides a standard jacket for travel protection.||Sync your 5450 via Bluetooth, infrared, Wi-Fi, or the cradle.|
|You can record all 10 prints, just in case you like to play with firecrackers or chainsaws.||LEDs blink to show networking status and battery level; SD or MMC media fit in the top.|
But the 5450's real innovations are its biometric sensor and USB-charging feature. The sensor surpasses password protection, scanning your fingerprint to allow access to the device. The USB-charging option lets you replenish the battery in the cradle when it's hooked up to a PC, without the AC adapter plugged in. This method works--albeit slowly--but you can't charge the handheld while using the device, especially with such power hogs as the Wi-Fi running.
|The bottom of the device has two data connections, a microphone, and an oddly placed headphone jack.||Trickle-down effect: You charge the unit via the cradle's USB connection.|
No complaints here: The screen looks good in both dim and bright light.
The iPaq's wireless-networking skills are certainly adequate for a handheld, but you shouldn't expect to browse the Web at anywhere near 802.11b's maximum speeds. In testing, the HP loaded graphics-laden pages at an average of about two minutes per page, which is respectable for a PDA though slightly slower than Toshiba's e740. But after an hour, the device heated up considerably. The unit's Bluetooth is somewhat simple to use, but it took some time before we could get it to share information with a Sony Ericsson P800 smart phone.
This iPaq's 1,250mAh, lithium-ion battery is capacious, but the H5450 is a power hog at times. With the backlight set to 50 percent brightness, the device was able to play MP3s for an adequate 3 hours, 10 minutes--about an hour less than its predecessor, the H3950. However, battery life takes a major hit from the device's Wi-Fi component. With the iPaq WLAN turned on, the batteries ran dry in just 1 hour, 39 minutes. So if you plan on traveling and using the iPaq extensively, you should bring the charger and keep a close eye on your power levels.