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HP iPaq 510 Voice Messenger review: HP iPaq 510 Voice Messenger

Despite some niggling design flaws and the lack of 3G support, the HP iPaq 510 Voice Messenger offers outstanding voice-command features as well as the enhanced productivity tools of Windows Mobile 6.

Bonnie Cha Former Editor
Bonnie Cha was a former chief correspondent for CNET Crave, covering every kind of tech toy imaginable (with a special obsession for robots and Star Wars-related stuff). When she's not scoping out stories, you can find her checking out live music or surfing in the chilly waters of Northern California.
Bonnie Cha
10 min read


HP iPaq 510 Voice Messenger

The Good

The HP iPaq 510 Voice Messenger features advanced voice-command functions and the new Windows Mobile 6 operating system with enhanced e-mail functions and Office Mobile tools. The smart phone also has a compact design, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, a 1.3-megapixel camera, and VoIP capabilities.

The Bad

Unfortunately, the iPaq 510's speakerphone quality was subpar, and there is no support for 3G. The phone's keypad and navigation controls also are cramped, and it has a lower resolution screen.

The Bottom Line

Despite some niggling design flaws and the lack of 3G support, the HP iPaq 510 Voice Messenger offers outstanding voice-command features as well as the enhanced productivity tools of Windows Mobile 6.

Here it is: The first Windows Mobile 6 smart phone, and it comes from none other than HP. It's a good choice for mobile professionals who want to keep on top of their e-mail and occasionally work on documents while on the road. The HP iPaq 510 Voice Messenger is a departure from the company's other smart phones as it focuses more on voice features and fills a void in its mobile device lineup, falling somewhere between its workhorse Pocket PC phones and standalone PDAs. Comparable to the Cingular 2125 or the T-Mobile SDA, the iPaq 510 looks and feels like a cell phone with its compact design; consequently, the controls are a touch cramped. However, this design flaw is tempered slightly by the fact that the smart phone has outstanding voice-command capabilities and convenient shortcuts to frequently used programs.

Of course, the other big news here is the new operating system. The HP iPaq 510 runs Windows Mobile 6 Standard Edition (formerly known as Smartphone Edition), which brings the full Mobile Office Suite for working on the go as well as enhanced e-mail capabilities, Windows Vista synchronization, and more. Though we've only had a couple of days with our review unit, we've been impressed so far with the new capabilities and the iPaq 510's performance. We're still running it through our CNET Labs test, however, so we'll update the performance section as soon as we have results.

HP has not made any carrier announcements at the time of this writing, but as a quadband GSM phone, it'll either be Cingular or T-Mobile. In addition, the company said it will start selling unlocked versions of the HP iPaq 510 Voice Messenger some time in the spring, with prices starting around $299. Who knows how many other Windows Mobile 6 smart phones will have cropped up by then, and though we're not completely sold on the design, we think the HP iPaq 510 is off to a good start.

Out of all the company's smart phones, the HP iPaq 510 Voice Messenger most resembles a traditional cell phone. Unlike the HP iPaq hw6900 series, the candy bar phone iPaq 510 is compact and lightweight at 4.6x2.8x0.7 inches and 5.8 ounces, and the overall design reminded us a lot of the Sony Ericsson K790a. The iPaq 510 certainly doesn't earn many style points with its utilitarian design and basic color scheme of charcoal gray and black. That said, it's completely appropriate for its intended audience of mobile professionals. In general, the HP iPaq 510 has a solid construction and feels comfortable in the hand and when held up to the ear.

On front of the device, there is a 2-inch-diagonal TFT screen that displays 65,000 colors at a disappointing 176x220 pixel resolution. Though text and images were clear, the iPaq 510's screen simply didn't have the crispness and pop like the displays found on the Cingular 2125 or T-Mobile SDA. Also, we noticed it had a tendency to hold a lot of smudges and fingerprints. The good news is we could still read the screen contents even under harsh lighting.

Unfortunately, the HP iPaq 510's navigation controls and keypad are a bit cramped.

We should note that the HP iPaq 510 runs Windows Mobile 6 Standard Edition, and like Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone Edition before it, this version of the OS doesn't support touch screens, so you'll have to navigate the phone through the controls below the display. At your disposal are the standard talk and end/power buttons, two soft keys, a home page shortcut, a back button, a four-way directional keypad with a center select button, and of course, the numeric keypad. Now, here's where the smart phone's compact size works against it. The layout of the controls and dial pad is cramped, so it'll take some finesse to press the right button. It was very reminiscent of our experience with the T-Mobile SDA, and even with our smaller hands, we still had problems hitting the right key or texting without errors, so we can only imagine it'll be more difficult for those with larger thumbs. The keys also are a bit stiff, but looking on the bright side, they are adequately backlit.

The good news is, however, HP has added some handy shortcuts for easily launching frequently used apps and tasks.

The phone's interface combines some of the old and some of the new. The Today screen keeps the layout of Windows Mobile 5 devices, but the icons and font have more of a Windows Vista look and feel about it; you'll also notice this in the Start menu. HP has done a really nice thing by adding a Shortcuts menu at the bottom of the Today screen, where you can easily launch frequently used applications or functions with a click of a button. This is a huge time-saver as one of the biggest complaints about the Windows Mobile operating system is the number of steps it takes just to complete one task.

Other controls and design features include a volume rocker, a microSD slot, and a 2.5mm headset jack on the left spine, a voice-command launch key on the right, and a mini USB port on the bottom edge. Also, on the back of the smart phone, you will find the speaker, camera lens, and self-portrait mirror.

The smart phone also comes equipped with a 1.3 megapixel camera and self-portrait mirror.

HP packages the iPaq 510 Voice Messenger with a USB cable, an AC adapter, a wired stereo headset, reference material, and a companion CD. A belt holster would have been nice, but the handset is small enough to easily slip into a pants pocket. However, if you're throwing it into your bag or purse, you might want to think about investing in some kind of protective case.

As the name would imply, the HP iPaq 510 Voice Messenger is all about delivering voice features. The iPaq 510 is a quadband world phone so you can use it overseas. The address book is only limited by the available memory (the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts), and you can store up to 12 numbers for a single entry as well as home and work addresses, e-mail, IM screen name, birthday, spouse's name, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can pair a contact with a photo, a caller group, or one of 28 ringtones.

A new contact function that comes with the arrival of Windows Mobile 6 is that call history is now sorted to the appropriate contact page, so you can easily see when you received and made calls to that specific person, time of call, duration, and so forth. (There is a traditional call history list as well.) Also, the new OS provides a quick Send text message shortcut so with one click, you can be on your way to text message heaven rather than having to go through several steps. Other phone highlights of the iPaq 510 include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, speed dialing, conference calling, and VoIP support.

We're not done with the voice features quite yet. One of the coolest things about this smart phone is its advanced voice-command functions. The iPaq 510's Voice Commander is one of the best voice-command systems we've seen to date. It's easy to use with no training required and more importantly, it actually works. Plus, you can use it to perform a number of tasks, such as making calls, opening applications, and playing music. You even can compose and send an e-mail, and then your recipient will receive an audio file (no speech-to-text functionality yet) in his or her in-box with your message. There are just more than 20 commands in total. We tested a variety of them, and rarely did we have to repeat ourselves to get the right command. Speaking at your phone might seem geeky, but we can't deny the ease and convenience of calling up tasks by barking out a quick command, rather than going through several layers of menus.

The Voice Commander program on the HP iPaq 510 is top-notch.

Moving on to regular ol' messaging, the e-mail experience on the iPaq 510 is much more enhanced, thanks to Windows Mobile 6. First, it ships with Microsoft's Direct Push technology so you get real-time e-mail delivery and automatic synchronization with your Outlook calendar, tasks, and contacts via the Exchange Server. Microsoft has also added nine new one-click shortcuts; plus, you get more of the true Outlook experience as your Inbox view shows messages that are flagged, marked as high importance, and so forth, and you don't have to comb through all your messages just to find that one e-mail you need. A new search function allows you to simply start typing in a word while in your Inbox, and it will automatically pull up messages with that term. There is, of course, continued support for POP3 and IMAP accounts, but now you can view e-mails in their original HTML format, regardless of account type. If there happens to be a hyperlink within a message, you can select to go to that page or if a phone number is listed, you can dial out directly from that message as well.

The integration of Windows Live for Mobile brings not only your Hotmail and Windows Live e-mail accounts to the device, but the Messenger client and search capabilities as well. Of the former, we wish we weren't restricted to only that instant-messaging client. The search function is extremely useful, however, for quick Web results, and you have the option of installing a Live search toolbar on the Today screen for even easier access.

To do all that Web browsing, you, of course, need wireless options, and the HP iPaq 510 Voice Messenger has integrated Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) as well as Bluetooth 1.2 for connecting to wireless headsets, car kits, and other peripherals. There also is a new Internet Sharing utility, courtesy of Windows Mobile 6, that allows you to easily set up your phone as a wireless modem for your laptop via Bluetooth, or you can use a USB connection as well. Sadly, there is no 3G support for this smart phone.

The HP iPaq 510 Voice Messenger was designed to help mobile professionals, and now they can be even more productive on the go with the addition of the Mobile Office Suite. Whereas Windows Mobile 5 smart phones typically came installed with the Picsel Viewer Suite opening and viewing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, Windows Mobile 6 brings the real deal to the iPaq 510 so you can not only see said files but also edit them. Of note, the PowerPoint edit capabilities are pretty much limited to changing playback options. We were able to transfer all three document types using ActiveSync 4.5 and had no problems viewing them. Admittedly, trying to edit manuscripts and spreadsheets without a touch screen and a QWERTY keyboard was a bit challenging. Business users might be interested to know that Windows Mobile 6 includes new mobile versions of the .NET Compact Framework and SQL Server so you can access sales tools and other relevant apps.

Windows Mobile 6 didn't bring any major changes in the multimedia department, so your experience will be much of the same as it would be on a Windows Mobile 5 device. The HP iPaq 510 has a 1.3-megapixel camera with video-recording capabilities and a 6x digital zoom. All the standard options are there, including brightness and white balance settings, five resolutions, and three shooting modes for still images. Your choices are drastically reduced, however, when recording video. Picture quality was mediocre. There was a grainy look to images, but colors were relatively bright.

Picture quality of the iPaq 510's 1.3-megapixel camera was just OK.

Finally, the HP iPaq 510 Voice Messenger offers a number of other useful utilities, PIM tools, and games. The Resource Manager and Space Manager found in the Accessories folder are particularly handy as they show you your battery strength and how much memory you have available. The Space Manager also has a menu where you can erase such items as call history and voice notes to free up device storage. Overall, the iPaq 510 has 128MB flash ROM and 64MB SDRAM with about 65MB available for storage and 44MB for program memory.

We tested the quadband (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE) HP iPaq 510 Voice Messenger in San Francisco using Cingular service, and call quality was good overall. On a couple of occasions, our friends' voices sounded garbled but for the most part we enjoyed clear calls with no interference. On the other end, our callers said we sounded great, and they couldn't tell we were using a cell phone. Unfortunately, once we activated the speakerphone, things took a bit of a dive. We had a hard time hearing the conversation, and our callers said we sounded far away and repeatedly asked us to speak up. Pairing with a Bluetooth headset was a cinch, as we easily connected the smart phone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Headset.

Overall, the iPaq 510 offered swift performance. Whether we were working on Office documents, activating the camera, or performing other tasks, the device was always responsive. Web browsing was also great. Pages loaded within seconds, and the new Favorites and History listing was quite convenient. The multimedia experience was lacking, however. Music playback through the phone's speakers was awful. Video performance was OK, but the screen was really too small to enjoy anything beyond a minute.

HP claims that the iPaq 510 leads the competition in battery life with a rated 6.5 hours of continuous talk time and up to 7.8 days of standby time. We're still conducting our CNET Labs tests to see if this holds true, and we'll update this section as soon as we have results. That said, we've already seen a number of smart phones, such as the previously mentioned Cingular 2125 and T-Mobile SDA, pass the 6.5 hour mark.


HP iPaq 510 Voice Messenger

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7