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HP iPaq H5450 Pocket PC review: HP iPaq H5450 Pocket PC

HP iPaq H5450 Pocket PC

5 min read
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.
The H5450 looks much like many other iPaqs, but two design elements catch your eye. A small nub on top of the unit houses the antenna for the built-in Wi-Fi adapter and adds a fraction of an inch to the unit's length. And below the directional keypad, you'll find a biometric sensor, which allows you to record your fingerprint as a quick way to unlock the device, though you may also use the traditional password method.
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.
The H5450 ships with an AC charger, a syncing cradle, and a dongle to charge the removable battery while traveling. It's good that the cradle has an integrated cable that can connect via USB or serial. Unfortunately, however, there's no separate USB cord to sync without the cradle. The only other extras in the box are a spare stylus and a bunch of small pamphlets that comprise the user manual. While the iPaq H5450 doesn't constitute a major jump in Pocket PC power, it can match specs with the best of its contemporaries. Under the hood, you'll find a 400MHz Intel XScale processor, 64MB of built-in memory, and a whopping 48MB of ROM. That ROM is chock-full of software extras, including the iPaq fingerprint reader and the Nevo universal-remote-control application. Pocket PC 2002 OS runs the show.
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.
Packing the aforementioned duo of built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, this iPaq has the makings of a communications virtuoso. Together with the infrared capability, these wireless platforms enable communication with scores of devices--including cell phones, PDAs, PCs, and networks--allowing data exchange, e-mail, text messaging, and Internet access.
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.
Many Pocket PC vendors ship their devices with a bare-bones software package consisting of little more than Microsoft Outlook 2000 and the latest version of ActiveSync, but HP supplies an abundance of riches. Under the subheadings of Enterprise Solutions, Productivity, Mobility, Entertainment, and Tools, HP provides a broad selection of software for the H5450. Aside from the general Microsoft applications, we counted no less than 20 full- and trial-version applications on the CD. Among the most useful of these are Colligo, which lets you share data and chat with others via Bluetooth; Quick View Plus, which allows you to view more than 70 file types; and Peacemaker, which facilitates communication between the iPaq and Palm-based PDAs. We expected the H5450, which is armed with a 400MHz processor and 64MB of RAM, to make short work of any job that we threw at it. Unfortunately, this was not always the case. Granted, the H5450 excels at many tasks, such as playing games, playing music in Windows Media Player, and rendering MPEG files in PocketTV. In that respect, the unit can go toe-to-toe with any competing 400MHz Pocket PC. But with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled, this iPaq quickly exhausted its resources. In some cases, the unit would refuse to sync or would display an error message on start-up; we then had to reset the PDA. As a result, we lowered the H5450's performance score. Hopefully, HP will be able to address these issues with upgrades or patches.

No complaints here: The screen looks good in both dim and bright light.
We have no complaints with the H5450's display. Those familiar with HP's H3900 series will recognize the same high-quality, 3.8-inch, transflective TFT screen. The 240x320-pixel display is capable of producing 65,000 colors, and we found it to be bright, sharp, and easy to read in both dim environments and direct sunlight.
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.

HP iPaq H5450 Pocket PC

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 6