The iPAQ hw6965 was part of a simultaneous launch with the rw6828, both of which added, among other things, push e-mail capabilities to the iPAQ line. Whereas the rw6828 is targeted more towards non-corporate users who require extensive multimedia functionality, the hw6965 is a tool for serious business users.
Our first impressions of the hw6965 were that it's very similar to the BlackBerry 8700, due to its shape and QWERTY keyboard. However, after extensive testing we can't help but like the feel of the 8700 better. The iPAQ's round keys aren't anywhere near as comfortable or responsive as that of the 8700, while the BlackBerry's smaller and more rounded design fits the hand better than the square body of the hw6965.
In addition to the keypad, data can also be inputted through the touchscreen using the stylus. It's arguable whether this is as effective for navigating on-screen menus as the BlackBerry's trademark jog wheel, but we like the jog wheel design better as it's often difficult to coordinate your stylus tapping while you're on the move. Granted, you can always cycle through menus using the built-in joystick, but we found this to be irritatingly stiff.
At 181g and with dimensions of 118mm by 71mm by 18 mm, the hw6965 is noticeably larger than most smartphones we've tested recently, so you'll definitely want to try it out in-person before taking it home only to realise that it puts an unsightly bulge in your otherwise fashionable outfit.
Aside from the smattering of keys on the front, the hw6965's design is clean, save for a volume rocker and camera button in the top left corner and a miniSD slot in the bottom right.
Like all Windows Mobile 5.0 devices, the hw6965 comes with a number of handy office productivity applications pre-installed, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. It's also capable of push e-mail, meaning that provided you've got the service enabled through your mobile phone carrier, you can send and receive e-mail messages in much the same way as an SMS text -- obviously a handy feature for travelling professionals.
Speaking of travelling, this particular iPAQ is one of the few smartphones on the market to come equipped with a built-in GPS receiver, which is brought to life using the pre-installed TomTom Navigator software. This had no problem detecting our location and providing directions during our testing in Sydney (mainly in the CBD and Eastern Suburbs areas).
Although you may worry about looking like a dork when holding the hw6965 up to your ear in public, connectivity is one area you'll scarcely fret about. The device sports built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Infrared and quad-band GSM (850/900/1800/1900), while it syncs up with your PC via USB through the bundled cradle.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that the hw6965 is a business-only device, if not for the 1.3-megapixel camera, self-portrait mirror and flash built into the back. However, as with most smartphones, the shots are far from amazing, particularly indoor and low-light pictures. You can also forget about taking fast-action shots, as the camera can take up to four seconds to capture a frame.
The device is capable of audio/video playback thanks to the pre-installed version of Windows Media Player, but it's worth noting that you'll probably need to purchase an adaptor if you want to plug a regular pair of 3.5mm headphones into the 2.5mm jack.
The hw6965 comes equipped with a 416MHz Intel processor, 64MB of RAM and 45MB ROM, so it's more than capable of performing basic office productivity and e-mail tasks without slowdown. However, we found that the device has the tendency to stall somewhat when multiple applications are opened at once, a problem that's compounded by the fact that even though an application may appear to be closed, it's often still loaded into the device's RAM and running in the background.
Phone reception and call quality is adequate, and sufficiently high volume levels can be reached to avoid awkward chatting in crowded areas. Unfortunately, battery life isn't as impressive. If you intend on using the hw6965 as your primary device, expect to have to charge it every second day.
The hw6965 is a feature-packed smartphone that's well-suited to business users, but it lacks the style and design-prowess of the BlackBerry.