HP iPaq hx2790
As PDAs increasingly morph into mobile phones and vice versa, the HP iPaq hx2790 stands out by ignoring this technological cross-pollination. By sticking to the basics, it generally does a good job of mixing just enough entertainment potential with its business abilities to satisfy road warriors. Plus, the addition of Windows Mobile 5 arms mobile professionals with even more tools for getting business done while on the go. On the downside, this PDA lacks the high-resolution screen of competing products, such as the Dell Axim X51v and the , and doesn't do images and video justice. The hx2790 is also overweight and chunky, and at $500, it's one of the most expensive PDAs out there. However, if security is of the utmost importance to you, then you can't beat the iPaq hx2790, with its biometric fingerprint reader. Also of note: If you happen to have one of the older versions of the hx2000 series, HP will offer Windows Mobile 5 upgrades in spring of 2006 for $39.99.
The HP iPaq hx2790 picks up where the hx2750 left off and doesn't add any new design features. Built around a sturdy frame and case, it's been designed to take road abuse with rounded corners and protective rubber inserts that offer some extra grip. At 3 by 4.7 by 0.6 inches and 6.4 ounces, the gray and silver device feels good in the hand but is a tad longer and heavier than the similar Dell Axim X51 series. We really like the iPaq's included smoked-plastic screen cover, but it adds half an ounce to the package and doesn't flip all the way over. Alternatively, it makes a cool easel for holding the unit upright if you put it on backward.
Speaking of the screen, the HP iPaq hx2790's 3.5-inch display shows 65,536 colors, but its QVGA (240x320) resolution can't compete with the generation of VGA (480x640) models, such as Dell's Axim X51v, which pump out four times as many pixels. Still, it's bright and rich enough to satisfy most, with easy-to-read text. For those in a hurry, the PDA has four instant-start application buttons just below the screen and a fingerprint reader to help protect data and access to the system. In a month of use, the latter function never yielded to the wrong finger but sometimes balked at opening up for the right one.
For those who like to have their flash memory and use it, this PDA comes equipped with both Secure Digital and CompactFlash expansion slots (located on the top of the device), which accept even the slightly thicker CompactFlash hard drives, such as the IBM or the Hitachi Microdrive modules. A standard headphone jack is next to the card slots, making this PDA a music machine for listening to tunes on the go. Finally, there's a lone voice-record button on the left side. Aside from the aforementioned flip cover, HP packages the hx2790 with an AC adapter and a desktop cradle. More accessories are available for purchase from HP, such as a Bluetooth GPS kit for $329.99 and a snap-on thumb keyboard for $49.99.
Powering the HP iPaq hx2790 is a top-speed 624MHz Intel XScale processor along with 256MB of memory, of which there's 192MB of ROM and 64MB of SDRAM. The device has 144MB available in the fail-safe iPaq File Store. Again, this isn't anything groundbreaking or new in comparison with the HP iPaq hx2750, but that's not to say it's a bad thing, since these components are adequate in getting the job done.
The biggest improvement comes with the inclusion of Microsoft Windows Mobile 5, an evolutionary update to the Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition that was used on the hx2750 model. In addition to enhancements to mobile versions of Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, and Outlook, the machine has a handy PowerPoint viewer. This can turn the PDA into a one-on-one presentation machine after the screen orientation is set to landscape to mimic a monitor. Additionally, HP's exclusive Image Zone program not only displays pictures but also adds a color histogram and a slide-show feature.
Like many other PDAs, the HP iPaq hx2790 comes with both Wi-Fi (802.11b only) and Bluetooth radios for maximum data flexibility. While the separation of the setup screens into Manager and Settings sections makes for some confusion, the software can help you get connected to a hot spot whether you're at home, at the office, or at the local coffee shop. The software for linking to a Bluetooth phone is excellent and easy to follow. Synchronizing data with a host PC works well with the included USB cradle, but the host fails to recognize the hx2790 when connected to a USB hub. Windows Mobile 5 brings an updated ActiveSync 4, which promises easier and faster PC synchronization, but there have been widely reported connectivity problems with version 4. Fortunately, Microsoft has since released ActiveSync 4.1 to fix the issue; you can download the update from Microsoft's Web site.
Battery life and performance were solid. In CNET Labs' tests, where we looped a video clip with all wireless radios off and backlight set to midlevel, the HP iPaq hx2790's 1,440mAh lithium-ion battery lasted for 5 hours, 22 minutes of constant use, about an hour more than the hx2750 and the Dell Axim X51v and 5 minutes short of its cousin. It should be just enough for a full day of stop-and-go computing. A $130 double-capacity battery pack should make it possible to leave the AC charger behind for two-day trips, but it adds another ounce to the hx2790's already ponderous weight. Although there's an occasional delay in reacting to commands, the hx2790 generally worked well in a variety of uses, from e-mail machine to iPod replacement to video viewer.
CNET Labs project leader Dong Van Ngo contributed to the performance analysis.