At first glance, the H4150 looks like an ideal Pocket PC, introducing built-in Wi-Fi to the thin and light form factor, as well as adding a faster CPU. Also of note: HP has finally equipped this device with a standard-size headphone jack. That's all well and good, but before bringing this $450 iPaq home, you should ask yourself what exactly you want to do with the onboard Wi-Fi. If you plan on sending lots of e-mail and instant messages in a work environment with good Wi-Fi coverage, you might be better off with a keyboard-equipped handheld such as HP's H4350, which retails for $50 more. The H4150 looks to be almost a dead ringer for its Wi-Fi-less sibling, the H1940. It's virtually the same size (4.47 by 2.78 by 0.5 inches) but weighs about half an ounce more (4.67 ounces), making it the lightest handheld currently on the market to include 802.11b WLAN support. It also features the same sharp, transflective, 65,000-color TFT screen found on other iPaqs released this year.
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|The H4150 is currently the lightest handheld on the market to include built-in Wi-Fi support.|
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|The IR port is located to the left of the docking connector on the bottom.|
The H4150 isn't an exact clone of its predecessor. For starters, HP has refined the style and placement of the unit's buttons. The five-way navigation pad and the quick-launch controls have swapped shapes; the former is now square, while the latter are circular, and they're better spaced apart. The IR port has moved from the left side, where the voice-recorder button now resides, to the bottom right of the unit. Unlike some handhelds, the H4150 doesn't have a scrollwheel, and the included stylus may be a bit too small for some users.
Another small detail worth pointing out: The power button, instead of containing a single LED as on the H1940, now has two--one on either side of it. The left one conveniently indicates whether Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or both are activated, while the right one changes color depending on the type of alert it's sending: amber for battery info, red for event notifications. Also up top is a slot for Secure Digital (SD) and MultiMediaCard (MMC) media and SDIO add-ons such as a camera accessory.
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|The cradle can simultaneously charge the handheld and a second battery (available separately).|
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|The included rechargeable battery is replaceable--always a plus.|
In the box, you'll find a protective canvas slipcover, plus a cradle with a separate slot for charging a second battery. Yes, the included 1,000mAh lithium-ion battery is removable. An optional extended 1,800mAh battery is available, but it will make the handheld slightly thicker and heavier. This Pocket PC offers a host of corporate-centric features, including F-Secure FileCrypto Data Encryption and VPN access, which provides wireless connection to corporate e-mail and network, as well as enhanced security. That said, you may need an IT person to help set up your corporate e-mail.
Establishing a standard POP3 e-mail account is a pretty straightforward affair. You simply key in your name and e-mail address, and--if your account is with a major provider such as EarthLink--a friendly wizard interface automatically attempts to input your server settings. Once you enter your password, your e-mail account is good to go in Pocket Outlook. You can set up multiple POP3 accounts, while Web-based mail services, such as Yahoo Mail, are accessible via Pocket Internet Explorer so long as you have a Wi-Fi connection.
Using the integrated Wi-Fi and HP's iPaq Wireless connection application, we had no trouble connecting to both a secure, key-code-protected network in our office and an open network, or hot spot, we discovered down the block. There's a built-in sniffer program that displays what networks are available and which ones require a WEP key code to access. For messaging and e-mail, we preferred using the H4350's built-in keyboard to this model's onboard virtual keyboard or handwriting recognition, which works passably well with some practice. An optional fold-out keyboard is available as an accessory.
Wi-Fi can't handle all of your wireless needs, so Bluetooth is onboard for cable-free syncing to a similarly equipped PC or accessing e-mail via a Bluetooth-enabled phone; a data-service subscription from your carrier is required.
The software package is quite respectable. On top of the full suite of Microsoft applications--including Pocket versions of Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, Reader, MSN Messenger, and Streets--HP throws in several of its own applications, such as Bluetooth Manager, a file backup/restore utility, the iTask Manager program launcher, and even the iPaq Image Zone image viewer, though a similar app comes with the new OS. You can also store your contacts, your calendar, and your documents in the ROM; thus, if your battery goes dead or the device needs a hard reboot--not unheard of in the Pocket PC world--they won't disappear. Like the H1940, the H4150 comes with 64MB of RAM (though you can access only 55MB) and 32MB of ROM, which is where the new Pocket PC 2003 OS resides. Instead of a 266MHz Samsung processor, this model runs on Intel's 400MHz XScale processor, but we didn't notice much of a performance difference. Games and video--even clips that we wirelessly streamed off the Internet via our Wi-Fi connection--played smoothly. We loaded Hexacto's baseball game and the Windows Mobile Edition of Age of Empires and were satisfied with gameplay.
Sound is quite good; supposedly the Windows Media Player upgrade to version 9.0 provides a boost in quality. And we certainly appreciated that HP went with a standard 1/8-inch headphone minijack so that we could plug in our favorite pair of Sony earbuds without using a cumbersome adapter.
As noted, the transflective screen is the same one found on the H1940. Made by Sony, it's among the best available. Indoors, it's brighter than that of the Toshiba e330 and e335, and its white background has less gray. The display also did well outside; reading text in bright sunlight was no problem.
With both wireless modes disengaged, we were able to play a looping WMV video file in full-screen mode at standard (half) brightness for 3 hours, 40 minutes. At that point, the unit quit playing media files but still showed 13 percent battery life. That's decent, but it's nowhere near the prodigious levels of the H4350's 6 hours, 5 minutes or the Dell Axim X5's 6 hours, 22 minutes. Of course, activating the Bluetooth or Wi-Fi transceivers will result in faster battery drain.