HP iPaq Pocket PC hx4700 review: HP iPaq Pocket PC hx4700

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MSRP: $599.00

The Good Zippy 624MHz processor; 4-inch VGA screen; runs Windows Mobile 2003 SE; integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth; user-replaceable battery.

The Bad Bulky; touchpad is unintuitive and isn't always responsive; subpar video performance.

The Bottom Line The hx4700 offers powerful features and solid performance for on-the-go professionals--just be prepared to pay a hefty price.

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7.9 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8

HP iPaq hx4700 Pocket PC

Producing business-oriented handhelds isn't anything new for HP, but with the release of its latest corporate-centric iPaq, the hx4700 (also sold as the hx4705), the company does make some new strides in the arena. Not only does it boast the latest OS--Windows Mobile 2003 SE--and Intel's high-speed processor, but you also get an innovative navigational touchpad and a sharp VGA screen. Mobile professionals, in particular, will also be glad to see Wi-Fi and Bluetooth onboard. However, you'll pay for all these features--a whopping $649.99, to be exact. If you're not willing to shell out this kind of cash and can do without the high-resolution display, the high-end Dell Axim X30 offers many of the same features and solid performance for half the price. HP called in its extreme makeover team for the iPaq hx4700, heaping on a handful of new design features. The hx4700 sheds HP's traditional silver casing for a charcoal-gray body with black accents. Color preference is going to be a matter of personal style, but overall, it's a pretty slick-looking device. Unfortunately, this PDA isn't particularly compact. Though a bit lighter than the H5550 it replaces (6.6 ounces vs. 7.3 ounces), the hx4700 is still one of the larger handhelds at 5.2 by 3.0 by 0.6 inches. It carries a similar footprint to both the Toshiba e805 and the Asus MyPal A716. The hx4700 certainly feels sturdy in your hands, but just be prepared to carry around the extra bulk.

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Make some room: The hefty hx4700 is one of the bigger PDAs on the market today.

You simply can't miss the hx4700's magnificent 4-inch VGA TFT color display. Sitting front and center, the screen supports 65,000 colors and a resolution of up to 640x480 pixels. What does this mean for you? Sharp and crisp images with vibrant colors (see Performance). On the left-hand side, you'll find a protective plastic screen flap, which you can detach by lifting it up, and then pulling it out of its hinge. And while it's transparent, you probably won't want to work with the cover on, as it holds a lot of smudges.

Just below the display, you'll find the navigation pad, but noticeably absent are the traditional shortcut buttons and keypad. Instead, HP replaces them with a trapezoid-shaped touchpad, which features NavPoint technology from Synaptics, the same company that provides the interface for Apple's iPods. The four programmable shortcut keys are located at each of the pad's four corners. To select an app, simply depress the raised notch below the icons. The navigation touchpad controls occupy the center, and raised dots denote up, down, left, and right directions.

The touchpad is a neat concept, but it isn't the most intuitive way to scroll through menus and pages. It took us a few minutes to realize that you touch the elevated dots to move in the desired direction and that pressing the center of the pad acts as the Select command. We visited Synaptics' Web site for a quick tutorial on NavPoint technology. After several more tries, we got the hang of it, but all of this takes some getting used to. You can also switch to Cursor mode, which mimics the mouse cursor found on PCs and notebooks, through the Settings or Program menus.
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Connect the dots: The hx4700 features a new navigational touchpad.

The rest of the hx4700 is fairly standard. Completing the front of the device are a speaker and three tiny LEDs that illuminate in orange when being charged, in blue for wireless, and in green for alarms. The top of the device houses the stylus holder, the power button, a standard headphone jack, and an expansion slot that accepts SDIO, MMC, and CompactFlash cards. On the bottom of the PDA, you'll find the IR port, a Reset button, and the battery lock and release buttons. A voice-recording button is also found on the left side of the hx4700.

You don't get a ton of extras out of the box, but you get the basic essentials: an AC adapter, a USB desktop sync cradle, and a protective case. The HP iPaq hx4700 is a PDA aimed at business users, so you'd expect some powerful features, and the handheld doesn't disappoint. Like the Dell Axim X30, the hx4700 takes advantage of Intel's 624MHz XScale PXA270 processor. Not only does this mean faster speed, but the chip also features two technologies called SpeedStep and Wireless MMX, which optimize battery life and multimedia performance. We also like that it's equipped with a high-capacity 1,800mAh (milliamp hours) lithium-ion, user-replaceable battery, doubling the battery size of the Axim X30, and an internal backup battery. HP also offers a 3,600mAh lithium-ion battery for $119.99.

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Supercharge me: The hx4700's user-replaceable battery allows you to carry a spare in case you're running on empty.

The hx4700 offers plenty of memory: 128MB of ROM and 64MB of RAM, with a total of 135MB of user-accessible memory. The included app, iPaq File Store, contains nonvolatile memory and allows you to store up to 80MB of critical data in the space. The rest of the 55MB of available storage is RAM. You're also covered by the expansion slot, which accepts the gamut of cards: SDIO, MMC, and CompactFlash.

Wireless connectivity on the hx4700 comes in the form of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Fortunately, you can have both receivers turned on at the same time, unlike with the Asus MyPal A716. Another added bonus is the iPaq Wireless utility, which lets you turn on your wireless connections with one click and manage your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth settings.

Also onboard is Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition (SE), which offers Landscape mode support among other minor updates. You also get the staple Pocket Outlook, Word, Excel, and Internet Explorer. HP includes a lot of its own utilities--Backup, Image Zone for viewing images and creating slide shows, and Task Switcher--but not much else in terms of software. Overall, the HP iPaq hx4700 was a solid performer, but we expected more from this Pocket PC. Although it possesses the same 624MHz Intel processor as the Dell Axim X30, the hx4700 scored lower than the Axim in our benchmark tests. This was largely due to its lower scores in video performance, so gamers won't find an ideal playmate in the hx4700. Otherwise, the PDA is very fast, and all applications responded instantly, even when multiple programs were running in the background.

What the hx4700 lacks in video performance, it more than makes up in quality. The 4-inch VGA screen is very bright and sharp, with great support for the 3D interface of Windows CE 4.21. Viewing photos was also a pleasure on this crisp screen, and it's easily readable outdoors. It's crystal clear that the iPaq is the winner over the X30 when it comes to display quality.

The hx4700's wireless connections were superb. We were able to get the device connected to an access point and the Web in a matter of seconds, and it offered great range. Both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth worked flawlessly in our tests, and they can run simultaneously. However, we noticed that using both wireless technologies at the same time drained battery power significantly faster than would normal use.

Speaking of power, the hx4700's battery life was very good. In our drain test, in which the device was left to play a looped video clip with all wireless turned off and both the sound and the backlight cranked all the way up, the HP lasted 5 hours, 25 minutes--that's almost an hour longer than the Dell Axim. Since our test is designed to drain the battery as quickly as possible, the hx4700's battery life can be two to three times longer in real-world usage.

Performance analysis written by CNET Labs project leader Dong Van Ngo.

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