Without doubt, during its almost four-year lifespan, the HP iPAQ hx4700
has turned out to be the best "traditional" (phone-less) high-resolution (640 * 480, also known as VGA) Pocket PC ever released certainly filling in a very important market segment: that of the comparatively (but not too) large VGA screens. The reasons for this are well-known when you compare it to the alternatives:
- Compared to the Fujitsu-Siemens Pocket Loox 718 / 720, the major advantage of the hx4700 is the sheer existence of a WM5 / WM6 / WM6.1 upgrade. On top of that, the larger screen, the quality magnesium casing and the faster CPU with a graphics co-processor greatly helping in playing back MPEG4 Part 2 (a.k.a. ASP / DivX / XviD) videos, on the long run, made it the winner (while this wasn't certain back in 2004-2005; the author of this article has also chosen, back then, the Loox 720 over the hx4700). Of course, it has had major problems compared to the Loox: the touchpad, initially, the higher price, the very low speaker volume (while the Loox has been one of the loudest ever PDA’s around), the lack of a camera (even if the one in the 720 isn’t anything to write home about, quality-wise) and the lack of USB host support. These problems, however, are easily mitigated by the really excellent WM6.1 upgrades released in the last few months. As the Loox isn’t upgradable to WM5, several current software titles (like Esmertec Jbed to run MIDlets like Opera Mini) just can’t be run on it.
- It’s too better than the Dell Axim x50v/x51v. The Dell has vastly inferior battery life, much-much worse screen almost useless in Landscape for many users because of the major polarization issues, the plastic, thick body and the x50v WM5 upgrade having major compaction issues (as was the case with pre-WM6.1 hx4700 upgrades, though). The only real advantage, in addition to the louder buzzer, th emore gaming-friendly D-pad controller and (at least in the U.S.) lower price of the Dell is the Intel 2700G support, offering both excellent 3D hardware acceleration and great help in playing back ASP videos.
Note that I don’t even list for example the Asus 730(w)
and the Toshiba e830
, which all had major problems (for example, the laughable battery life of the Asus, the washed-out screen of the Toshi and the lack of WM5+ upgrades for both models) compared to the hx4700 and are now completely forgotten.
Over the years, because of HTC
’s (the major Windows Mobile manufacturer of today) reluctance to produce anything similar to the hx4700, Windows Mobile users preferring a large (and quality) VGA screen had to stick with the hx4700. That is, if you wanted a 4" VGA screen but not significantly bigger (adding serious bulk: see the HTC Advantage / x7500/x7510 or even the even bigger and really expensive, SVGA [800*600] HTC Shift) and nothing less (4" is far better on a VGA device than 3.6", particularly when used in native VGA mode or an app not supporting large characters – for example, Opera Mini run under the MIDlet managers of Esmertec like the Jbed), your only choice has been the hx4700.
Fortunately, the (software) bugs of the hx4700 have all been fixed during these years; the author of this having been one of the most widely-known "hackers" having discovered several ways of fixing the issues with the official WM5 upgrades. The major problem of compaction slowdown has also been fixed in the WM 6.1 upgrade released some months ago. Yes, you will no longer see lengthy compactions if you upgrade to WM6.1.
The huge advantages and seamless operation of the WM6.1 upgrade(s) clearly make the HP iPAQ hx4700
one of the most recommended handsets for users opting for sufficiently, but not too large (4") VGA screens. Let’s see how its successor, the brand new HP iPAQ 210
compares to it. This comparison is of extreme importance because several ex-hx4700 users consider upgrading to the new device. The - without doubt - tempting price (around $400-$450 but, if you live in Canada or don't mind buying from there, you can get it
for as low as $350) of the new model (which is almost half of the, originally, really overpriced hx4700) is also very hard to resist.
Thanks to Smartphone & Pocket PC Magazine
publisher Hal Goldstein
, I’ve been given a HP iPAQ 210. I wouldn’t have myself bought it because I already have the hx4700 – also from Hal – and just couldn’t justify the expense for such a not-that-major upgrade (I better save money for the S-E Xperia X1, the Acer/E-TEN v900 or the Gigabyte MS808 with their goodies like WVGA screen (X1) or TV receiver (the latter two models)). I never sell my past PDA’s and phones (because I want to be able to provide first-hand info on even past models), unlike most other people. This means I don’t "upgrade" but pay full price for another toy to play with. That is, you need to thank Hal for this article (and my past articles on the hx4700) :)
Of course, immediately after receiving the new iPAQ, I’ve started testing it. In this article, I elaborate on my experiences with my new toy. Note that this article is in no way a full review of all features of the new device. Should you want to have a more gentle introduction to the new iPAQ, read for example Brighthand’s
or Smartphone & Pocket PC Magazine’s
review. This article mostly targets past hx4700 users who would like to know whether it’s worth selling the old iPAQ and upgrading to the new.
1.1 The screen
As has already been mentioned, the hx4700 has probably the best and, size-wise, most useful VGA screen out there. First, its color reproduction is excellent and doesn’t have polarization issues in either orientation. (It’s at this that the Dell Axim screens severely lack.) Second, its size is large enough to make the user able to use even native (high-resolution) VGA mode and/or apps that treat their standard (SE) VGA mode as native and, therefore, using small characters (again, Jeodek / Jbed + Opera Mini). 4" is just the right size – it’s considerably larger than the 3.5… 3.7 screens of the other VGA alternatives (let alone the current crop of 2.4…2.8" VGA screens like the one in the Asus P750, several Gigabyte models or the forthcoming MDA IV; the Sony X1 will too only have a 3" for a WVGA screen). At the same time, it doesn’t severely hamper the pocketability / portability of the device, unlike with the HTC Advantage (a.k.a. x7500 and its slightly upgraded version, the x7510), which has a 5" VGA screen and is indeed more like a brick.
Let’s see whether the new model sports a screen that is at least as good as the hx4700! The answer is, fortunately, yes (at least to some degree – see the touchscreen sensitivity issues).
1.1.1 Outdoor visibility
Many have complained about the bad outdoor visibility of the 210 (while the hx4700 has average outdoor visibility). This statement, to some degree, is indeed true. As we’ll see, if you try to run your iPAQ without backlight at all, it’ll behave MUCH worse than for example the iPAQ hx4700 or most other Pocket PC’s, except for the now very common 2.8" HTC QVGA devices like the Wizard, the TyTN II / Kaiser / AT&T Tilt etc.
However, as the maximal backlight of the iPAQ 210 is VERY strong (even stronger than that of the hx4700 and much-much stronger than the 2.8" QVGA screens in the Wizard, Kaiser etc.), this isn’t a problem. I daresay: not even in direct sunlight. Just remember to turn the backlight all the way up and clearing the automatic backlight checkbox when outdoors on a sunny day, as can also be seen in the following screenshots.
Example screenshots showing all this:
126.96.36.199 No direct sunlight
(devices, from top left to bottom right: HTC Wizard, Compaq iPAQ 3660, BlackBerry 8800, Nokia N95-1, HTC s710 / Vox, HTC s310 / Oxygen, [second row:] Dell Axim x51v, HP iPAQ hx4700, HTC Universal and HP iPAQ 210)
Max backlight level, strong outdoor light without direct sunshine; all backlight levels – wherever possible; that is, not the, in this respect, by far the worst and least capable MS Smartphone platform – maxed. As can clearly be seen, the iPAQ 210 has the best visibility because of its very strong maximal backlight. The other phones / PDA’s aren’t much behind, though – without direct sunlight, they’ll behave pretty well if you maximize the backlight.
No backlight at all with the Pocket PC’s. As can clearly be seen, it’s clearly the reflective screen of the iPAQ 3660 that is the best, as opposed to the transflective screen of all the other models (some even state the Wizard, Kaiser etc. have a transmissive screen. This might be true, seeing the very bad results. Just a quick recap: transmissive screens essentially have no mirror(alike) behind the LCD panel that would reflect the incoming, external right; this is why they are clearly worse outdoors than transflective and orders of magnitude weaker than the old and no longer used reflective technology). With MS Smartphones, of course, I had to stick with the default, non-settable backlight level before its timing out. With the BlackBerry and the Nokia N95, you can’t entirely shut down the backlight. I’ve, of course, minimized them, though. Nevertheless, don’t forget they are backlight and however much their screens are generally more visible outdoors than that of most Pocket PC’s, particularly Pocket PC’s equipped with 2.8" screens like the Wizard on the shot, real-world results are in a bit more favor of Pocket PC’s if you also run them on the minimal+1 backlight level – that is, not entirely shutting their backlight off. Speaking of the N95-1 and its screen visibility outdoors, it’s slightly better than that of the N95 8GB and the N82 as is also explained HERE
and is generally better than that of most Pocket PC's.
188.8.131.52 Direct sunlight
In direct sunlight, with, of course, maximized backlight, the screen is just a bit worse than that of the hx4700 or any past-generation VGA devices (like the Universal, which uses a screen manufactured with exactly the same technology as the hx4700; this is why the next three shots only show a Universal in addition to the iPAQ 210). It’s way better visible than the 2.8" QVGA screens commonly used in most contemporary Windows Mobile PDA phones. I present three example screenshots showing this without backlight at all (a clear lead for the Universal) and two with maximal backlight levels, one taken from an angle. In the latter case, the superiority of the hx4700 (Universal etc.) screens, visibility-wise, isn’t as visible as with the no-backlight case.
184.108.40.206 Color screens outdoors
I love playing Orions while taking a walk or resting with my wife in the nearby park. With the Wizard, this is, during the day (especially in sunlight), entirely impossible because of the far less contrasty screen contents. (The above screenshots have all been taken by 100% contrasty – black vs. white – screen contents.) The iPAQ 210 excelled at this area: I’ve never had any problems with playing Orions outdoors with it.
1.1.2 Color reproduction, minimal backlight level
The excellent screen of the hx4700 had both out-of-this-world color reproduction and very low minimal backlight level. Let’s see how the successor fares in this respect!
Historically, several Pocket PC’s (and other handhelds / handsets) have had bad screens with, for example, very weak reds and other warm colors. A well-known example of a "washed-out" screen is the HP iPAQ 2210.
I’ve devoted several articles to the question of color reproduction; one of them can be found HERE
. (Incidentally, in there, you can also find the test shots I’ve used in this very article.) In the following color reproduction screenshots, you’ll see the color reproduction and the dynamism of the backlight level of the iPAQ 210 screen are indeed very good and basically the same as with the hx4700.
Also, the minimal backlight level is very important, particularly if you plan to use your handset in nighttime to, say, read some e-books or browse the Web. In this regard, the hx4700 and the iPAQ 210 are equally excellent: they have by far the lowest backlight level (just remember to check in the auto-backlight checkbox – unlike when outdoors and maximizing the backlight).
The Nokia and the BlackBerry follows. Incidentally, in nighttime, the brightness of the BlackBerry 8800 trackball can be a real pain in the back. (With newer models like the Pearl, you can switch to another, non-white trackball backlight color from software, effectively eliminating the problem.) Therefore, if you don’t want to continuously hide it with one of your fingers, you’ll want to use a marker to really decrease the light emission as is described HERE
. No such problems exist with the Nokia N95, albeit the keypad backlight level can be a little high with it too – and the backlight sometimes a little bit shimmering, which is also pointed out in the official N95 manual.
Unfortunately, the Dell Axim x50v/x51v has a pretty much unbearable minimal backlight level; the same is even more true of MS Smartphones completely lacking any kind of automatic / manual backlight level regulation. This is why the "minimal backlight level" shots will show the HTC Vox having by far the most light emission. Hence the badly "burnt in" color grade test shot showing minimal backlight levels.
Let’s start with the maximal backlight shots.
220.127.116.11 Maximal backlight shots
The four children shot:
(devices, from top left to bottom right: Nokia N95-1, HP iPAQ hx4700, HTC s710 / Vox, HTC Wizard, [second row:] BlackBerry 8800, Dell Axim x51v and HP iPAQ 210)
which is by far the most important test image to test the reproduction of warm colors, shows
- excellent color reproduction with the N95, BB8800, HTC Vox
- very poor color reproduction with the Dell Axim x51v and the HTC Wizard (and, similarly, all the other 2.8" QVGA HTC handsets)
- the hx4700 and the iPAQ 210, which render these warm colors equally well as the N95, BB8800 and HTC Vox, are a bit washed out in this shot because the maximal backlight level of these two models are way more than those of the others. The limited dynamic range of the camera was just unable to cope with the situation. That is, don’t let the above shot misguide you: the two VGA iPAQ’s both have comparable color reproduction than the three above-mentioned devices.
(Also note that it's not possible to disable the light sensor in the BlackBerry 8800, not even as of OS version 4.5. This is why its screen seems so dark - I just couldn't turn it up to the max. Its color rendering is excellent and, as has already been seen, so is its outdoor visibility.)
The gradient shot:
clearly shows the iPAQ 210 has a strong yellowish tint / cast. This, incidentally, has always been common with the Sony screens used in the older VGA models (particularly the hx4700 – not this one! -, the HTC Universal and particularly the Fujitsu-Siemens Pocket Loox 718 / 720). Incidentally, this shot also shows that the Nokia N95 indeed has a 16 million-color screen as it has absolutely no color "gradients", unlike the 16-bit MS Pocket PC’s and MS Smartphones. The latter is especially visible in the white – gray – black bar on the right – or, in the second, red bar. (Note that some sources – like PDAdb.net
– state the screen was advertised as 18-bit; that is, able to render color gradients considerably better. This isn’t the case, as can be seen both in the above shot, HERE
The ostrich egg shot:
shows it’s probably the hx4700 that has the most natural colors. On the iPAQ 210, the yellowish cast makes the egg a little bit yellow and makes the hand a bit unnatural. However, I in no way consider this a fatal flaw, considering the strengths of the screen.
Finally, the grass shot clearly shows how good the rendering of the green colors on the iPAQ 210 really is. Note that, in this regard, it seems even better than the hx4700 screen. The sole reason for this is the 210 screen being a bit yellowish. This shot also shows how sub-par the Dell Axim screens are, color reproduction-wise.
Now, let’s turn to shots with the minimal backlight level.
18.104.22.168 Minimal backlight shots
The gradient shot:
shows how low the minimal backlight level of the two VGA iPAQ’s is and how unbearably bright the MS Smartphone screens are, ruling them almost entirely out of nighttime usage. The same is visible on the egg shot; this also shows the minimal backlight level of the x51v is also very high:
(Note that all these shots suffer from interference with non-VGA (that is, non-190+ dpi) screens. This is why there are pretty bad color blocks on the screens of lesser-DPI screens like the Nokia or the BB. This is an inherent problem with taking shots of screens and I didn’t want to repeat my tests just because of this. Regardless of the interference, the shots clearly show the color reproduction capabilities of each screen. Also note that some of the images have been made with -1 or even -2 exposure correction to emphasize the screen backlight difference between the different models (cameras see the world in another way than the really dynamic human eye and sometimes it's a pain to produce shots that are reminiscent of what the eye sees). Feel free to examine the EXIF data in all the shots - I haven't deleted it. Again, click the thumbnails above for a much bigger version of the shots.)
22.214.171.124 Verdict - screen quality
All in all, the iPAQ 210 screen has great colors / saturation and its minimal / maximal backlight levels are both excellent. The (when using absolutely no backlight) very bad outdoor visibility is easily fixed by using maximal backlight. The latter, of course, won’t be really battery-friendly – but, at least, you’ll see what you do.
1.2 Running games, emulators
The lack of the D-pad on the hx4700 rendered it almost useless for emulators or games requiring D-pad input – only games with entirely touchscreen input were playable. In addition, the original (NOT the cooked!! The latter don’t have any compatibility problems) WM5 hx4700 ROM’s (2.00 / 2.01) had limited compatibility with games; namely, a lot of games wouldn’t even start.
Fortunately, I encountered no problems with the iPAQ 210 except for mainly the button issues, which I’ll elaborate on in the next subsection. I’ve played SkyForce Reloaded, Orions and K-Rally (three of the best titles of all times); all worked great, without any stuttering or other problems. Note that I used the touchscreen to control the ship/car in the first and the third title. I haven't encountered problems during this because of the touchscreen's not recognizing the stylus. Some other users, however, have complained about
being unable to correctly use the scrollbars and/or CalliGrapher. If you frequently use the latter (or any other kind of stylus- and recognition-based, full-screen character / text recognition), make sure you give a try to the iPAQ before purchasing it to see whether you can live with the touchscreen insensitivity problem.
Emulation-wise, SmartGear 1.0.4 (probably the best all-in-one gaming console emulator; a MUST buy) runs very fast, even in full-screen mode. I’d say it’s a bit faster than on the other two VGA Pocket PC’s (hx4700 and x51v, both running on WM6.1) I’ve tested the same version on.
However, don’t expect ALL 2D games will run flawlessly and faster on the new platform than on, say, the x51v. SuperTux
, for example, is equally bad than on the hx4700: it produces between 7…10 fps. Incidentally, I’ve also re-benchmarked the x51v and the hx4700 to see whether their new, WM6.1 ROM’s have any speed difference than the previous ones. The results are pretty disappointing: the new ROM’s delivered exactly the same figures (Dell Axim x51v: 19-23 fps; HP iPAQ hx4700: 8-9 fps) as their official ROM’s (A12 and 2.00, respectively) back in July 2006.
The new iPAQ, as with all the other past Intel Xscale-based devices, has absolutely no issues with the touchscreen CPU usage either – unlike HTC’s non-Xscale-based handsets (that is, the vast majority of their models).
All in all, the new device is far better suited for gaming / emulation than the hx4700 – assuming you read the next part.
The new iPAQ has five hardware buttons. Unfortunately, this means there’re no hardware left/right softkey buttons (just like on the pre-WM5 hx4700 or even the Dell Axim x51v). Two traditional application buttons have been changed to Start Menu and an OK button.
The latter, Button 3, has a secondary, press-and-hold function, as with Button 1 (Calendar / Contacts
– the latter is accessible with a long-press of the button) and Button 4 (Messaging / Windows Media
Button 5 (Record
) doesn’t have press-and-hold functionality (no wonder: after all, if you do plan to record with Notes, you must keep the button pressed, as has also been explained in my Audio Recorder Bible
Button 2 (Start Menu
; another newly-introduced button) can only be used for this very function and in no way can be redefined (officially) – unless, of course, you use a third-party button enhancer app.
The buttons are pretty large and very easy to press, unlike on the hx4700, the x50v/x51v or, probably the worst of the bunch, the iPAQ h2210. The D-pad is much better than on, say, the iPAQ 2210
. That is, they’re excellent for gaming use – apart from the button redefining problem already mentioned.
1.3.1 The button redefining / assignment problem
As has already been mentioned, Button 2 and 3 can’t be redefined at all using the built-in Buttons
applet: the former can only be used to invoke the Start menu and the latter to pass an OK message to the current application. (Of course, the Button 3 long-press can be overridden, as has already been mentioned.)
As can clearly be seen, there’s no way of redefining Button 2 (start menu), the non-hold state of Button 3 (OK); there’s no Hold for Button 5 either.
Third-party apps for the rescue! If you’ve read my (highly recommended!) Button Enhancer Bible
, you already know AE Button Plus
, probably – not taking into account its inability to define app-specific button assignments and inputting direct characters / numbers – the best and, what is more, mostly free (!) – button enhancer application. With it, you can freely redefine these two buttons.
126.96.36.199 The OK button
Redefining the OK button is pretty straightforward:
With this button, long-press can’t be redefined in AEButtonPlus; you’ll need to use the system-level Button applet. (Therefore, soft-reset bound to long-press is pretty much useless in the above screenshot.) The other three functionalities can be defined, including the "OK" functionality originally associated with a single button press.
188.8.131.52 The Start Menu button
The Start Menu (Windows) button can be too redefined – all the four functionalities work. Note that you’ll always be presented a dialog telling you you may end up having to redefine your other buttons; this, fortunately, doesn’t need to be done.
(all tested with the just-released v2.6.2 Beta
1.3.2 In-app usage of the buttons
Unfortunately, very few applications / games / emulators notice the two special buttons – not even SmartGear. Hopefully the developers of these apps add specific support for the 210. After all, it’s not impossible - AE Button Plus clearly shows this.
1.4 Video playback performance
One of the best usage areas of the hx4700 has always been watching ASP (more commonly known as DivX / XviD) movies in Landscape mode. Its built-in ImageOn graphics processor let for really reducing the CPU load resulting in much lower power consumption and, consequently, battery life. Let’s see how the brand new architecture behaves with the current, 1.2.3 CorePlayer already supporting some of the advanced WMMX features of the new architecture! (The WMMX support in the new PXA310 have been made approximately two times faster than in the old PXA270 – this is one of the major advantages of the new architecture. See THIS
for more info on this question.)
The much more advanced AVC (H.264) format (see my H.264 (a.k.a. MPEG-4 Part 10 and AVC) Bible
for more info), so far, was pretty much a no-go on current high-res ((W)VGA) Windows Mobile devices – as long as you wanted to encode your videos in high (640+ pixels wide) resolution, that is, and wanted to refrain from transcoding (resizing to a format with a much lower CPU usage). One of the major advantages of the new, PXA 310 platform is the excellent support for decoding AVC. To a certain extent, this is already implemented and available for CorePlayer (the leading multimedia player for all major mobile platforms except Linux and BlackBerry) – and, according to the developers, in the future, making use of the H.264 support will be enhanced even more drastically, delivering even better performance. Add this to the excellent, large screen and, at least with headphones, good sound, excellent battery life and comparatively low price and you have a killer video player.
In these tests, I’ve also compared
- the old, 1.1.2 version to the new, 1.2.3 on all my VGA devices
- the latest WM6.1 upgrades on all my other VGA devices to the older WM version (for example, the official WM5 A12 on the Dell Axim x51v or the initial WM5 AKU 3.5.2 on the hx4700) to see whether they deliver any speed in/decrease or lack of support for the special graphics acceleration support.
The benchmark results are as follows (please consult the H.264 Bible
for more info & help in interpreting the results!)
1.4.1 iPAQ 210
As you can see,
- CorePlayer 1.2.3 defaults to the DirectDraw mode on the iPAQ 210. Make sure you set it to XScale to get the maximal performance!
- (Non-4:3) VGA-resolution videos are played back with (almost) full frame rate (that is, over 100%). If you don’t run any CPU-intensive task in the background, you will rarely encounter any frame drops – unlike with PXA 270-based systems, which are pretty much unable to play back fully-fledged, 640-wide AVC videos at their full glory (for example, with deblocking enabled). Unfortunately, as the VGA playback is just a bit above 100%, this means using A2DP encoding will result in a lot of stuttering / dropped frames. This can only be fixed by disabling deblocking in runtime (not the best idea) or completely forgetting about A2DP and using wired headphones instead. (Or, using a lower-resolution input video –but who would want to see a lower-res video on a great, large screen like this? The other alternative is, of course, using the good ol’ ASP for encoding videos – at the expense of file size.)
I’ve also made some serious tests with 1.1.2 (the one I initially reviewed in the H.264 Bible
) on the iPAQ 210 to see whether the, AVC-wise, excellent benchmark results cited above are any different with a non-PXA310-optimized player. The results are as follows:
That is, with VGA videos, version 1.2.3 indeed has some major enhancements with both AVC and ASP videos, with about 50…55% performance increase with the former and 38% with the latter. With QVGA videos, the improvement is about 35…40% (AVC) and 14% (ASP).
I’ve also run some tests with (some of) the other VGA Pocket PC’s I have to test whether
1.4.2 iPAQ hx4700 with VIET PDAV61KBD WM 6.1
- the optimizations in CorePlayer 1.2.3 (as opposed to 1.1.2) have any effect on the playback on these, older (PXA270-based) devices
- the unofficial, cooked WM6.1 ROM upgrades still contain full support for the graphics chipsets with the hx4700 (ImageOn) and the x51v (2700G). (The HTC Universal doesn’t have anything like this.)
The results are approximately the same with the old, 1.1.2 version. This means owners of the PDA’s or handsets based on the older, PXA270 will not really see any performance increase by switching to 1.2.3 – unlike with the PXA310-based iPAQ 210. (Of course, the new CorePlayer has a lot of cool features; most importantly, the native YouTube support I’ve elaborated on in the YouTube Bible
Incidentally, these figures are the same as on the WM5 3.5.2 ROM
, both ASP- and AVC-wise (see Section 184.108.40.206 Other VGA Pocket PC’s in the original H.264 Bible
for them). This is certainly good news for hx4700 users: the new ROMs not only excel at, for example, fighting the compaction issues, but also at supporting the special chipset in the PDA. I bet the same is true of all the other WM6.1 ROM’s discussed in the XDA-Devs hx700 ROM cooking thread
1.4.3 Dell Axim x51v with makuu’s A06 privß06p WM6.1 ROM
The results are almost the same as with the official, very old, WM5 A12 ROM (see the old benchmark figures in section 1.4.5 Effects of en/disabling deblocking, CABAC and Bidirectional Prediction of the H.264 Bible
ASP: 273k QVGA:
597% (with 2700G enabled)
AVC: 464k VGA:
83% (same with DirectDraw
This, along with my earlier reports of the hardware 3D acceleration working great with makuu
’s ROM is certainly great news.
1.4.4 HTC Universal with Ranju’s WM6.1 v7.6
That is, the figures are pretty much the same (except for some variation / "white noise"), showing the old PXA270 platform indeed hasn’t received any speed boost in the new CP version. Interestingly, the old WM6 AKU 0.2.0 ROM version I used on the Universal delivered somewhat better results (see section 220.127.116.11 Other VGA Pocket PC’s in the H.264 Bible
) at playback even at 520 MHz (while Ranju’s ROM runs the Universal at 624 MHz by default). However, the difference isn’t big enough to warrant downgrading.
1.5 Using an external cellular handset to connect to the Internet
In my previous iPAQ 210 article
, I’ve explained you’ll want to use a Bluetooth (or, if you don’t mind the higher power consumption, Wi-Fi) connection to an external handset to provide you with mobile access to Internet when you don't have access to any (working) Wi-Fi hotspot.
18.104.22.168 Nokia N95
I’ve run some serious tests with the Nokia N95 (an excellent smartphone; an ideal companion to the iPAQ 210 as it has strengths in areas that are pretty much the opposite of the iPAQ’s strengths) as a modem and found the duo working excellent. No need for manual interaction on the Nokia (as long as you declare the iPAQ as a trusted client). The only problem I faced was the somewhat limited Bluetooth speed when using HSDPA – that is, speeds over ~700 kbps.
Unfortunately, unlike the iPAQ, the N95 doesn’t support EDR (see its PDAdb.net spec HERE
), which is certainly visible in the following benchmark result. Over HSDPA, downloading a 7.25M file in IEM using the N95 as a HSDPA modem took 1:35…1:40; that is, the transfer speed is 0.0725 Mbyte/s = 72.5 kbyte/s. (Incidentally, the HP downloads the same file over ActiveSync in 25s and over 802.11g, via a Linksys Linux-based router is 14s. The latter figure on the N95, as of firmware revision v21, using the built-in Nokia Web, is 7s – an excellent result!) Downloading the same 7.25 Mbyte file to the Nokia over HSDPA only took 29s (measured in Vodafone’s network), which is an excellent result (250 kbyte/s); that is, 3.4 times more than the throughput of non-EDR Bluetooth DUN. This means EDR (or an alternate technology like Wi-Fi) is more than welcome if you want to transfer hundreds of megabytes – for example, you’re watching high-quality (H.264) YouTube videos or video streams operating at more than ~700 kbps (like those of YLE
, the Finnish national broadcaster company, with their high-quality, high-resolution 1 Mbit/s WMV video streams).
22.214.171.124 Windows Mobile handsets
I had no problems using Windows Mobile handsets as clients. I’ve tested the HTC Vox with the official, upgraded ROM version (see THIS
), the HTC Wizard and the HTC Universal with WM6.1 (running AMP
’s 19126.96.36.199 and Ranju’
s v7.6; see THIS
for more info on these ROM versions).
Note that the Universal, in the default Internet Sharing
mode (see THIS
for more info on what Internet Sharing is and how it compares to the traditional Dial-Up Networking
, DUN) seems to have DHCP problems: it just can’t hand out dynamic IP’s correctly. The other two devices, as is expected, don’t suffer from this problem. I don’t know if this bug is specific to Ranju
’s v7.6 of WM6.1, or other WM6.1 Universal ROMs are also plagued by it. Note that:
1.5.2 Wi-Fi connection to the handset
- if you connect the iPAQ 210 with another Windows Mobile device running Internet Sharing, you’ll receive an IP, which will be remembered upon the subsequent connection to the Universal. (You may even want to set the BT PAN local IP to a static address – I think I’ve explained this in some of my past networking articles. This way, you won’t need to connect to another PAN server to do the trick.)
- Ranju’s v7.6 already contains the dial-up hack (see THIS for more info); that is, it can also be used in the traditional dial-up mode.
To overcome the problem of missing Bluetooth EDR support in your otherwise HSDPA / EV-DO handset, you may also want to go for Wi-Fi-based solutions to connect the iPAQ to your high-speed handset operating as your modem. (See THIS
for more info on the why’s and how’s. Also, if your handsets run Windows Mobile, check out the free and excellent ICSControl
[which, in the meantime, has gone commercial
; pre-0.91 versions are free] – along with the, currently, really-really beta version of Walking Hotspot
, on which I elaborate below).
As it’s the Nokia N95 that I want to use as a high-speed modem for my iPAQ and not a non-complementer Windows Mobile phone (as I’ve already stated, the Nokia N95 is a perfect enhancer / complementer to the iPAQ: its main strength is multimedia (for example, built-in stereo speakers with volume and stereo widening simply unmatched by any Windows Mobile device), 3D gaming (it has 3D hardware acceleration) and camera, which is completely missing from the iPAQ; in addition, it’s small, light and really sleek, unlike, say, the comparatively large, heavy and multimedia-unfriendly Kaiser / Tilt
), I’ve tried very hard to make the first beta of WalkingHotspot
(on which I’ve already posted HERE
Unfortunately, the trial, which was released two weeks ago and is discussed HERE
, just didn’t work together with my Windows Mobile clients at all. The HP iPAQ 210 just doesn’t stay connected – only for 4-5 secs and, then, just disconnects. With the HTC s710 and the Dell Axim x51v, while they keep connected, the Symbian server doesn’t even notice it being connected – unlike with the 210, where it asks for the first time (but not later). (Wi-Fi p2p, on the other hand, works flawlessly between the HP iPAQ 210 and another PPC.)
Incidentally, I’ve also installed the Windows Mobile port of Walking Hotspot on my HTC Universal. It’s even more a beta than on Symbian: it doesn’t even support VGA screens. Seeing this, I couldn’t bother testing it on a QVGA device – will return to testing and reporting on it when a somewhat better version is released.
1.6 SDHC support; CF problems
It seems the hx4700 just can’t be made SDHC (SD High Capacity) compliant. The iPAQ 210 has no problems with this format.
Note that there is a CF II slot in the 210. It seems to have severe power drain problems (I haven’t tested this myself). An except from THIS
"2. Why is my battery slowly losing power, around 2-3% per hour?
Most testing done by users of this forum point to the CF card being the culprit. Even though there is an option in the control panel to disable power to the CF card when the device is in standby mode, it doesn't seem to do anything.
There have been reports that different brands of cards behave differently. Please post your results and I will update this list (most of the list below was taken from other forum posts):
Transcend 16GB 133x: 1-2%/hour drain
Sandisk 16GB "Extreme III": 1-2%/hour drain
Adata 4GB 266X Turbo: 0.6%/hour (thanks GloryQuest)
Finally, note that David Hettel has also stated
even SD cards (more specifically, Class 6 SDHC cards; I couldn't test this as I only have Class 4 ones - a 4GB Kingston and a 8GB Sandisk) are handled far faster by the x51v than the iPAQ 210.
1.7 System metric tools (acbPowerMeter); over/underclocking; power consumption
I REALLY hoped for the ability to track the power usage with acbPowerMeter
for more info on these excellent tools), particularly because I wanted to see whether the new platform indeed delivers far lower power usage under heavy CPU load. (This has been a major problem in previous Xscale generations; see for example THIS
for a comparison with other platforms like previous-generation Samsung CPU’s.) Unfortunately, it’s in no way possible to inquiry for the actual current flowing from the battery with the iPAQ.
Unfortunately, Dogfood’s excellent RegTweak
(also see THIS
) doesn’t display the CPU speed either (a useful feature to see how much CPU usage a particular app has at a given clock rate. Unfortunately, keeping the iPAQ on external power doesn’t mean its CPU will always run at 624 MHz – unlike with most? all? prev-gen PXA270-based devices). I, along with the developer of the app, have tried very hard to make it work – so far, in vain.
The same is true of Wizcode LLC
’s (ex-Anton Tomov’s) well-known Pocket Hack Master
. As of the current, 4.32 version, it has no PXA310 support at all.
(as of version 3.03) is completely useless for underclocking: when underclocked to 104 MHz, XCPUScalar
itself consumes a LOT of CPU time (8…40%, fluctuating). Too bad, as with earlier HP iPAQ models, there is no way to set the CPU frequency from inside, say, Settings / System / Power
, unlike with, say, the Dell Axim x51v
or the Pocket Loox 720
1.8 Other tidbits worth knowing
1.8.1 Updates so far
So far, only a Wi-Fi driver update
(currently: 1.10) has been released. Note that the installer doesn’t seem to work under Vista
; I’ve uploaded the extracted CAB file HERE
so that this won’t cause you problems. Just download and click the CAB file.
1.8.2 USB recharge, particularly "kick-in" issues
While the iPAQ comes with a charger with the traditional 5V/2A "cinch" iPAQ charger (meaning it’s fully compatible with older "cinch" chargers from HP, Compaq, Dell and Fujitsu-Siemens, to name a few), it also allows for recharging (and syncing) via the miniUSB port.
The latter is strictly for recharging and synchronization only. That is, it does NOT have USB host capabilities. For the latter, you’ll need to use the special FB112AA#AC3 cable
(also see THIS
). As is explained for example HERE
, on today’s Pocket PC’s, you need at least a 2A charger to "kick in" the recharging of a completely depleted battery (which was the case with my unit arriving from a long-long international journey). The traditional 5V/2A iPAQ chargers (or the one coming with the iPAQ 210) will work; however, USB chargers won't (necessarily) be able to "kick in" charging or charge (more) depleted batteries at all. Not even stronger ones; for example, the one coming with most HTC handsets (like the Wizard; it comes with a 1A charger). It seems the iPAQ 210 just doesn't allow for high Amperages when recharged through its USB port and this can't be helped with powerful external USB AC chargers - as opposed to charging the device from the standard sync port, using the 2A AC charger delivered with the device.
Keep this in mind when, seemingly, your (depleted) battery wouldn’t take any charge and you try to recharge it with a USB AC charger or, even worse, with a desktop computer. (This is, actually, my experience. The 1A Wizard AC wall charger just wouldn’t want to "kick in" my depleted, 0% battery. I at once thought I was in the same situation than neillm HERE
. Fortunately, I soon realized the bottleneck was the USB port and, after switching to recharging via the standard charger, everything started to work.) It's very important that you keep this in mind when you leave for a journey where your battery may completely be depleted - it's always the best to keep the original sync cable & iPAQ charger with you to avoid being completely unable to charge a deeply depleted battery than trust in USB rechargers.
Also note that, as with some of the older iPAQ models, the iPAQ 210 also lets for choosing between fast and slow USB recharging (and disabling it completely). In my experience, the slow USB recharging when charged from a computer (meaning the PDA is always powered on because of ActiveSync's always keeping it alive) only results in the battery getting discharged and not charged at all. If you've ever owned a Pocket Loox 720, you already know the situation - it's exactly the same.
Of course, you should only enable fast USB recharging if you’re absolutely sure it won’t fry your PC because of the excess amperage. High-quality notebooks (like, for example, IBM / Lenovo Thinkpads) just can’t be destroyed (I’ve even short-circuited their USB port a day; except for it powering down for some minutes, nothing catastrophic happened). Lower-quality desktops / notebooks may be sensitive to this.
Also see THIS
1.8.3 Changes in the synch port
As you’re most probably aware, the synch port, which has been the same in the last six years (starting with the Compaq iPAQ 3800
series released in late 2001), has been changed and the old sync cables and/or iPAQ-only, non-cinch rechargers won’t work. Keep this in mind if you have several cables you’d like to use with the new model - you'll end up having to throw them all away.
Every cloud has a silver lining, though: the separate miniUSB port (capable of both syncing and recharging) is definitely good news. This means you can use your USB rechargers (keeping in mind that, in cases, you won't be able to "kick in" deeply discharged batteries) and miniUSB cables for easy synchronization.
1.8.4 Other problem reports
Your main resource will be THIS
(BH sticky; hopefully this means the thread starter post will be kept updated) thread. Some of the problems:
- the problem of, from the Wireless applet, disappearing Bluetooth (also see THIS) . I’ve posted a complete tutorial on fixing this HERE (and in the Brighthand thread).
- the bright blue LED problem – just like with the hx4700 (the same mistake by HP again…). The fix in a nutshell: under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Drivers\Builtin\NLed, just change the name of the entry DLL into for example xDLL, but do not delete it.
- some people complain about the wired headphones’ hiss. I’ve tested it with some wired headphones (for example, the Plantronics Pulsar 590A in wired mode, the comparatively cheap RP-HT6 XBASS Panasonic headphones and the Nokia wired headphones coming with the N95) and encountered no problems at all. However, your mileage may vary if you have super-sensitive headphones requiring far less power to produce the same volume. Note that these tested headphones all delivered sufficiently loud sound to listen to even quieter audio programs even outdoors. That is, anyone that states the opposite must have used non-sensitive headphones (non-sensitive means it requires far higher power to produce the same audio volume; super-sensitive is exactly the opposite of this).
- Some people state the iPAQ 210 has a four times slower CF interface. I haven’t tested the validity of this. Feel free to do the testing – I’ve published several articles on doing this; see for example THIS.
- unfortunately, the 210 doesn't come with a cradle, unlike all non-entry-level (that is, not, for example, the 19xx-series), past Compaq / HP iPAQ's. There already are third-party cradles, however; see for example THIS.
I've tested the iPAQ with the Plantronics Pulsar 590, Voyager 855
and the Gear4 BluPhones
stereo Bluetooth headphones with the HP 210. All worked fine, except for the Gear4 BluPhones’ inability to autoconnect (a common problem with all Windows Mobile devices – as opposed to Blackberry 4.5 or Symbian).
Note that some people state
the iPAQ is not compatible with the Plantronics Voyager 855
. This is in no way the case.
1.8.6 No official WM6.1+ upgrade
HP have stated
they wouldn’t release WM 6.1 (or any other, newer OS version like the future WM7) for the iPAQ 210. This means you’re at the mercy of the XDA-Developers’ hackers and cooked ROM’s. The lack of WM 6.1 isn’t really an issue as it has very little improvement on non-phone Windows Mobile PDA’s; WM7, on the other hand, will most probably be a must to upgrade to. I can only hope the iPAQ 210 can be hacked and its ROM can be easily upgraded with cooked ROM’s. Currently, there aren’t any hacked / cooked ROM’s
. I’ll keep you posted on this issue, should you want to decide whether to go for the new iPAQ. You may also want to keep an eye on the discussions HERE
, in the Upgrading, Modifying and Unlocking forum of XDA-Devs
and, of course, the traditional Axim/MobilitySite
1.8.7 Plastic body
While, at first, I didn’t particularly like the not-that-professional feel of the plastic back of the new iPAQ (compared to the magnesium-alloy body of the hx4700), I came to accept it. If you use it in a third-party leather case like that of PDAir
(thanks, Hal, for the additional case!), you won’t really notice it having a plastic back. Also, its being a bit thicker than the hx4700 won’t be that big an issue either when used in a case.
1.8.8 Battery life
I can't really comment on the battery life yet. Many have reported around seven hours of battery life with moderate backlight usage and Wi-Fi on all the time. I had definitely worse battery life in my YouTube Wi-Fi playback tests with higher backlight levels. This may
also be caused by the fact that the battery, on its long journey to Europe, had been completely depleted, which may have caused it to be permanently damaged and its capacity lowered. Also, the high (about 60...80% at 624 MHz) CPU usage of playing back 480*320 AVC videos (as of CorePlayer 1.2.3) may have also resulted in having much worse battery life than the above-cited seven hours.
1.8.9 Bluetooth GPS problems(?)
Some people (see for example THIS
) have reported on GPS problems; for example, the inability to work together with the Nokia LD-4W (which works just great with some other WM handsets / PDA's like the Mitac Mio A702
). Other, tested (and working) BT GPS sets include the BTGPS74R and iBT-GPS.
1.8.10 Low speaker volume
Unfortunately, the volume of the iPAQ 210 speaker is pretty low – about the same as the iPAQ 2210 or the iPAQ hx4700. As with the iPAQ 2210, the speaker is on the back of the PDA. Unfortunately, the PDAir case further decreases the already-low volume of the iPAQ 210. HP state the device has two speakers, one in the front; the latter might be for Skype only (not confirmed). (BTW, as with early versions of Skype, the dual-speaker Fujitsu-Siemens 720 wasn’t supported either and Skype, as of now, only uses the back speaker, also resulting in annoying acoustic feedback.) It’s not known whether the HP engineers will be able to raise the speaker (buzzer) volume from software or do we have, as with the 2210 and the hx4700, live with an inherently quiet speaker not fixable (and easy to even burn down, as was the case with both the 2210 and the hx4700). This means you’ll end up having to use headphones or external amplifiers for the time being. Certainly bad news for YouTube / video freaks.
Also note that the alarms are similarly low-volume and, therefore, pretty much useless if you plan to use your iPAQ as a clock to wake you up. There is a workaround HERE
(with artificially increased volume levels in the reprocessed alarm tunes) you will definitely want to check out.
While certainly not without problems (touchscreen insensitivity, low-volume speaker, button reassignment problems, no official operating system upgrades, slightly worse outdoor visibility of the screen without backlight), I pretty much like the new iPAQ and I think it’s a decent upgrade from the hx4700 adding painfully missing features (SDHC, for example). Particularly if you’re a multimedia geek and would like to play back AVC videos (where the new PXA310 already excels when used together with the latest CorePlayer; and, according to the CoreCodec folks, this is just the beginning!), you’ll certainly love the new device. While the "cooked" 6.1 HP iPAQ hx4700 Windows Mobile ROM’s are in no way bad (just the contrary – they’re EXCELLENT and, finally, take away entirely the compaction issues), the new PDA is indeed better in many respects.
If you need a device with a large, 4" VGA screen with stunning properties like the best minimal and maximal backlight levels and best color reproduction ever, the HP 210 is more than recommended. The only device that comes closer is, obviously, the hx4700, which has exactly the same color reproduction, (great) polarization evenness and minimal / maximal backlight level. Its touchpad, on the other hand, is a real pain in the back and in itself may worth the upgrade. Also, if you don’t want to use unofficial, "cooked" ROM’s, either the lack of WM5+ (if you stick with WM2003SE) with its vast arsenal of WM5-only apps like the Esmertec Jbed
MIDlet manager or, if you do use the official 2.01 / 2.02 ROM, the heavy compaction issues will drive you mad. In these cases, the upgrade is more than necessary. But, even if you have WM 6.1 on your hx4700 (taking away the compaction issues and providing compatibility with the latest, WM5+-only batch of applications and games), the upgrade is well worth considering – particularly if you’re a gamer. Finally, don’t forget that, if you plan to stick with the Windows Mobile platform (and don’t go for full-size book readers like the iRex iLiad
– see THIS
for more info on this), you’ll want to go for a large-screen device like the 4" VGA iPAQ’s – if you don’t plan getting the (ridiculously priced, super-expensive – it costs about four times (!) more than the iPAQ 210) 5" HTC Advantage / Ameo / x7510
, that is. The excellent book / document reading capabilities are greatly supported by the new D-pad (you no longer need to assign the "Page down" function to the Record button to avoid having to scroll back and forth horizontally because of a stale tap on the left/right arrows), the minimal backlight level (again, this model, along with the hx4700, the best for nighttime reading) and the lack of landscape polarization issues (you don’t need to stick with the Portrait mode, only offering 480 pixels horizontally, which is just insufficient for reading non-reflowed PDF files). Models like the Dell Axim x50v/x51v severely lack in the latter two respects, and they have a considerably smaller screen. Not to mention the just-announced 2.8…3" (W)VGA models from Gigabyte, HTC, Acer / E-TEN
: they’re far worse suited for high-resolution e-book / PDF reading than these PDA’s even because of their much smaller screen.
Note that, as has also been explained HERE
, I've painted a comparatively rosy picture for the iPAQ 210 for the following reason: there are only two VGA devices out there with quality (let's forget about the outdated, WM2003SE-only and washed-out Toshi e830
) 4" screens. VGA on a 2.8" (MDA Compact IV, E-Ten, Gigabyte etc.) are more of a joke and in practice is pretty much useless; so is WVGA on a 3" screen (S-E X1). This is why my review is rosier than it would be if there were some decent (!) 4" VGA alternatives - apart from the hx4700, of course. (And the HTC x7510 isn't an alternative at all, particularly size- and price-wise.) The same stands for the PXA310 architecture, which already is FAR better at playing back AVC content than the lousy, heavily outdated PXA270 in the hx4700 (or, for that matter, the brand-new x7510).
This is also mentioned in the Verdict (and the intro) above, but I stress it once more. The reason for my recommending the 210 is simply because there aren't better 4" VGA devices out there and, therefore, one needs to learn to live with its problems. If you do not need a 4" VGA device and can live with even a 2.8" model, you have a lot more models to choose from. If you do need 4" because you want to use it as a high-resolution PDF reader, Opera Mini rendered by Jbed with readable fonts etc., your best choice, today, is definitely the iPAQ 210 and it simply has no alternatives.
(Except for the predecessor, the HP iPAQ hx4700, upgraded to WM6.1 if you don't mind the touchpad, the inferior PXA270-based architecture, the lack of SDHC and the other disadvantages it has. Of course, as has also been explained, it has advantages over the iPAQ 210 too: most importantly, the touchscreen sensitivity and the non-plastic, much thinner body.)