Product Type: Compaq Tablet PCs / eBook Readers
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A great machine - if you like that sort of thing
Compaq iPaq Pocket PC H3630
Member Name: tomc
Compaq iPaq Pocket PC H3630
Date: 26/03/01, updated on 26/03/01 (638 review reads)
Advantages: Brilliant display, excellent synchronisation features
Disadvantages: Fiddly data input, not suitable for use out doors
This review has been written after three months intensive use of the iPAQ. I’ve found it to be a very reliable machine, with a vast range of features. My questions would be about the general useability of PDAs, and at the end of the review I’ve expressed some concerns about the concept – would you drag your PDA out of the briefcase on a wet windy day, in a dodgy part of London for example!
The best features of the iPAQ in my view are the PC synchronisation features, and the screen. Other PDAs allow full connectivity with MS Office of course, but the iPAQ really works well with Office. I love the way I can select synchronisation settings for various parts of Outlook. For example, I can synchronise Tasks, Diary and Calendar, but leave Intray unchecked unless I’m going away for a while or need to do some work away from base on email. I never have to anything at all to synchronise the machine, just stick it in the cradle (serial connection to the PC), and it just does it. The moment I change an appointment or any other item on the PC, the little green icon lights up on the PC’s system tray and the data is updated. And vice versa too, so if I’m away from base, I just key in a new appointment, task or contact and it updates the PC as soon as I stick it back in the cradle.
The colour screen is just beautiful. It is very high definition, making sense of the smallest graphical detail, and also coming with six back-light settings, from the lowest powersave dim light, to the “super bright” which for short periods of use in daylight, or under fluorescent lights, lets the display shine out really clearly. There is also an “Automatic” mode which adjusts the light according to the conditions at the time.
The touch-screen system works really well. I find I can operate it with a finger and rarely have to use the stylus (which slots into the body of the machine and is released by a
small button when you need it).
The iPAQ has been criticised in comparative tests for having a poor battery life, but whether this is a problem or not will depend on your usage of it. I can take it home on Friday night, use it quite a bit over the weekend, and it still seems to have plenty of power left when I stick it in the cradle connected to my office PC on Monday morning. Certainly battery life has not been a problem for me. Neither has reliability, although magazine reviews seem to suggest that this can be a problem. I have two colleagues with iPAQs and we’ve not had any problems.
Inputting data is relatively straightforward. You can bring up a keyboard window which you tap with the stylus, or alternatively you can write into a small template, which requires you to learn the letter shapes. A handwriting recognition program is available for free download but I tried it and found disappointingly that it does not work with the installed version of Word and was hardly worth the bother.
Infrared is a little difficult to configure with a PC, but great for swapping data with other iPAQ owners of course. You may have seen people exchanging business cards in this way. Slightly “toys for the boys” but no doubt we’ll all be doing this before too long.
The sound notes function works really well although of course the speakers performance is severely limited by its size.
The iPAQ comes with Pocket WORD and EXCEL of course and these work just fine. Other apps are Microsoft Reader (for e-books), Internet Explorer (for which a modem is required of course), MS Money, Picture Viewer, and various accessories.
Pocket Streets was installed on my machine and I went on the MS Website on my PC and downloaded street maps for London. The installation of these was really easy, as the so long as the iPAQ is in its cradle, the installation program handles the installation right through to
the iPAQ. By the way, this application is really good, allowing fully searchable street maps, zoomable and configurable also, to show post offices, banks, tube stations, cultural attractions etc, etc.
OK, I admit it, I also downloaded Tetris. This makes the iPAQ behave like a Colour Game Boy, the control button at the bottom of the machine then enabling you to nudge and rotate just like on the real thing.
The iPAQ has a nice feeling of solidity about it and in terms of the casing, beats other PDA’s hands down – heck, it LOOKS a quality machine.
Now, having used this for three months, I need to ask myself if its worth the bother of running it. I THINK the answer is yes, but I have to admit, I don’t really use it very much. The best thing about it is running off to a meeting at work, I just whip the thing out of its cradle and then I have in my hand everything I need in terms of “organiser” information. But if that’s the only thing I really use it for, then I have to say, I could fairly easily print off the diary and task details from my PC Outlook and then type up any updates when I return to the office – it wouldn’t be THAT difficult would it?
The biggest drawback with PDAs is data entry. While the machines are good for retrieving information, its very nimble person who can realistically write anything into them other than the briefest of notes. The irritation value is considerable! Also, when you suddenly need to fix a meeting with someone, to actually put it quickly into the iPAQ is very difficult and it’s a little wearing to get sarcastic comments from a paper and pen person as you struggle with the stylus on that tiny keyboard window. The Pocket street maps are great, but what if its raining? The machine’s not being brought out of the briefcase on wet days, and what about the potential for mugging too? A bit dodgy I think. Then with such high value equ
ipment in such a small package, would you be prepared to take it abroad with you? Would you dare leave it in an hotel room for instance?
Just recently I find myself leaving the iPAQ in the drawer some days, then I rediscover it again and start using it. So overall, its dispensable, and I’m not sure if I’d be happy with forking out the purchase price myself. Good job my employer provided it and not me!