Reviewed Oct. 4, 2005 by Lisa Gade, Editor
HP's first Windows Mobile 5.0 introductory
level Pocket PC is a winner. It's got good looks, an impossibly thin
design, an excellent display and WiFi wireless networking. Gone is
last year's harshly angular HP design for consumer-oriented
PDAs: with the rx1950 they've returned to the more attractive days
of old, with a design that harks back to the ever-popular iPAQ
1940. HP learned their lesson with last year's poorly received
introductory level rz1715 which was
lacking both in looks and features for the price. The rx1950 delivers
style and bang for the buck. At $299, currently the lowest price
you'll find for any Windows Mobile 5 Pocket PC (Dell's base model
is priced the same), the rx1950 makes a good value proposition. Though
if HP could hit the $249 mark, the device would appeal to even more
buyers who might otherwise opt for one of the capable but less expensive
Palm models such as the Tungsten
Features at a Glance
The iPAQ rx1950 targets non-power users who need decent performance
but are interested in using their devices at WiFi hotspots at home,
work or the local Starbucks. The device runs on a 300 MHz Samsung
processor, has 32 megs of RAM, 64 megs of flash ROM about half
of which is available to store programs and data, an SD slot, a
surprisingly good 3.5" transflective color display and a user-replaceable
rechargeable battery. Like all Pocket PCs, it can play MP3s, videos,
record voice notes and has handwriting recognition.
In the box you'll find the iPAQ, battery, world charger, USB sync
cable, ballistic nylon slip case, printed guide and a software
CD which includes a detailed PDF manual, ActiveSync 4.0 and Outlook
2002 for Windows PCs.
Design and Ergonomics
At only 0.5 inches thin and 4.41 ounces light, this
iPAQ will fit almost anywhere. It's a very good looking unit, with a
bright silver finish accenting sexy and ergonomic curves. The back of
the unit is black plastic and the unit's fit and finish are good overall,
though the battery door's plastic is a bit thin.
The various models:
Confusing to consumers but
useful to HP, you'll find the same product under two model
numbers. Models that end with a "0" are sold
through corporate channels and those that end in "5" are
sold through consumer retail channels. Thus the rx1950
and rx1955 are the same, but HP uses the final
digit to track retail vs. corporate channel sales.
Control location is standard on this model, with four
application buttons surrounding a squarish five way directional pad.
These buttons launch Calendar, Contacts, Email and the WiFi control application,
though you can re-assign them to any program (and some commonly used
functions) if you wish. The voice recorder button is located on the left
side, the IR window (standard, not consumer IR) is on the bottom left
where the unit curves and the SD slot is on the top edge. The power button
is top dead center, flanked by two LEDs that indicate charging status,
alarms and WiFi status.
Windows Mobile 5.0
Microsoft's latest operating system, Windows
Mobile 5.0, offers many improvements; the most important being
persistent memory. All data and applications are stored in flash
memory which will survive a complete battery rundown. No need
to leave it on the charger when you go away for a 2 week vacation.
Just charge it up upon return and your data will still be there!
WM 5 devices still have RAM, which is volatile and faster than
flash ROM. But RAM is now used in the same way your PC uses it:
running programs are loaded into RAM and operating system files
are cached there to improve response times. You can no longer
install programs or files into RAM, only flash ROM. Since the
device need not power RAM at all times, battery life is improved
by approximately 10%.
Windows Mobile 5's improved user interface
makes some tasks a bit quicker and more intuitive and Internet
Explorer, Word Mobile and Excel Mobile are more capable. In addition,
you get a Mobile version of PowerPoint which can open and run but
not create or edit PowerPoint presentations. To learn about Windows
Mobile 5's new features in detail, read our article here.
Horsepower and Performance
The iPAQ runs on a 300 MHz Samsung SC32442 processor
that's fully ARM and XScale compatible. Though 300 MHz won't send
power hungry users to their local retailers' shelves, the Samsung
performs surprisingly well for its clock speed and the unit is responsive
for business and Internet tasks. It's adequate for gaming but not
a shining star for video playback at high bitrates.
Memory is adequate and no more. Flash ROM for storing
programs and data comes in at a healthy 35 megs out of 64 total,
but RAM (used in the same way RAM is used by your PC) is a tad low
at 32 megs. The operating system and related apps use approximately
half of that, so you're left with only 13 megs to run programs. That's
enough for the included applications such as Mobile Word, Excel and
Internet Explorer, but video playback applications and resource intensive
games may suffer. Use the Memory Settings applet to kill programs
you no longer need to keep RAM available for those apps you do need.
Like all Pocket PCs, the iPAQ rx1950 has an IR
port which is handy for IR keyboards but likely won't be useful as
an AV remote since it's standard rather than consumer grade IR and
the port is located in an unideal location (bottom curvy area). In
addition, you can use SD memory cards and SDIO cards (such as SD
networking cards) with the iPAQ.
Size comparison, top to bottom: Motorola RAZR, iPAQ rx1950 and the
HP iPAQ hx2490.
We use Spb
Benchmark to test PDAs. Windows Mobile 5.0 devices score
much lower on file system and application launch tests since
they use ROM rather than the faster RAM for storage. This greatly
reduced File System Index in turn brings down the overall Benchmark
Index, since the file system tests account for 25% of that
total score. That makes for an unfair comparison, but in the
pure sense, WM5 is slower for file system activities. Certainly,
it's worth the tradeoff, since your data is safe from battery
drain related hard resets, and the device doesn't feel seriously
slower than WM2003SE devices on file access and launch.
Now the rx1950 isn't in the speed demon category
anyway, but the performance to price ratio is good, as you'll
see from the benchmark numbers. Though WM5 devices can't compete
on Spb's raw benchmark, and the rx1950 is bested in file system
tests by the rz1715 it replaces, the numbers are good by WM5
and current Spb testing standards. When Spb releases their updated
benchmarking application which takes into account the differences
in RAM and ROM and the new file system, the playing field will
be leveled between WM2003SE and WM5 devices.
How about video playback? We threw our usual
test file at it: "The Chosen" (a neat BMW flick with
Clive Owen) which is a 4:26 minute long, 10 meg MPEG1 file recorded
at 320 x 240, 308 kb/s. We tested the rx1950 using TCPMP,
an extremely fast open source free video player that supports
MPEG1, DivX, ASF, WMV and AVI files. TCPMP played back "The
Chosen" with benchmarks of: Average speed: 296.42%
Bench Frame Rate: 71.14
Bench. Data Rate: 918 kbit/s
Orig. Frame Rate: 24fps
Orig. Data Rate: 310 kbit/s
Those numbers are reasonable, beating some
400 MHz XScale Windows Mobile 2003 devices dating two years back.
The rx1950 is capable of playing video encoded at 350 kbps smoothly
with no skipping or loss of sync, but don't throw super high
quality 900 kbps video files at it.
HP iPAQ hx2490 (520 MHz,
iPAQ rz1715 (203 MHz, WM2003SE)
HP iPAQ rx1950
Spb Benchmark index
File system index
Write 1 MB file (KB/sec)
Read 1 MB file (MB/sec)
Copy 1 MB file (KB/sec)
Write 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec)
KB x 100 files (MB/sec)
Copy 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec)
Directory list of 2000 files (thousands
Internal database read (records/sec)
Graphics test: DDB BitBlt (frames/sec)
Graphics test: DIB BitBlt (frames/sec)
Graphics test: GAPI BitBlt (frames/sec)
Pocket Word document open (KB/sec)
Pocket Internet Explorer HTML load (KB/sec)
Pocket Internet Explorer JPEG load (KB/sec)
File Explorer large folder list (files/sec)
Compress 1 MB file using ZIP (KB/sec)
Decompress 1024x768 JPEG file (KB/sec)
Arkaball frames per second (frames/sec)
CPU test: Whetstones MFLOPS (Mop/sec)
CPU test: Whetstones MOPS (Mop/sec)
CPU test: Whetstones MWIPS (Mop/sec)
test: copy 1 MB using memcpy (MB/sec)
Display, Gaming and Multimedia
HP iPAQ Pocket PCs have always had some of the
nicest displays, but this year's Windows Mobile 5 models have really
gone the extra mile and impressed us. For a "budget" PDA, the rx1950
has an extremely nice display that beats its competitors. The screen
is very bright and extremely colorful with excellent color saturation
and sharpness. Though not a video playback monster, the screen
looks so good when watching movies you just don't want to stop.
Good going, HP. Like most Pocket PCs, the rx1950 has a 3.5" transflective
color display capable of displaying 64,000 colors. Given the unit's
small size, the display in fact dominates the iPAQ's front face.
MP3 playback quality using the included Windows
Media Player Mobile 10 (with support for DRM) is very good, with
pleasing bass and no annoying background hiss, even when using
sensitive high quality headphones. The iPAQ has a standard 3.5mm
stereo headphone jack which is far superior to the built-in mono
Though not at the top of the CPU performance
list, this iPAQ is still faster than older model devices from two
years back and can handle fairly demanding games such as Tennis
Warfare Inc. and a long list of
others. Highly graphical games with large files may bog down
a bit due to the device's low RAM configuration. If you're a fan
of such games, stop other applications using the Memory applet
before playing your game.
If you wish to surf the web wirelessly at hotspots,
home or work, the rx1950 is up to the task with its integrated
802.11b WiFi. Press the dedicated WiFi button to bring up HP's
iPAQ Wireless application, a slimmed down version of that found
on other HP models. There you'll turn WiFi on and off, see current
network status, view a list of access points in range and set VPN
and proxy settings as needed. For a small budget device with little
room for a large internal antenna, we were amazed at how many networks
the rx1950 spotted. Generally our notebooks and PDAs pick up 6
in range of my home, and the rx1950 managed to find 11 (hey, it's
This little iPAQ gets good runtimes out of its
1100 mAh Lithium Ion battery. The Samsung processor is quite power
efficient, and WM5 offers some improvements over its predecessors
which means very good runtimes. With average use, the handheld
should last three days on a charge in a mixture of MS Office app
use, surfing the Net and checking email for 45 minutes/day and
some light gaming. We set the unit to loop MP3s playing through
earbud headphones with the screen off and it still had power to
spare after 8 hours.
All Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PCs come with the
operating system, Mobile Office suite including Outlook Mobile
and desktop Outlook, Windows Media Player Mobile 10, Terminal Services,
Pocket MSN (Hotmail, MSN Messenger), File Explorer, handwriting
recognition (print and cursive), Solitaire, Bubble Breaker (the
game formerly known as Jaw Breaker), Calculator, a GPS applet (driver,
not mapping or navigation software) and support for secure certificates
and VPN connections. Outlook on the PDA has calendar, contacts,
tasks, notes and email, which you can sync to a Windows desktop
running Outlook. HP adds a few of their own applications, including
HP Image Zone (image viewer), iPAQ Wireless (to manage WiFi connections),
HP's multimedia-oriented optional Today Screen with large icons
leading to music and video playback and their image viewer, Today
Panel, a handy Today Screen plugin that shows power, RAM and flash
ROM status, and also allows you to adjust backlighting.
If you're looking for an attractive, extremely
pocket-able Windows Mobile Pocket PC that won't break the bank,
the HP iPAQ rx1950 is a good choice. It looks great, the display
is lovely for viewing photos and videos and performance isn't bad.
Throw in WiFi and you've got a reasonable handheld for the networking-minded.
Pro: Very slim and
light, great looks, good controls and a fantastic color display
that's bright and colorful. CPU performance is good and it doesn't
leave you waiting to get basic business tasks done. WiFi is easy
to use and has excellent range. Battery life is strong.
Con: No software
bundle to speak off. $299 isn't a bad price for what you get, but
$250 would make it even more tempting to the budget-conscious.
TFT color LCD. 64K colors, screen size diag: 3.5".
Resolution: 240 x 320 (QVGA).
mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable battery. Battery is
MHz Samsung SC32442 processor (XScale compatible).
32 MB built-in RAM. 64 MB Flash
ROM with 35.07 megs available to the user to store
programs and data.
x 2.78 x 0.5 inches. Weight: 4.41 ounces.
in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Media Player Mobile
10 included for your MP3 and video pleasure.
Mobile 5.0 operating system. Microsoft Mobile Office
suite including Mobile versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint
(view only), Internet Explorer, and Outlook. Also,
Terminal Services, MSN Instant Messenger for Pocket
PC, Windows Media Player 10, Solitaire, Bubble Breaker
(game), Voice Recorder as well as handwriting recognition.
HP apps: iPAQ Wireless, HP Image Zone for Pocket
PC. Utilities: Self Test, iPAQ Audio, Today Panel,
Certificate Enroller. ActiveSync 4.0 and Outlook
2002 for PCs included.
SD (Secure Digital) slot supporting
SDIO and SDIO Now! Standard IR