Review posted September 30, 2004 by Lisa Gade,
Editor in Chief
The iPAQ hx4700 has been one of the most
anticipated Pocket PCs of 2004.
What's the big deal about this model? It's one of the few that
offers a VGA display and it's an iPAQ, the most popular Pocket
PC brand. Beyond its gorgeous
screen, the iPAQ has the fastest processor currently available
on a PDA and features both Bluetooth and WiFi. The hx4700 runs
the Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition OS with native support
for VGA resolution and both portrait and landscape orientations.While
larger than most PDAs, it's by no means a behemoth and is quite
portable. It's a tad smaller than the Toshiba
e830, but larger than the compact ASUS
A730, ASUS A730W, and Dell
Axim X50v VGA
Pocket PCs. However, the iPAQ has a 4" LCD while the ASUS
and Dell have a 3.7" LCD,
so the iPAQ must be larger to house that display.
In the US there are three VGA Pocket PCs on the market: the
iPAQ hx4700 line, the Dell Axim X50v (should be available 11/2004)
and the ASUS A730. What about others? the Toshiba e830 is available
only in Canada and certain European countries and the Pocket
LOOX VGA unit isn't sold in the US.
The iPAQ hx4705 is the same as the hx4700. Though
HP's web site lists one more application on the hx4700 (WorldMate),
it wasn't on our hx4700. HP uses different
ending numbers to denote whether the unit was sold in the consumer
vs. corporate channel. We received the hx4700 model for review
and will use those model numbers interchangeably.
Features at a Glance
This iPAQ Pocket PC is chock full of features
and impressive specs. It has a 624MHz Intel processor, 64 megs
of RAM, 128 megs of flash memory with 80 available to the user
as the iPAQ File Store, a 4" VGA display, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
802.11b wireless networking, an SD slot and a Compact Flash card
slot. It's the first Pocket PC to have a trackpad rather than a
directional pad for navigation.
The iPAQ hx4700 uses what HP now calls the "universal
connector", not to be confused with Palm's universal connector.
It's the same connector used on the older iPAQ 3900 series models,
as well as the iPAQ
rz1715 and iPAQ
6315 Pocket PC phone. This means you can use
chargers and accessories designed for those units' sync ports with
the hx4700 models as long as drivers are available.
In the Box
The iPAQ comes with a USB sync cradle, world
charger, snap on translucent screen cover, software CD, manual
and stylus. HP had redesigned their cradle and the section that
sits directly below the PDA is removable, so you need only switch
that part to use cradle with a different iPAQ sporting the universal
connector. It doesn't have a slot to charge a spare battery, but
if you buy a spare standard or extended battery it comes with its
own charging base.
Above: the included iPAQ cradle.
Design and Ergonomics
Like other iPAQs released for the Fall of 2004, the
iPAQ hx4700 has a rectangular design that's more business like than eye
catching or sexy. It does look very modern, and with its dark slate-like
design, would fit in well in a Star Trek episode. It's finished in metallic
charcoal and has black accents on the sides, top and bottom. The unit
feels OK in hand, though the straight lines and width aren't the most
comfy for even my large hands. The unit has an integrated translucent
gray plastic flip cover that protects the screen. It mounts on the left
and is removable. The iPAQ's body is made of magnesium-alloy, so it should
The most novel thing about the iPAQ's industrial design
is its trackpad, which replaces the traditional PDA directional pad.
The trackpad is made by Synaptics, who makes many of the trackpads
used in notebooks. In fact, the trackpad has two modes, one of which
mimics the behavior of a notebook trackpad. This is called "cursor
and you can move the pointer arrow around on-screen using your finger.
When in cursor mode you can double-tap on an icon to launch a program,
tap and hold to drag items or double-tap to open a folder. If you don't
like cursor mode, you can use the Synaptics touchpad app (or press and
hold the address book button) to switch to "navigation mode" which
is the default. Navigation mode makes the trackpad behave like a traditional
d-pad, minus tactile feedback. You can tap on one of the four raised
points to move up, down, left and right. It doesn't support diagonal
movement which won't thrill action gamers, nor will the lack of tactile
feedback. While the trackpad is interesting,
it is in some ways redundant since the display itself is touch sensitive
and navigating with the stylus or finger on screen is more efficient.
The good part about the touch pad is that it won't suffer mechanical
wear as do some PDA touch pads that get soft after many months or suffer
paint wear. Also, particularly when the touch pad is in cursor mode.
you can easily navigate on-screen without having to whip out the stylus
or open the flip cover.
The four standard application buttons are designed
a bit differently too: rather than being actual raised buttons, they're
flush with the trackpad area. There are switches underneath each of these
buttons, and you will feel them click as you press down, so you do get
tactile feedback. The flush buttons may not be a gamer's first choice
but they do handily solve the problem of accidental button presses turning
on the unit or launching an app unintentionally. Speaking of this, HP
has a button lock control panel that prevents anything other than the
power button from turning on the unit when enabled.
The iPAQ is fairly thin, as you can see from this right side view.
The iPAQ hx4700 and the ASUS A730 VGA Pocket PC.
The CF and SD slots are located on the top edge of
the iPAQ, as are the standard 3.5mm headphone jack, stylus silo and
the power switch. The power switch is narrow and is flush with the body,
so you won't accidentally turn on the unit. On the left you'll find
the record button and the removable flip cover attachment point. There
are no controls or ports on the right side, and the sync port and battery
release latches are located on the bottom edge. The removable battery
lives under a door on the rear, while the speaker is located in the black
plastic cap above the screen and the mic is located on the front right
face below the screen. Oddly, the IR port is located on the bottom edge.
The three LEDs on the top left indicate wireless radio status, charging
status and alarm reminders.
VGA Display and Sound
The iPAQ has a VGA
640 x 480 resolution display, while standard QVGA Pocket PCs have QVGA
(quarter VGA) 240 x 320 resolution displays. That means you'll see
more on screen, but not four times more, even though
VGA is four times higher resolution that QVGA. Why? Microsoft's implementation
of VGA is designed to make the display very attractive and readable
rather than cram true VGA into a small screen. That means
those with good or poor eyes can use a VGA Pocket PC, but if you were
hoping to see four times more on your screen, you'll be disappointed.
Note that this is true of all VGA Pocket PCs running Windows Mobile
2003 Second Edition, and is not hx4700 specific. If you do have a hankering
for true VGA and have excellent eyes, you can download the free SE_VGA
utility which allows you to run a VGA Pocket PC in standard Microsoft
VGA mode, true VGA or QVGA. However, unless you have excellent eyes,
you'll discover why Microsoft didn't go with a true VGA experience:
even on a 4" display, it's not easy to see things or read text.
Do check out Tweaks2K and the hack listed
site to get individual apps running in true VGA mode. That way
you can run the device in normal (and readable) standard MS VGA mode,
but have certain apps such as Adobe Acrobat Reader, NetFront
ebook readers running in true VGA mode.
Below are screen shots of Pocket
Internet Explorer on the Dell X30 (QVGA), iPAQ in standard Microsoft
VGA mode and the iPAQ using SE_VGA.
Dell Axim X30, QVGA display, font size set to small
iPAQ: Standard VGA view, font size
set to medium in IE.
iPAQ running SE_VGA utility
The display is absolutely gorgeous: color
saturated, contrasty and sharp. It's one of the best and one of the most
vivid I've seen on a PDA and is the most color accurate. It has
an automatic brightness feature which adjusts backlight based on ambient
light, and you can also set brightness manually. The display has a slight
blue color bias and is bright, though not exceptionally so. Unlike the
first iPAQs with auto brightness adjustment such as the 3900 models,
auto brightness isn't overly twitchy and won't drive you crazy.
Screen control panel allows you to rotate the display on the
fly from portrait to right handed landscape or left handed landscape.
You can also press and hold the Calendar button to change screen orientation.
There is a small delay on all VGA Pocket PCs when switching from portrait
to landscape, and the iPAQ is no exception. You can also set the text
to one of five sizes. Great stuff: those of us who are fond of tiny
fonts and have great eyes can have our way, as can those who need larger
When running applications that
aren't written for VGA, the OS uses pixel doubling to stretch QVGA
screens to fill the entire display. Microsoft did an excellent job,
and pixel doubled apps looked sharp and ran well. When
it comes to games and other applications, keep
in mind that you won't see more stuff on screen when gaming, but rather
will see the same stuff you'd see on a QVGA device unless the developer
has released a VGA version with enhanced graphics. Games will run in the
orientations and resolutions they're coded to support, and the operating
system's resolution and screen orientation setting won't make a game run
in true VGA or landscape unless it was written to do so.
How is graphics performance? You can take a look at
our benchmarks below to see the actual numbers. Note that VGA devices
have to do four times the work of a QVGA model, so VGA devices don't
benchmark as high in graphics tests. That doesn't mean they're slow.
The iPAQ is fast at screen re-draws and does very well playing back video.
Like all Pocket PCs, the iPAQ can play MP3s and other
audio through its built in speaker or through stereo headphones attached
to the 3.5mm headphone jack. The jack is dual purpose offering
stereo audio out and mono mic input. We tested it with a 3.5mm stereo
earbud headset with mic (3 ring) and it worked for stereo playback as
well as voice recording. In fact, sound recordings using the headset
mic sounded much better than those recorded through the iPAQ's own mic.
The iPAQ comes with the pocket version of Windows Media Player 9 which
can play MP3s and Windows Media format movies (ASF and WMV). If you'd
like to watch movies in other formats such as MPEG1, AVI and DivX, 3rd
party apps are available. And of course there are several MP3 players,
some of which are reviewed here.
Horsepower and Performance
The iPAQ runs on the Intel Bulverde PXA270 processor
at 624MHz, which is currently the fastest processor found in a PDA. It
has 64 megs of RAM with 55 available to the user and a huge 128 megs
of flash ROM with 80 megs available as the iPAQ File Store for your use.
While flash ROM is slower than RAM, it will survive a hard reset and
complete battery drain, which is why it's called persistent or non-volatile
storage. There's more than one kind of flash ROM too: NAND, which is
about as fast as an SD card and is used on most PDAs, and Intel StrataFlash
which is a bit faster than NAND but still slower than RAM (SDRAM). HP
says that the iPAQ hx4700 line uses the faster StrataFlash memory. FileStore
speeds are still quite good and make the perfect home for your apps and
data, especially important data that need survive a hard reset.
The iPAQ hx4700 has both SD and Compact Flash (CF)
slots, and CF slots are harder to come by in recent years as the price
of SD media drops and PDAs get too small to house that slot. The SD slot
supports SDIO and SDIO Now!, and the CF slot works with both type I and
type II cards. The CF slot opens up networking options so you can use
CF 56k dial up modems, cellular wireless cards like the Sprint
2031CF and wired
Ethernet cards which aren't available in SD format. In addition, while
SD memory cards are generally available up to 1 gig capacity, you can
get CF cards up to 4 gigs.
We use Spb
Benchmark to test PDAs. You can see that the iPAQ does
very well on benchmark performance and is faster than the Dell Axim
X30 also running at 624MHz on the same processor. However, the Dell
gets the overall higher benchmark index score thanks to its faster
graphics numbers. Why is the Dell faster at graphics? Because it's
driving a lower resolution QVGA display while the iPAQ is running
at VGA which requires more processing power and video memory.
How does the unit feel? Very fast! Whether using
PIM apps, editing a Pocket Word document, playing videos or gaming,
the unit is very responsive. If you're a power user, you should be
pleased with this PDA.
Video Playback and Gaming
Video playback is a dream on this unit. The 4"
VGA display is absolutely wonderful for watching videos stretched
to full screen. Once you try the iPAQ, you won't want to go back
to video on a QVGA Pocket PC. We tested the unit with PocketTV
Enterprise and BetaPlayer, two excellent video applications
which have optimizations for the iPAQ's ATI graphics processor, as
well as the built-in Pocket version of Windows Media Player 9.
plays MPEG1 files and we threw our usual test files at it: "The
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. PocketTV played
the file at 23.98 fps with smooth video and perfectly synced audio.
We tested the Spider Man trailer file commonly found
on the web (240 x 136, 452Kb/s encoded MPEG 1 file) at 23.97 fps.
an extremely fast open source free video player that supports MPEG1,
DivX and AVI files. It has similarities to PocketMVP, another free
open source player. But PocketMVP doesn't run well on the VGA iPAQ
and BetaPlayer did an awesome job. BetaPlayer played back "The
Chosen" with impressive benchmarks of:
Average speed: 672.56%
Bench Frame Rate: 161.41
Bench. Data Rate: 2.1 Mbit/s
Orig. Frame Rate: 24fps
Orig. Data Rate: 310 kbit/s
For the ultimate test, we tried our 700
k/bs encoded MPEG1 files on the iPAQ in full screen mode and
they played back smoothly at near a perfect 24fps. These same files
overwhelm many PDAs, but gave the hx4700 no problems. Excellent!
It certainly equals the new Creative Zen Windows Portable Media
Center in video playback while offering all the PDAs features
we know and love.
Both the iPAQ's gorgeous display and video benchmarks
beat out the Dell Axim X50v VGA Pocket PC with
Intel's 2700G graphics processor. The iPAQ has an ATI Imageon 3220
graphics chip, and these players have ATI optimizations which may
help the iPAQ get the best numbers, along with HP's excellent video
Most recent games ran fine on the iPAQ. Again,
if the games weren't designed for VGA mode, they will run in QVGA
mode stretched to fill the entire screen using pixel doubling. Despite
the stretching, games like most apps look quite good.
Directory list of 2000 files (thousands of
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)
copy 1 MB using memcpy (MB/sec)
All Fall 2004 iPAQs (rx3000 series, hx4700
and the 6315) except the entry level iPAQ rz1715 have both WiFi
and Bluetooth wireless networking. All use HP's new iPAQ Wireless
as your one stop application for managing these wireless radios
and their connections. The large round buttons turn each wireless
radio on and off, and the other buttons allow you to manage each
wireless connection's settings.
The iPAQ hx4700 has built-in WiFi 802.11b wireless
Ethernet networking. It has very good range even though it doesn't
have an external antenna. The iPAQ uses the Windows Mobile Connection
Manager (a part of the OS) to manage wireless connections, and
the device supports 64 and 128 bit WEP encryption, WPA, 802.1x
using PEAP, SmartCard or Certificates. It comes with the Windows
Mobile Certificates applet for managing certificates. The connection
worked reliably for us when connecting to access points (with
and without WEP).
The iPAQ has HP's Bluetooth Wizard (Widcomm
1.5.0 software) which has been our favorite for a few years since
it's intuitive and easy to use. It walks you through connecting
to a variety of devices, from your ActiveSync partner (if you
have a USB Bluetooth adapter installed on your PC), to mobile
phones to access points and GPS units. It even supports Bluetooth
headsets using headset and handsfree profiles. You can ActiveSync
wirelessly, connect to Bluetooth access points for Internet access,
and transfer files to other Bluetooth enabled Pocket PCs and
phones. The software is reliable and played nicely with a variety
of Bluetooth devices. HP includes their new BT Phone Manager
which makes it even easier to connect to a Bluetooth enabled
cell phone for Internet access. The app walks you through getting
connected to your phone and has many pre-sets for various carriers
so you don't have to enter the dial string yourself. It has a
window that mimics an LCD screen which tells you the connection
status, call duration and amount of data transferred in a session.
Nice! HP includes a desktop app that goes over the Net to find
updates for new phones and carrier connection settings. These
updates can be downloaded to the PDA when you sync. Note that
you may have to do some tweaking: I used a Nokia
N-Gage QD as
my wireless modem via T-Mobile and the dialing string wasn't
correct for my particular T-Mobile GPRS package. To be fair,
T-Mobile has three different strings for three different GPRS
Internet packages, so the software wouldn't have any idea which
was right for me.
The iPAQ Wireless application where you can turn wireless radios
on/off and manage those connections.
The iPAQ comes with a nice software bundle, and
much of it is in ROM so you won't use precious storage space installing
software from the CD. Permanently installed in ROM are Ilium Software's
Dockware ( a screen saver with calendar and photographic backgrounds),
Westtek's ClearVue PowerPoint and PDF viewers, Bluetooth Phone
Manager, HP Image Zone (image viewer and slide show app), HP Mobile
Printing which allows you to print via network or Bluetooth to
most printers, iPAQ Backup (Sprite Backup 3.02), TodayPanel Lite
and Pocket Informant 5. Pocket Informant
should be a big hit as a bundled item because it's one of the best
and most popular PIM replacement suites on the market. PI manages
your contacts, calendar, tasks and more. On the CD you'll find
the ClearVue apps for viewed Word and Excel documents as well as
many trial versions of other applications.
Like all Pocket PCs running the Windows Mobile
OS, the hx4700 models come with Pocket versions of Internet Explorer,
Outlook (supporting POP3 and IMAP mail), Word, Excel, Terminal
Services, MSN Messenger, Pictures, Solitaire, Jawbreaker, Voice
Recorder, handwriting recognition, a calculator and clock.
The iPAQ comes with an 1800 mAh user replaceable
Lithium Ion battery. That's a large capacity battery and the hx4700
needs it to power that fast processor, large display and wireless
radios. If you need more power on the go, you can remove the battery
and pop in a spare. HP sells both standard and extended batteries
which come with their own charging base. The extended battery doubles
power to 3600 mAh and is thicker so it will stick out the back
rather than sitting flush like the standard battery.
The hx4700 has very good runtimes for
a Pocket PC, giving 4.5 hours of actual use with the backlight
set at 66% in a mix of tasks: PIM access, working with Pocket Word
and Excel documents, viewing photos, watching 30 minutes of videos,
using Bluetooth with a Nokia N-Gage QD to access email over GPRS
for 30 minutes, and surfing the web using WiFi for an hour. We
did not turn on the WiFi and Bluetooth radios unless we needed
them for this test. If you do leave WiFi on all the time, expect
shorter runtimes. Bluetooth also consumes power, but not as much
as WiFi. In our movie test, the iPAQ played a 1 hour 20 minute
movie from a 1 gig CF card using BetaPlayer with brightness set
to 66% and sound out through stereo earbud headphones and used
only 35% of the battery which is quite good. Standby times were
very impressive for a Pocket PC, with the iPAQ losing 4% charge
per day (standby means the unit is not used at all).
Battle of the Big Screens: Comparing the hx4700
and ASUS A730
These are the first two VGA Pocket PCs released
in the US for Fall 2004. Those of you with a hankering for VGA
will doubtless consider both models. The iPAQ is a bit faster at
624MHz vs. 520MHz (both use the Bulverde Intel PXA270 processor).
While both have nearly the same amount of RAM, the iPAQ offers
a great deal more flash ROM for storage. The iPAQ has a larger
screen at 4" vs. 3.7", but the drawback is that the larger
display uses more power and makes for a significantly larger unit.
In fact, as you can see from our comparison photo above, the ASUS
is small next to the iPAQ and it has a more curvy style reminiscent
of the popular last generation iPAQ 4155 and 1945 models.
Both models have CF and SD slots, but only the iPAQ has an audio
jack that can accept a mic input. The ASUS has a 1.3 megapixel
camera while the HP has no camera (you'll have to buy HP's optional
SD PhotoSmart 1.2 megapixel camera separately). The ASUS has Bluetooth,
but unlike the HP, it lacks WiFi. ASUS released the A730W in
late Dec. 2004 which adds WiFi and has 128 megs of RAM for US
$569. Dell released their Axim X50v after the iPAQ came out, and
that's also a nice VGA model to consider for US $499. It has dual
slots, a 624MHz processor, dual wireless and dual slots. It sports
a nifty graphics processor that's unfortunately too ahead of its
time, yielding poor performance with current Pocket PC apps that
use GAPI but exceling in Open GL tasks (Open GL apps are hard
to come by). For many shoppers, the decision will come down to
size with the ASUS A730 and Dell X50v clearly winning, display
size (iPAQ wins) and the strong HP brand name. Finally price
is a differentiator with the ASUS A730 and Axim X50v costing $150
less in the US.
Certainly a lovely Pocket PC that will have power
users, video buffs and those who want to view photos jumping for
joy. At $649, this is the most expensive Pocket PC on the market,
but it does bring a lot of features to the table. It has the fastest
processor currently available on a PDA, a heap of memory, Bluetooth,
WiFi, a large battery that's user replaceable and dual slots.
Pro: Fast! Lots
of memory, good software bundle, WiFi, Bluetooth that is friendly
and supports many profiles, high capacity battery, gorgeous display,
VGA resolution, integrated flip cover. Uses the same sync port
as many prior and contemporary iPAQs, which means you have a good
selection of accessories to choose from.
Con: The most expensive
Pocket PC, touchpad is interesting but I'm not sure it adds to
usability and gamers won't like it. The largest Pocket PC on the
market, means it won't tuck easily into your pants pocket. This
isn't HP's fault but rather was Microsoft's decision: VGA is more
like 1/2 VGA, offering something in between QVGA and true VGA.
A free hack called SE_VGA will let you run the iPAQ in true VGA
mode and many apps work in this mode. However, unless you have
excellent eyes, you'll discover why Microsoft didn't go with a
true VGA experience: even on a 4" display, it's not easy to
see things or read text.
TFT color LCD, 64K colors, Screen Size Diag: 4 ",
Resolution: 640 x 480. ATI Imageon 3220 graphics
Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable.
1800 mA. 3600 mA extended battery available for purchase.
XScale PXA 270 Bulverde processor running at 624MHz.
64 MB built-in RAM (55 megs available). 128MB Intel
StrataFlash ROM, with 80 megs available in
File Store for your use.
x 3.03 x .59 inches. Weight: 6.6 oz (without screen cover).
in speaker, mic and 3.5mm stereo 3 ring headphone
jack (left and right audio out and mono mic in).
Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player 9
included for your MP3 pleasure.
WiFi 802.11b (also supporting LEAP and WPA) and Bluetooth
Second Edition Premium operating system. Microsoft
Pocket Office suite including Pocket Word, Excel,
Internet Explorer, and Outlook. Also, Terminal Services,
MSN Instant Messenger for Pocket PC, VPN client,
Pictures and Voice Recorder as well as handwriting
recognition. HP software: Bluetooth Manager, HP Mobile
Printing (print to network and Bluetooth printers
without any additional software), HP ProtectTools
(by Credant), iTask
Task Switcher, iPAQ Wireless (utility to manage wireless
connections), iPAQ Backup: utility for Backup/Restore
to Main Memory, Memory Card or iPAQ File Store (Sprite
Backup), HP Image Zone for Pocket PC (application
to view and print pictures and create slide shows),
iPAQ Audio (set audio EQ for headphone output and
mic gain). 3rd party
software: Westtek ClearVue Suite (PowerPoint, Word,
Excel and PDF viewers), Dockware, Pocket Informant
5, Flash Player for Pocket PC, Adobe Acrobat for
Pocket PC and TodayPanel Lite. ActiveSync 3.7 and
Outlook 2002 for PCs included.
SD (Secure Digital) slot, 4 bit data bus, supporting
SDIO and SDIO Now!. 1 Compact Flash type
II slot. Can NOT use iPAQ expansion sleeves.