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HP iPAQ rx3115 Pocket PC

Editor's rating (1-5):
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Review posted September 18, 2004 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

With its Fall 2004 Pocket PCs, HP has differentiated their iPAQs into three product lines, Digital Entertainment iPAQs, Classic Performance iPAQs and the iPAQ 6315 Pocket PC phone. The iPAQ rz1715 and the rx3000 series models comprise the Digital Entertainment iPAQs, and these target consumers. Here in the US, there are three models, the rx3115, rx4314 and rx3715. Though the rx3415 appears only in HP's US specs pages and not on their main site so we're not sure if it will be available here. The camera-less rx3115 seems to target the US market and hasn't been announced for Europe or Asia, likely because of US corporate rules about cameras in the workplace and even public schools.

The rx3115 is a very good unit for the money, offering strong performance, Bluetooth, WiFi and the ever-popular Nevo AV remote. In fact, all the Fall 2004 iPAQs except the rz1715 have both WiFi and Bluetooth. Like the rz1715, it sports HP's new and not very sexy design, but unlike the rz1715, the 3115 does offer a nice set of features for the price. At $70 more than the entry level rz1715, the rx3115 brings a lot to the table, adding a faster processor, Bluetooth, WiFi, more RAM, a user replaceable battery and Nevo. If you can spare the change, the rx3115 is definitely the better buy.

HP iPAQ rx3115
back of iPAQ rx3115

 

In the Box

The iPAQ rx3115 comes with a replaceable Lithium Ion battery, world charger, USB sync cable (not cradle), stylus, earbud headphones, case, software CD and several manuals including a thick "Special Features of the rx3000 series" manual which covers the bundled multimedia software in depth.

Features at a Glance

The iPAQ rx3115 is a compact device that has a 3.5" QVGA transflective display, an SD slot supporting SDIO, WiFi, Bluetooth and consumer grade IR. It runs Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition (SE) with native support for both portrait and landscape modes, has a 300MHz processor and ~56 megs of total available memory. Unlike its bigger rx brothers, the 3415 and 3715, it doesn't have a digital camera.

Design and Ergonomics

While the rx series doesn't have the style and curvy good looks of the last generation iPAQ 1945 and 4150 models, it isn't bad looking either. It's thicker than the rz1715 and the wider, shiny black side insets do much to balance the device's angular silver and black front face. The unit is compact for a Pocket PC, and as you can see from our comparison photo, it's one of the smallest Pocket PCs. All rx3000 models use the same casing and are the same size, they vary only in color.

size comparison
Above: the palmOne Tungsten T3, ASUS A716, Dell Axim X30 and the iPAQ

 

 

Deals and Shopping

 

 

 

 

 

 

The device has a clean design, and the only button you'll find on the sides is the record button on the upper left. The SD slot is located on top as are the IR window, power button, headphone jack and stylus. On the front you'll find an LED that indicates wireless radio status and another for charging status and reminders. The iPAQ has a 5-way directional pad flanked by two buttons on each side. By default, these buttons launch, from left to right: iPAQ Mobile Media, HP Image Zone, Nevo AV remote and iTask. On most other Pocket PCs, these buttons launch the PIM apps, but since this is a multimedia oriented device, HP went with their multimedia apps. As with all Windows Mobile devices, you can re-map the buttons to launch any application you wish, and as with all 2003 SE devices, you can specify which applications are launched when the buttons are pressed and held for a second or two.

The removable Lithium Ion battery lives under a large door on the back of the unit, and the (loud) speaker seems to be located under the d-pad. As you'd expect, the sync connector is on the bottom edge, and it's the same connector as the iPAQ 3000, 5000, 2200 and 6315 models. For example, my iPAQ 5555 charger works with the rx3115 as does my iPAQ 6315 cradle. HP now refers to this as the universal connector, but don't confuse it with palmOne's universal connector, because they are different!

Display and Sound

The rx3000 series iPAQs use the same display and it's very bright, colorful and sharp. It has a neutral color bias and is perfect for viewing photos and watching movies. It has a 3.5" QVGA (240 x 320) transflective display, which are standard specs for Pocket PCs.

Sound is great on the rx3115 and all the rx3000 series models, as it should be for a multimedia-oriented device. The iPAQ is quite loud and you'll be able to hear movies, alarms and music in rooms with average or a bit higher than average noise levels. Like all Pocket PCs, the iPAQ has a standard 3.5mm stereo headphone jack, and unlike all, the unit comes with a set of earbud headphones. Sound quality is excellent through headphones and the volume is plenty loud. The iPAQ Audio control panel allows you to control headphone treble and bass as well as set microphone AGC (automatic gain control). All Pocket PCs have a mic and voice recorder, and the iPAQ is no exception.

WiFi

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 rx3115 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, 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) and worked seamlessly with iPAQ Mobile Media.

Bluetooth

The iPAQ uses HP's Bluetooth Wizard which is powerful and user-friendly. 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 doesn't support Bluetooth headsets). The Bluetooth software is made by Widcomm and is version 1.5.0. I ActiveSync-ed wirelessly, connected to Belkin and Red-M Bluetooth access points for Internet access and transferred files to other Bluetooth enabled Pocket PCs.

screen shot

iPAQ Wireless is where you'll manage your WiFi and Bluetooth radios and connections.

Horsepower and Performance

The iPAQ runs a 300MHz Samsung S3C 2440 processor and has 56.66 megs of RAM available (about 10 megs of that is used by the OS and at least another 9 must be allocated to running programs). 3.91 megs of persistence NAND flash memory is available as the iPAQ File Store. The unit feels fast and responsive in all tasks, and should satisfy most users. I'd like to see more RAM, but the unit is positioned at the bottom of mid-level Pocket PCs and more RAM would perhaps raise the price. The Samsung processor is ARM and XScale compatible so existing Pocket PC software will run fine.

How about video playback? Using the bundled PocketTV Pro to play "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, the iPAQ managed a respectable 24.96 fps. PocketMVP played "The Chosen" at 23.98 fps, and dropped 5 out of 6394 frames. The rx3115 played the Spider Man trailer file commonly found on the web (240 x 136, 452Kb/s encoded MPEG 1 file) at 23.98 fps and dropped only 2 out of 2640 frames. My own test MPEG1 file burned from a DVD at a whopping 700 Kb/s looked OK in playback with some occasional stuttering, which is good for a Pocket PC below 400MHz. It played back at 16.88 fps using PocketMVP and 23.6 fps using PocketTV Pro. If you want to play videos encoded at very high bitrates, consider the iPAQ rx3715 which handles that task well.

Gaming is also pleasant on the device and most all of the current popular games we tested ran well. If you're into emulators, you will likely want the fastest device you can afford, but if you're a casual to moderate gamer, the 3115 is adequate.

Benchmarks

We performed benchmark tests using Spb Benchmark, which has become the standard for testing Pocket PC performance. The iPAQ did well for a 300MHz device, but surprisingly didn't post great improvements over the 266MHz iPAQ 1945, HP's older intro level model running Windows Mobile 2003.Of course, the iPAQ rx3715, being a 400MHz device, did the best overall. The 3115 holds its own against the 312MHz Dell Axim X30, which also sports dual-wireless and a compact form factor. The Dell lacks HP's multimedia software bundle, so if you're into MP3s and video and like the sound of the software described below, do consider this iPAQ.

Battery

The iPAQ comes with a user replaceable 920 mA Lithium Ion battery. That's an average size battery that should make it a few days on a charge. If you're a serious WiFi or Bluetooth user, or watch a lot of movies, you might want to consider the iPAQ 3715 which has a 1,440 mA battery or HP's optional 1,440 or 2,880 mA extended batteries ($69 and $129).

 

 
HP iPAQ 1945 (2003, 4266MHz)
Dell Axim X30 312Mhz
HP iPAQ rz1715
(203MHz)
HP iPAQ rx3715
(400MHz)
HP iPAQ rx3115
Spb Benchmark index
1335
1474
1031
1545
1211
CPU index
1307
1673
1010
1529
1197
File system index
1184
1050
945
1387
1082
Graphics index
2774
3916
1783
2956
2372
Platform index
1291
1142
960
1422
1131
Write 1 MB file (KB/sec)
993
1030
755
1422
1058
Read 1 MB file (MB/sec)
22.7
28.6
19.2
23
18.8
Copy 1 MB file (KB/sec)
993
1029
746
1392
1041
Write 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec)
785
705
586
1066
796
Read 10 KB x 100 files (MB/sec)
9.65
9.51
7.98
10.2
8.18
Copy 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec)
748
629
560
960
721
Directory list of 2000 files (thousands of files/sec)
33.3
19.8
27.4
37
29
Internal database read (records/sec)
1024
1280
835
1329
1004
Graphics test: DDB BitBlt (frames/sec)
407
308
238
388
313
Graphics test: DIB BitBlt (frames/sec)
20.4
21.4
13.5
29.8
22.1
Graphics test: GAPI BitBlt (frames/sec)
427
913
272
392
325
Pocket Word document open (KB/sec)
48.1
36.1
92.5
54.6
42.3
Pocket Internet Explorer HTML load (KB/sec)
9.76
6.73
4.82
10.2
7.98
Pocket Internet Explorer JPEG load (KB/sec)
187
206
71
220
169
File Explorer large folder list (files/sec)
715
592
568
763
619
Compress 1 MB file using ZIP (KB/sec)
268
230
207
312
240
Decompress 1024x768 JPEG file (KB/sec)
393
501
297
551
417
Arkaball frames per second (frames/sec)
157
262
112
158
127
CPU test: Whetstones MFLOPS (Mop/sec)
0.057
0.059
0.043
0.084
0.062
CPU test: Whetstones MOPS (Mop/sec)
37.2
43.2
28
55.2
41
CPU test: Whetstones MWIPS (Mop/sec)
3.66
3.88
2.76
5.44
4.02
Memory test: copy 1 MB using memcpy (MB/sec)
49.6
115
50
59.5
48.6

Software Bundle

The rx3000 series comes with generous compliment of multimedia software. You get HP Image Zone, comprised of a desktop app and a Pocket PC app that allows you to view, edit and send photos via email, HP Instant Share E-Mail and IR. HP Image Transfer is for automatic transfer of photos and video from your HP iPAQ to your PC using ActiveSync. It works with any ActiveSync method (USB, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi). It's really intended for rx models with digital cameras, but HP bundles it with the rx3115 as well. Of course, you get the "iPAQ Entertainment" Today Screen plugin which replaces the standard Today Screen view with large buttons for Mobile Media, Photos and Home Control (Nevo AV Remote). This is HP's new standard for their multimedia units, but you can uncheck it from your Today Screen settings if you wish to use the regular Today Screen. It's great if you mainly use the iPAQ for these multimedia apps, but likely most of us will also use the core Pocket PC functions and want quick access to calendar, tasks and other handy Today Screen info. HP's iTask, a nice task switcher, is also included. HP's iPAQ Backup (a re-branded version of the excellent Sprite Backup 3.0) is included in ROM and will backup either your PIM info or all iPAQ data to an SD card. The HP Mobile Printing app is included in ROM too, and this will allow you to print to a Bluetooth, IR or networked printer. 3rd party software includes the excellent PocketTV Pro MPEG1 movie player which is installed in ROM, as is Ilium Software's Dockware, which functions like a screen saver and displays photos and a calendar when the iPAQ is turned on but you're not using it.

ActiveSync 3.7.1 for the desktop is included, as is Outlook 2002. All Windows Mobile devices use ActiveSync to sync to desktops and sync PIM data to and from Outlook. If you have a newer version of Outlook, you can use that instead of the version included on the CD.

screen shot

HP Image Zone

iPAQ Mobile Media Player and Nevo Software

HP's iPAQ Mobile Media (powered by Nevo) allows you to listen to MP3s, view photos and watch videos stored on the Pocket PC. It supports Windows Media format video files (.WMV), MP3s and images (JPEG, BMP, GIF, PNG and local TIFF files). The Windows XP-only desktop apps, NevoMedia Player and Server, work with iPAQ Mobile Media on the Pocket PC to allow you to manage and play music, pictures, and video through your wireless home network— very cool. You can also wirelessly transfer your digital music, photos, and videos from your networked PC(s) running NevoMedia Server to your iPAQ and take them with you. The iPAQ app has a Media Control function that allows you to control movie, photo and music playback on any Windows XP machine running the player app on your network. You can also stream movies to the Pocket PC and view photos stored on a machine running the server.

All worked well when we used the iPAQ to control music, image and video playback on a networked PC running Windows XP Pro, and we were able to copy multimedia files from the PC running the server to the iPAQ. However the iPAQ player won't play MP3s via a streaming connection (yuck), and won't play Windows Media movies streamed from the server if they have any form of copy protection. Playing non-copy protected content via streaming media, we got sound but no video. The manual says that streamed WMV files must be formatted specifically for the iPAQ in order to playback, but gives no information on what that means exactly. The same movies do play fine when stored locally on the iPAQ. A shame, if this unit could stream MP3s and all WMV files of 320 x 240 size or less, it would be much cooler.

Last but not least, there's the ever-popular Nevo AV remote, which keeps getting better. Nevo is a powerful AV remote app that will allow you to control pretty much every piece of home AV equipment on the market. It controls TVs, VCRs, DVDs, CDs, amps, tuners, cable boxes, satellite dishes and more. The list of supported brands is amazing, and the interface is unique yet very intuitive. You can set up multiple rooms and switch among them, so you can control your living room AV gear, bedroom stereo and TV, and so on.

Comparing the rx3115 and rx3715

Both units have the same physical design and casing. In fact, they look identical other than the color (the 3115 is silver while the 3715 is graphite). They use the same display, offer the same multimedia features and have the same sound quality and overall volume. How do they differ? The 3715 adds a 1.2 megapixel digital camera, more File Store memory and a 400MHz Samsung processor while the 3115 has a 300MHz Samsung processor. The rx3715 sells for US $499, while the rx3115 is $349.

Conclusion

A very nice Pocket PC at a good price. If you're looking for an entry to mid-level PDA with a great screen, nice multimedia software, and good performance, do consider the rx3115. The Nevo AV remote and consumer IR are a big plus and the dual wireless will help keep you connected. If you have a hankering for a camera, also consider the iPAQ rx3715.

Pro: Great display, excellent sound, good performance and dual wireless. WiFi has great range and HP's Bluetooth software (Widcomm) is as always, solid and user friendly.

Con: Could use more RAM, though you can use storage cards to expand the unit. Battery capacity is a bit lower than we like, though you can buy additional higher capacity batteries.

Web Site: www.hp.com

List Price: $349

Comparison Shopping: Where to Buy

 

Specs:

Display: Transflective TFT color LCD, 64K colors. Screen Size Diag: 3.5", resolution: 240 x 320.

Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. 920 mA.

Performance: 300MHz Samsung S3C 2440 processor. 64 MB built-in RAM (~56 megs available). 3.91 megs available in File Store for your use.

Size: 4.5 x 2.8 x 0.64 in . Weight: 5.1 oz.

Audio: Built in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player 9 included for your MP3 pleasure.

Networking: Integrated WiFi 802.11b and Bluetooth 1.1.

Software: Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition Professional operating system. Microsoft Pocket Office suite including Pocket Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, and Outlook. Also, MSN Instant Messenger for Pocket PC, MS Voice Recorder as well as handwriting recognition. 3rd party and HP software: iPAQ Wireless, Bluetooth Manager, HP Mobile Printing, iPAQ Entertainment (custom Today Screen plug-in with shortcuts to digital imaging and entertainment applications), iPAQ Mobile Media, Nevo Universal Remote, Pocket TV Pro, iPAQ Backup, HP Image Zone for iPAQs, Ilium Dockware Personal Edition. ActiveSync 3.7.1 and Outlook 2002 for PCs included.

Expansion: 1 SD (Secure Digital) supporting SDIO and SDIO Now!. Can NOT use iPAQ expansion sleeves.

In the Box: AC adapter, USB sync cable, stylus, carrying case, stereo earbud headphones, manuals and software CD.

 

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