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HP iPAQ rx3715 Pocket PC

Editor's rating (1-5):
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Review posted September 22, 2004 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

The iPAQ 3715 is at the top of the line among HP's new Fall 2004 "Digital Entertainment" line of iPAQ Pocket PCs. The iPAQ rz1715 and the rx3000 series models comprise the Digital Entertainment iPAQs, and these target consumers with a taste for multimedia and performance. HP lists three rx3000 series models in the US: 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.

All rx3000 series models have much in common, varying only in casing color, processor speed, available memory and the added camera in the case of the iPAQ rx3415 and iPAQ rx3715. You'll notice much of this review is similar to the rx3115 because many of the features, software and hardware are identical.

Features at a Glance

The iPAQ rx3715 is an excellent offering in the $500 price range. It runs Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition (SE) with native support for both portrait and landscape modes and has a fast 400MHz processor that benchmarks well. It has 56 megs of RAM and 96.5 megs of NAND memory available as the File Store, an SD slot supporting SDIO, a 1.2 megapixel digital camera, large capacity removable battery, Bluetooth and WiFi. That's a lot of features to pack into a compact device!

HP iPAQ rx3715
back of iPAQ rx3715

 

In the Box

The iPAQ rx3715 comes with a replaceable Lithium Ion battery, world charger, cradle (for syncing via USB and charging too), 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.

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 and graphite finish do much to balance the device's hard-angled design. 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 rx3715. Below: the iPAQ 6315 PPC phone, rx3115 and rx3715.

size comparisons

 

 

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 d-pad itself is small and takes some effort to press, which isn't the best thing for action gaming but works fine for other tasks.

The removable Lithium Ion battery lives under a large door on the back of the unit, as is the camera lens. 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 rx3715 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 rx3715 and all the rx3000 series models, as it should be for a multimedia-oriented device. The iPAQ is very 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.

Camera

While cell phone and PDA cameras won't compare with a standalone digital camera, the iPAQ 3715's 1.2 megapixel camera takes excellent photos by those standards. The Sony Clie models have had some of the best cameras, and this is the first I've seen that really challenges many of their offerings. Colors are often true and saturated, even in bright daylight where other PDA cameras overexpose and blow out highlights. It handles indoor lighting well, as long as the room is decently well lit. Don't expect it to take good shots outdoors at night or in dimly lit rooms, but do expect it to take nice shots in rooms with decent sunlight and in well-lit offices. See the sample photos below. These were shot at the best compression setting, 1280 x 960 resolution. You can click on an image to see the full size, unedited original.

guitar
park
sammy

 

The 1.2MP camera can take still photos up to 1280 x 960 in size, as well as lower resolution photos. You can shoot videos at 176 x 144 or 128 x 96 with audio if you like.The camera has 4x digital zoom (digital zoom basically enlarges pixels and crops the image, and is not the same as optical or lens zoom). It saves photos as JPEGs, and videos in MJPEG or H.263 (BGPP) format. Video quality is pretty decent and is best for well lit indoor environments. Audio quality was surprisingly good.

The software offers a variety of camera settings, though I found in most cases that the auto settings did a good job. As with the iPAQ 6315, the camera software works in landscape mode and uses the full screen as the viewfinder. Along the bottom of the screen you'll find a large shutter button and smaller buttons for zoom, help, movie mode/still image mode switching, and settings. Settings allow you to turn on/off camera sounds, use a self timer, control white balance (auto, sun, tungsten or fluorescent), set color (full color, b & w, sepia, negative, cool), set image quality compression (good, better, best) and even select from center-weighted or averaged AE metering.

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 rx3715 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 is powered by a 400MHz 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). A huge 96 megs of persistence NAND flash memory is available as the iPAQ File Store. The unit feels quite fast in all tasks, and 400MHz is the sweet spot for performance. I'd like to see more RAM, though the File Store will provide more than enough space for most users and will survive a hard reset. 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 good 24.03 fps. PocketMVP played "The Chosen" at 23.99 fps, and dropped 2 out of 6394 frames. The rx3715 played the Spider Man trailer file commonly found on the web (240 x 136, 452Kb/s encoded MPEG 1 file) at 23.97 fps and dropped only 3 out of 2640 frames. My own test MPEG1 file burned from a DVD at a whopping 700 Kb/s looked good in playback which is impressive since that's a high bit rate. It played back at 23.91 fps using PocketMVP and 23.95 fps using PocketTV Pro: excellent! If you've read both our rx3115 review and this one, you'll note that both units perform similarly when playing videos encoded at less than 400 k/bs. However, while 600 to 700 k/bs videos are too much for the rx3115, the rx3715 clearly handles them with aplomb.

We tested the rx3715 with a variety of current demanding games and the unit played them very well. MorphGear ran well with our favorite selection of NES games, though the d-pad isn't the most ergonomic for action games. The only game that didn't work is Metalion 2, which is one of the few apps that seems to run only on Intel ARM and XScale processors but not on ARM compatibles.

Benchmarks

We performed benchmark tests using Spb Benchmark, which has become the standard for testing Pocket PC performance. The iPAQ did well, beating out the older 400MHz iPAQ 4150 and the mid-range Dell Axim X30 312MHz model in most tests. While it won't beat units in the 500 to 600MHz range, it is plenty fast enough to suit most serious video watchers and gamers.

Battery

The iPAQ comes with a user replaceable1440 mA Lithium Ion battery, which is a relatively high capacity battery for a Pocket PC. If you need even more power, you can purchase a spare standard battery or HP's optional 2880 mA extended batteries ($69 and $129). Our unit's battery life was good for a 400MHz model (faster processors mean shorter battery life). We were able to surf the Net for an hour over WiFi, play games for an hour, take 25 photos and watch a 45 minute video without incurring a low battery warning.

 

 

 
HP iPAQ 4150 (400MHz)
Dell Axim X30 (312Mhz)
HP iPAQ rx3115
(300MHz)
HP iPAQ rx3715
Spb Benchmark index
1606
1474
1211
1545
CPU index
1814
1673
1197
1529
File system index
1171
1050
1082
1387
Graphics index
3858
3916
2372
2956
Platform index
1290
1142
1131
1422
Write 1 MB file (KB/sec)
1270
1030
1058
1422
Read 1 MB file (MB/sec)
27.1
28.6
18.8
23
Copy 1 MB file (KB/sec)
1268
1029
1041
1392
Write 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec)
919
705
796
1066
Read 10 KB x 100 files (MB/sec)
10.5
9.51
8.18
10.2
Copy 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec)
809
629
721
960
Directory list of 2000 files (thousands of files/sec)
20.9
19.8
29
37
Internal database read (records/sec)
1428
1280
1004
1329
Graphics test: DDB BitBlt (frames/sec)
271
308
313
388
Graphics test: DIB BitBlt (frames/sec)
26.9
21.4
22.1
29.8
Graphics test: GAPI BitBlt (frames/sec)
725
913
325
392
Pocket Word document open (KB/sec)
39.3
36.1
42.3
54.6
Pocket Internet Explorer HTML load (KB/sec)
8.8
6.73
7.98
10.2
Pocket Internet Explorer JPEG load (KB/sec)
228
206
169
220
File Explorer large folder list (files/sec)
592
592
619
763
Compress 1 MB file using ZIP (KB/sec)
245
230
240
312
Decompress 1024x768 JPEG file (KB/sec)
609
501
417
551
Arkaball frames per second (frames/sec)
243
262
127
158
CPU test: Whetstones MFLOPS (Mop/sec)
0.076
0.059
0.062
0.084
CPU test: Whetstones MOPS (Mop/sec)
55.4
43.2
41
55.2
CPU test: Whetstones MWIPS (Mop/sec)
5.01
3.88
4.02
5.44
Memory test: copy 1 MB using memcpy (MB/sec)
101
115
48.6
59.5

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). 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

Nevo AV remote software.

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, much 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

An excellent unit. it's compact, yet has just about every feature you could want in a PDA. The 1.2MP camera takes surprisingly good photos and decent videos with very good audio. The iPAQ has a great screen, nice multimedia software, and strong performance. If you're looking for a device in the $500 price range with a camera, the rx3715 should be on your short list, especially if you're a multimedia fan.

Pro: Excellent camera, great display, loud sound, strong performance and dual wireless. WiFi has great range and HP's Bluetooth software (Widcomm) is as always, solid and user friendly. Consumer IR, and Nevo AV remote is included in ROM— everyone loves Nevo.

Con: Could use more RAM, though the extremely large File Store area makes up for this. If you're an action gamer, the d-pad may not thrill you.

Web Site: www.hp.com

List Price: $499

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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. 1440 mA.

Performance: 400MHz Samsung S3C 2440 processor. 64 MB built-in RAM (~56 megs available). 96 megs available in File Store for your use.

Size: 4.5 x 2.8 x 0.64 in . Weight: 5.6 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.

Camera: 1.2MP, capable of taking still photos up to 1280 x 960 resolution and videos up to 176 x 144 with audio.

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

 

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