Review posted Oct. 1, 2005 by Lisa Gade,
Editor in Chief
If you feel like you've seen the HP iPAQ
2490 (or 2190 and 2790) before, that's because you have. Mostly.
Like Dell and their X51 series,
HP's first Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PCs use the same hardware
as previous models with more flash memory and the new OS added.
To be fair, their
entry level iPAQ rx1950, released at the same time as the revised
hx2000 series models, does sport a new design, and I'm sure we'll
see more new designs in the coming months. That said, the adage don't
mess with it if it ain't broke holds
true with the hx2000 series. These are some of the best Pocket
PCs on the market, offering great performance, dual wireless,
excellent displays and durable designs (see our review
of the hx2750). While the original hx2000 series models were
pricey: since they targeted the corporate market, the new line
is more reasonably priced.
The hx2490 is HP's mid-range hx2000 model
running Windows Mobile 5. It offers a lot of bang for the buck:
a 520 MHz processor, plenty of flash ROM for program and file
storage, WiFi, Bluetooth, an SD slot and a CF type II slot. Despite
the plentiful features, the iPAQ is reasonably compact. It hit
the market with a $399 US list price, while the iPAQ hx2790 (624 MHz,
more flash memory and biometric fingerprint scanner added) lists
for $499 and the 312 MHz 2190 sells for $349. In the box you'll find
the PDA, stylus, removable flip cover, printed guide, software
CD, world charger and a cradle.
Design and Ergonomics
The flip cover is here to stay on the hx2000
series, and that's a good thing since it protects the most vulnerable
part of the PDA: the screen.The hx2000 series use a hard plastic
translucent flip cover that's mounted up top and thankfully stays
up when opened. Simply excellent. Should you still prefer a case
over the flip cover, you can easily remove the flip. You may find
that you can carry your iPAQ naked thanks to the flip, sturdy casing
and the serious rubber side grips. Unlike the old iPAQ
2215 whose grips
had a tendency to unglue and looked a bit like an afterthought,
the hx2490's are well-integrated into the body and wrap around
the top and bottom a bit. They provide side cushioning against
drops and help the device stay in hand. The grips and sturdy casing
give this mid-sized Pocket PC a ruggedized look.
Speaking of looks, the hx2000 models looks like no
other Pocket PC. The device gets a bit chubby in the middle, with curvy
good looks reminiscent of the Nokia 6600 Series 60 smartphone. The hx2490
feels very good in hand thanks to the curves and rubberized sides-- definitely
an ergonomic PDA. Is this an attractive Pocket PC? The decision is yours.
The metallic charcoal finish and the black grips and accents give the
unit a staid and modern look that will be at home in office environments.
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 hx2490
and hx2495 are the same, but HP uses the final digit to track
retail vs. corporate channel sales.
The power button lives on the top right, above the
display, and two LEDs that indicate wireless status, charging status
and alarms are on the left. The flip cover curves below this area so
the LEDs are unobscured and you can turn the unit off and on when the
cover is closed. The cover is translucent, so you'll be able to read
the extremely bright display even with the flip down. The SD and CF slots
are located on the top as are the IR (standard, not consumer) port and
the standard stereo 3.5mm headphone jack. The top is finished in gloss
plastic and the unit comes with matching removable protective plastic
blanks that fill the slots when not in use. The five way direction pad
is easy to use and moves smoothly in all directions. Four programmable
application buttons flank the d-pad and the record button (which can
be re-assigned to another app or function) is located on the unit's left
side. Both the mic and speaker are located on the iPAQ's front face below
the LCD and above the navigational button cluster.
iPAQ with flip cover
Comparing the Dell Axim X51 and the iPAQ hx2490
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.
If you already own an older hx2000 series model that
came with Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, you can download an upgrade
to Windows Mobile 5 from HP's web site. No need to purchase a newer hx2000
series model. The only hardware improvement HP made was additional flash
ROM to increase available storage over the first generation models, which
makes them compelling, though not enough so for existing owners to shell
out the bucks for the new models.
Horsepower and Performance
The mid and high end hx2000 series models are great
performers, a tradition started with the Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition
versions released in 2004. In fact, the iPAQ hx2750 was the fasted Pocket
PC we'd ever benchmarked, and we benchmark them all! The hx2490 runs
the new Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system which uses persistent storage.
This means that all of your programs and data are stored in flash ROM
rather than RAM and will thus survive a compete battery run-down. That's
right: leave it in your drawer for a month, take it out and plug it in
and all your data will still be there. Why? no power is required to preserve
the contents of flash ROM, unlike RAM. Though flash ROM (previously called
the iPAQ File Store in HP's lingo) is slower than RAM, which means that
the 2005 edition hx2000 models aren't as fast in file system tests and
it does take a hair longer to launch programs and files.
The iPAQ 2490 has a 520 MHz Intel XScale PXA 270 (Bulverde)
processor, that's currently at the top of Intel's mobile device CPU line.
The top speed for this chip is currently 624 MHz, and if you have a real
need for speed, the iPAQ hx2790 offers it. Memory works differently in
Windows Mobile 5. RAM is used in the same way as desktop and notebook
computers: to run programs. All programs, files and data of any sort
is stored in flash ROM, which works like a hard drive in your PC, but
has no moving parts. WM5 devices now report memory as RAM, internal storage
(flash ROM, akin to the iPAQ File Store in older devices), SD and CF.
You'll install programs and data to internal memory (flash ROM) and programs
will run in RAM until you exit them.
You'd think RAM would be used in
the same way on all devices, with the same amount of RAM reserved to
cache commonly used operating system files and apps, but the hx2490
has more free RAM than other WM5 devices we've seen such as the Dell
Axim X51v and the PPC-6700 from Sprint. The iPAQ has
64 megs of actual physical RAM, and 56.59 megs are free at boot (the
Axim X51v has 49.47 in comparison). Of those free 56.6 megs, 15.8 are
used by the OS (compared to nearly 20 on the Dell), leaving 40.71 megs
available for running programs (the Dell has 29.76). Nearly 42 megs
of RAM should be plenty enough to run several demanding applications
simultaneously, so we're pleased with HP's engineering on that front.
The iPAQ has 128 megs of flash ROM, with 70 megs available
to the user to store programs and data. Though the box and HP's web site
say up to 80 megs available, our virgin unit had only 75 megs free with
no programs or data added. Yes, the OS and built-in applications use
approximately 48 megs or more under Windows Mobile 5! Still, that's a
nice chunk of storage and will suit most users, even power users. Should
you need more space, you can use SD and CF cards to expand storage. As
with RAM, available ROM vary between models and brands because the manufacturer
may install additional applications there.
All hx2000 series models have an SD slot supporting
SDIO and a CF type II slot compatible with type I and II cards. That
makes for a very expandable unit that will work with MicroDrives, CF
GPS, SD 56k modem cards and of course, memory
cards. Like all Pocket PC and Palm PDAs, the iPAQ hx2490 has an IR
port (standard, not consumer) and a USB sync port. You can use Bluetooth
and IR keyboards with the iPAQ (we tested the Think Outside Stowaway
Universal Bluetooth keyboard and it worked well- no drivers needed since
Windows Mobile 5 supports HID devices such as mice and keyboards out
of the box).
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. But if you're one of those folks who craves the
device that tests best on benchmarks, in general, WM5 devices
won't give you that high. Spb's test is a pure test, as they
put it, and thus VGA devices test slower than QVGA and the
new Windows Mobile 5 persistent storage isn't taken into account.
In their next revision, they will offer relative benchmarks
that compensate for these differences. For example, they say
that a VGA device's scores could be multiplied by 4 to reflect
that they are drawing 4x more data to the screen than a QVGA
We compared the hx2490 to the Dell Axim X50
running the same 520 MHz processor and QVGA display (but Windows
Mobile 2003SE) and the Dell Axim X51v running on a 624 MHz processor
with a VGA display and WM5. As you'd expect, the Dell Axim X51v
with its faster clock speed runs a bit faster on cpu-intensive
tasks, but surprisingly not all, and the iPAQ beats it on a few
cpu intensive tests. The Windows Mobile 2003SE X50 does better
on file system tests since that older OS version runs programs
and data from RAM rather than flash ROM.
How about video playback? We threw our usual
test files 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 hx2490 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 strong benchmarks of: Average speed: 512.83%
Bench Frame Rate: 123.08
Bench. Data Rate: 1.6 Mbit/s
Orig. Frame Rate: 24fps
Orig. Data Rate: 310 kbit/s
For a true torture test we played a 1753 kbps
WMV file which has never played well on any PDA we've tested.
That encoding rate is simply much too high, yet the hx2490 managed
to play it, generally keeping the audio in sync and not jittering
unbearably. Most folks don't encode video at that high bitrate,
so we tested a 950 kbps WMV file which is more to the normal
high end taste and the iPAQ benchmarked as follows: Average speed: 134.07%
Bench Frame Rate: 36.68
Bench. Data Rate: 1.1 Mbit/s
Orig. Frame Rate: 24fps Orig. Sample Rate: 44100
Orig. Data Rate: 950 kbit/s
Dell Axim X51v 624 MHz, Auto mode, WM5
Axim X50 (520MHz, Max mode, WM2003SE)
HP iPAQ hx2490
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 and Multimedia
You already know that the iPAQ hx2490 makes a
great portable video player. In fact, it can function as your MP3
player as well. Use the included Windows Media Player Mobile 10
(with support for DRM) or a 3rd party MP3 player (see
and a good sized storage card to carry tunes on the go. Sound quality
through headphones and the stereo 3.5mm headphone jack is quite
good as is overall volume.
The display is gorgeous, just as we noted in
our HP iPAQ hx2790 review. The display is very, very bright
(you'll likely not use it at full brightness), is extremely contrasty,
color saturated and sharp. This is one of the best QVGA resolution
displays we've seen on a Palm or Windows Mobile device. Given the
device's strong performance in CPU and graphics, it makes an excellent
gaming machine, despite its corporate targeting. We tested a large
collection of games which ran well, and the small but usable direction
pad worked well.
WiFi and Bluetooth
The iPAQ hx2490 has integrated WiFi 802.11b wireless
networking and Bluetooth 1.2. The device has HP's usual user-friendly
iPAQ Wireless application which allows you to turn on or off each
connection type and manage various settings. WiFi range, as with
most HP handhelds, is very good and our device was able to find
access points within range that some notebooks couldn't detect.
Fortunately, HP provides a very full-featured WiFi management program
which augments the rather basic Windows Mobile Connection Manager.
This application has four tabs which show you current connection
info (strength in a bar graph and Dbm), current SSID, encryption
type, IP address, an even fancier reception graph, DHCP, subnet,
gateway, an IP renew button (useful if the connection falters)
and site survey (SSID name, signal strength and channel). In addition
you can set a roaming trigger (look for another access point when
the device has no WiFi signal or a weak WiFi signal), and power
saving mode (auto, extended, disabled). The iPAQ comes with support
for Certificates (a Windows Mobile standard) as well as HP's own
Enroller certificate manager. In addition, Windows Mobile 5.0 offers
support for VPN connections and HP adds Funk Odyssey VNP client.
All hx2000 series iPAQ Pocket PCs have integrated
Bluetooth 1.2. Since Windows Mobile 5 comes with Bluetooth support
(better than that found in older OS versions but still very basic
and not user friendly), it seems most manufacturers are using the
MS Bluetooth stack and drivers. The iPAQ hx2490 is a pleasant exception:
HP kept Broadcom's (formerly Widcomm) very user friendly Bluetooth
Wizard and strong stack found in prior iPAQ models. Both novices
and experienced users alike will appreciate the Wizard which not
only makes it easier to connect to Bluetooth accessories, but makes
it clear which profiles and Bluetooth devices are supported. These
include high quality stereo audio (A2DP), audio gateway, hands
free/headset, DUN (dial up networking using a Bluetooth mobile
phone as a wireless modem), ActiveSync over BT, FTP, Serial Port
Profile, personal networking between the iPAQ and another machine,
and Bluetooth networking using a BT access point. You can set the
iPAQ's BT network name, turn discoverability on and off, limit
connections to previously paired devices if desired and enable
encryption. You can also create several profiles as needed (discoverable
at home but not when traveling for example).
HP iPAQ hx2000 series models have user replaceable
1440 mAh Lithium Ion batteries. That's a high capacity
battery given the device's features (compare it to the Dell Axim
X51 with nearly the same feature set but only an 1100 mAh battery).
Windows Mobile 5 is supposed to offer 10% better battery life compared
to prior OS models since it need not power RAM at all times. That
seems on target and we've found that battery life is that much
better both on the hx2490 and Dell Axim X51v, each of which uses
the same hardware and battery as a prior model but the new OS.
Like most iPAQs, you can charge the device by
placing it in the included cradle or you can plug it directly into
the world charger using the included dongle adapter. There is no
slot for charging a second battery on the iPAQ cradle. This is
the same cradle HP has used since late 2004 for most of their iPAQ
models. It's both attractive and compact cradle with a snap-on
Battery life was excellent, lasting through 4.25
hours of video playback with power to spare. Surfing via WiFi consumed
about 23% of the battery per hour with screen brightness set to
~ 66%. In a mix of accessing PIM info, working with a few Word
and Excel documents, playing MP3s for an hour and playing games
for an hour, the hx2490 should easily last two days on a full charge.
If you use WiFi or Bluetooth heavily, expect shorter runtimes since
those radios (especially WiFi) consume power.
Software and Compatibility
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 several of their own applications, including the
excellent HP Protect Tools which allows you to encrypt and password
protect data on the device, HP Image Zone, iTask task manager and
Today Panel, a handy Today Screen plugin that shows power, RAM
and flash ROM status, and also allows you to adjust backlighting.
Gone is the excellent HP backup application found on older models.
Since your data is largely
safe from a hard reset, a backup app isn't as crucial as on older
versions of Windows Mobile, but we'd still like to have seen a
basic backup app included. Third party pickings are business oriented
since HP targets the device at the enterprise. HP includes BVPR's
Bluetooth Phone Manager (makes it easy to use your BT phone as
a modem for the iPAQ), Funk Odyssey VNP client and MobiMate's excellent
WorldMate (WorldMate comes only with the hx2495). There
are demo versions of a few other applications, and kudos to HP
for clearly marking full vs. demo software versions on the CD's
Though a lot has changed in WM5, we found that
most of our favorite 3rd party applications ran on the iPAQ. Many
developers have already updated their applications for compatibility
as necessary, so if you're running popular and regularly updated
software things look good. We tested Spb PocketPlus 3.0 and Battery
Pack Pro 2, both of which are WM5 compatible and they ran fine.
Resco Explorer 2003
and 2005 as well as Resco Photo Viewer run
well, as does TCPMP (The Core Media Player, formerly Beta Player),
MS Reader and eReader. Most games we threw at the device ran very
well, including Bejeweled 2, Ancient
Evil and Tennis Addict.
It's hard to find fault with this unit, and believe
me, we have no trouble finding things to complain about. The device
is very fast, has great graphics performance for video playback
and gaming, Bluetooth, WiFi, good VNP support, SD and CF slots,
SDIO support and a fantastic display. It compares favorably against
the Dell Axim X50 520 MHz model with the same features and same
list price, offering more full-featured Bluetooth software, a more
durable casing and better display. Definitely a great device for
the price. If you crave an even faster version and/or want biometric
fingerprint security, consider the top of the line iPAQ hx2790
which also has 144 megs of flash ROM. The only thing holding back
this 5 star-rated product from an Editor's Choice award is its
lack of innovation over the model it replaces (hx2410) — maybe
HP will live up to their Invent logo
Pro: Fast, spacious
flash memory, maximally expandable with Bluetooth, WiFi, SD and
CF slots. Durable design, rubber grips help keep the unit safely
in hand. Broadcom Bluetooth software is a great improvement over
the basic Microsoft BT software. Flip cover is attractive, unobtrusive
and protects the display and front controls well— you likely
won't need a case. Relatively high capacity standard battery won't
send you running for an AC outlet.
Con: Not much of a software bundle by HP standards.
TFT color LCD, 64K colors. Screen size diag: 3.5".
Resolution: 240 x 320 (QVGA). Supports both portrait
and landscape orientations.
mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable.
XScale PXA 270 520 MHz processor. 64 MB built-in
RAM. 128 MB Flash ROM with
~75 megs available in File Store for your use.
x 3.01 x .65 inches. Weight: 5.8 oz.
in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Media Player
Mobile 10 included for your MP3 and Windows Media
WiFi 802.11b (also supporting LEAP) on all except
the hx2100 models. Bluetooth 1.2 on all models.
Mobile 5.0 Premium 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: HP ProtectTools
secured by CREDANT Technologies, Bluetooth Phone
Manager, Bluetooth Manager, iPAQ Wireless, iTask,
HP Image Zone for Pocket PC. Utilities: Self Test,
iPAQ Audio, Power Status, Certificate Enroller.
ActiveSync 4.0 and Outlook 2002 for PCs included.
SD (Secure Digital) slot, 4 bit data bus, supporting
SDIO and SDIO Now! .1 CF type II slot supporting
type I and type II cards. Can NOT use iPAQ expansion