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HP iPAQ 4355 Pocket PC

Review p osted Dec. 6, 2003 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

HP released the 4350 just two weeks after its brother the 4150. While Palm OS users have been able to purchase PDAs with integrated thumb keyboards, this is the first Pocket PC to feature an integrated thumb keyboard. While not as petit as the 4150 thanks to the added keyboard and larger capacity battery, it is in all other respects identical to the 4150, and you'll notice that our 4150 and 4350 reviews share a good deal of content. Note that in the HP tradition, the iPAQ 4350 and 4355 are the same unit, the final digit indicates whether it was sold via consumer or business channels. We have the 4350, so will use that model number in our review.

iPAQ 4350
iPAQ 4355 back

 

Design and Ergonomics

Though the HP iPAQ 4150 and 4350 share much in common, unlike the 4150, the 4350 doesn't first impress one as being either small or light. The integrated thumb keyboard makes the 4350 one inch longer than the 4150, and the unit is a bit thicker and wider as well. Still, it is an attractive model that doesn't weigh in too terribly heavy at 5.8 ounces. Unlike most other Pocket PCs with integrated WiFi, the 4000 series iPAQs don't have an external antenna, making for a cleaner and more compact design. Don't worry, WiFi signal strength is top notch even without the antenna.

The casing is made of plastic, and the front face surrounding the display has a silver finish. The back of the case is dark gray plastic, as is the thumb board area. The user replaceable battery lives behind a door on the back and you'll slide a chromed retaining latch to release the door.

On the front are 2 LEDs, one of which glows green to indicate that the WiFi radio is on, and the other glows blue to indicate that the Bluetooth radio is on. The LEDs also indicate charging status and reminders in amber. The record button is located on the upper left side just below the IR window. The smallish 5-way square d-pad works well and smoothly in all directions. Unlike the 4150, the four application buttons are easy to press, though they are a bit slippery thanks to their chrome finish. HP provides a control panel that tells the unit to ignore button presses when it's turned off, thereby preventing accidentally turning the unit on when in purse or pocket.

HP designed a new cradle for the iPAQ 4000 series and it's pictured below. It's a relatively large and blocky looking cradle, and the iPAQ stands upright leaving a good deal of space behind it. Why the space? To make it easier to get to spare batteries that are being charged in the rear section of the cradle even when your iPAQ is cradled. This is the first HP cradle to feature a removable standard USB cable.

iPAQ 4000 series cradle

Above: the iPAQ 4000 series cradle. The inset on the back plane is for charging a spare battery.

 

size comparison

Above: Size comparison. Left to right: Toshiba e805, HP iPAQ 4350 and the Dell Axim X3i.

 

 

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Horsepower and Features

The 4350 has an Intel XScale PXA255 processor running at 400 MHz. This is the current top of the line processor, also used in the iPAQ 4150, 2215 and 5555, and the 4350 benchmarks similarly to those units (and identically to the 4150). The 4350 has 64 megs of RAM, 55 of which are accessible to the user, and 32 megs of NAND flash ROM, 2.85 megs of which are available as a non-volatile File Store. HP has shipped the 4350 with a utility that can format the File Store area should it become corrupt or should you wish to erase its contents before selling it or giving it to someone (being non-volatile, the File Store will not be erased even after a hard reset).

The iPAQ runs Pocket PC 2003 Premium Edition, which is the full featured version of the OS (compared to PPC 2003 Professional Edition). This means MS Reader, Terminal Services and Microsoft's new Images program come pre-installed in ROM.

For expansion, you've got the IR port, Bluetooth and an SD slot supporting SDIO. The 4000 series iPAQs are not compatible with iPAQ expansion sleeves for the iPAQ 3000 and 5000 series.

Video playback was excellent using Pocket MVP and Pocket TV Enterprise. In fact, the 4350 outperformed our Dell Axim X3i, dropping many fewer frames for videos encoded at high rates.

 

Screen, Sound, and Gaming

Transflective displays, currently one of the best LCD display technologies have become standard on Pocket PCs, if not most all recent PDAs, and the 4350 has a 3.5" transflective display. HP makes some of the nicest, and they're always bright, color saturated and contrasty. The 4350 is no exception, having a lovely display, but if you hold the unit at an angle rather than holding it straight on, you will notice a yellow color cast. When held straight on, you won't see it at all, and it isn't as noticeable as the iPAQ 1945's off angle color cast.

The sound volume is quite loud. Alarms are easy to hear, and I generally turned down the sound level to less than half when playing games. Of course if you're listening to MP3s, you'll want to use headphones that connect to the standard 3.5mm stereo headphone jack rather than the speaker. Like all Pocket PCs, the iPAQ 4350 has a voice recorder, and the unit includes an Audio control panel applet that allows you to adjust the microphone EQ for "Short Range Recording", "Normal" and "Conference Recording". You can also enable AGC (automatic gain control), and set the headphone volume independent of the speaker volume.

The 4350 performed well playing intensive games including Hexacto Bounty Hunter Pinball, Warfare Inc. and Bust 'Em 2. I found the buttons and d-pad worked well for gaming on the 4350.

Battery Life

The 4350 comes with a user replaceable 1560 MAh Lithium Ion battery. That's very good battery capacity, designed to handle frequent WiFi use. An optional $120 extended 3600 MAh battery is available, which is an amazing amount of power for a PDA. The newly designed cradle has a slot to charge an additional battery. Like other iPAQs, you'll use the included dongle if you wish to plug the charger directly into the iPAQ rather than charging it in the cradle

Battery life with the included standard battery has been very good, averaging near 4 hours when not using wireless and the screen brightness set one notch from maximum. Even intensive games don't rapidly drain the battery. Bluetooth is always fairly battery friendly, but WiFi is not. Despite that, the iPAQ achieved nearly 3 hours when using WiFi. I used the iPAQ with the WiFi radio set to auto power savings, and there are also options to always use power savings ("Extended") or never use it ("Off"). These settings are found in the Power control panel applet, under the "Control" tab.

WiFi

The iPAQ 4350 has built-in WiFi 802.11b wireless Ethernet networking. It truly has excellent range considering that it doesn't have an external antenna. In fact it rivaled the iPAQ 5555 which also has excellent range. Using Cirond's Pocket WiNc, I was able to sniff out 12 WiFi access points in my home area (it's Silicon Valley, after all). The wireless control application looks like the one on past iPAQs: it allows you to turn on and off either or both radios, and there are no external switches to activate the radios. Windows Mobile 2003 comes with a certificates application, and in addition, HP supports LEAP on their WiFi enabled Pocket PCs. The 4350 has a LEAP control panel applet and HP's Enroll, a certificate enroller. I found that both Bluetooth and WiFi range were identical on the 4150 and 4350 models we tested. The 4350 was a little more finicky when initially setting up WiFi, but that may have been a fluke.

Bluetooth

The iPAQ 4350 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 1.4.1. 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. Speeds when ActiveSyncing and surfing the Net were good, though not as fast as using WiFi, which is to be expected since WiFi offers greater speeds.

Keyboard

The built-in thumb keyboard is very usable, but not as full-featured as some add-on thumb keyboards or thumb boards found on some Sony Clié models. The keys are round, have good travel and tactile feedback for a thumb board, and both primary and secondary character masking is easy to read. The keys are backlit and the letters will glow electric blue. HP provides a Keyboard control panel applet that allows you to turn backlighting off and on, and set the light duration (how long the keys stay lit after you press one) from two to ten seconds. In addition, you can disable the keyboard if you wish.

The keyboard has an embedded numeric keypad and these keys are a slightly darker color to make finding and entering numbers easier. You'll enter numbers, punctuation as well as some commands by pressing the function key (the key with a big blue dot on the lower left corner of the keyboard) in conjunction with the appropriate key. There's a dedicated Start Menu button, and a button that mimics the tap and hold stylus functionality. You can turn on caps lock, but there is no sticky feature for the function key, nor is there a dedicated row of function keys that you could assign actions such as program launching or cut and paste. As it stands, your stylus won't get lonely because you'll still need it for menus, cutting, pasting, and a few other things. I'd like to have seen cut and paste as well as a sticky function key on the 4350. It's a bit annoying to have to press the function key and another key to do basic functions like "del" and "OK", as well as navigate the screen using the arrow keys plus the function key.

Compatibility

While the 4000 series iPAQs are not compatible with iPAQ expansion sleeves, the connector on the bottom of the unit is the same as that used on the iPAQ 2215, 3000 and 5000 series iPAQs, so you should be able to use those accessories that connect to this port with the 4350 (yay!). This means iPAQ keyboards, GPS and chargers made for those models will work.

Software Bundle

HP always offers a good software bundle with their iPAQ Pocket PCs, and both the 4150 and 4350 come with the usual suite of iPAQ custom applications: iTask task manager, iPAQ Backup (SpriteSoft), HP Mobile Printing, HP Certificate Enroller, LEAP, Bluetooth Manager and their iPAQ Image Zone (HP's improved image viewer). Note that unit doesn't come with Nevo, the ever-popular AV remote software, which is installed in ROM on the iPAQ 2215 and on the now discontinued iPAQ 3900 series and iPAQ 5450. Pocket PC standard apps include Pocket versions of Word, Excel and Outlook, MSN Messenger, Terminal Services, VPN client, Jawbreaker (a Bubblets game) and ClearType Tuner. 3rd party apps include Westtek ClearVue Suite (for viewing MS Office docs), Resco File Explorer 2003, F-Secure FileCrypto Data Encryption, RealOne Player for Pocket PC and iPresenter PowerPoint converter.

Benchmarks

We've run benchmarks using VOBenchmark 3 from Virtual Office Systems. I've compared the iPAQ 2215, iPAQ 5555 , and the iPAQ 1945 to the 4350. The 4150 and 4350 benchmarked identically (within a few 100ths) of each other on all values, and neither unit worked with our benchmark app when testing SD cards. All tests were run with units fresh out of the box with no other software added, and the storage cards were 60% full with data and applications. Since our 4155 and 4350 didn't get along with the storage card write tests, we weren't able to record values for the storage cards tests. Higher numbers are better (shown in bold).

Test HP iPAQ 2215 (PPC 2003, Intel PXA 255 400 MHz processor) iPAQ 5555 (PPC 2003, XScale PXA255 400 MHz) HP iPAQ 1945 (Samsung 266 MHz) iPAQ 4350(PPC 2003, XScale PXA255 400 MHz)
CPU Floating Point 12.68 12.66 9.33 12.69
CPU Integer 26.96 25.82 18.39 26.96
Graphics Bitmap BitBlt 78.25 39.76 28.06 22.39
Graphics Bitmap StretchBlt 76.70 (grow) 28.60 (shrink) 73.50 (grow), 29.90 (shrink) 14.40 (grow) 11.50 (shrink) 18.70 (grow), 15.70 (shrink)
Graphics Filled Ellipse 4.68 4.96 2.67 4.79
Graphics Filled Rectangle 12.94 9.41 5.99 11.15
Graphics Filled Round Rect. 3.82 3.78 2.15 3.76
GAPI Lines N/A N/A 35.90 58.90
Memory Allocation 11.23 11.31 8.56 11.27
Memory Fill 1.97 1.99 1.34 1.91
Memory Move 1.24 1.34 0.77 1.22
Text 5.20 with ClearType enabled 4.80 with ClearType Enabled 6.20 with ClearType enabled 9.10 with ClearType Enabled

Conclusion

If you've been wanting a Pocket PC with an integrated thumb keyboard, this is the (one and only) unit for you.

Pro: Fast processor, excellent display, backlit thumb keyboard, integrated Bluetooth and WiFi that has very good range. Good buttons for gaming. Large capacity standard battery with huge capacity extended battery available for separate purchase. User replaceable battery. Cons: It's large! Keyboard could have additional features to speed typing and decrease need for the stylus.

Suggested list price $499
The 4350 and 4355 have different model numbers because HP uses different model numbers to track sales in consumer vs. business channels. Both come with a cover pack iPAQ case (canvas, not a very nice one), USB cradle, charger, one battery, an extra stylus, software CD and manuals.

If you're interested in a smaller version of the 4350 and don't need the thumb keyboard, do check out the 4150 which is $50 cheaper.

 

Specs:

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

Battery: Lithium Ion Polymer rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. 1560 mA. 3600 mA extended battery available for purchase.

Performance: Intel XScale PXA 255 400 MHz processor. 64 MB built-in RAM (55 megs available). 32 MB Flash ROM with 2.85 megs available in File Store for your use.

Size: 5.4 x 2.9 x .6 in. Weight: 5.8 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.

Software: Pocket PC 2003 Premium operating system (aka Windows Mobile 2003). Microsoft Pocket Office suite including Pocket Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, and Outlook. Also, Terminal Services, MSN Instant Messenger for Pocket PC, MS Reader and Voice Recorder as well as handwriting recognition. 3rd party software: Westtek ClearVue Suite, F-Secure FileCrypto Data Encryption, Colligo Personal Edition, Adobe PDF Viewer, RealOne Player for Pocket PC, iPresenter PowerPoint converter, MobiMate WorldMate. ActiveSync 3.7 and Outlook 2002 for PCs included.

Expansion: 1 SD (Secure Digital) slot, 4 bit data bus, supporting SDIO and SDIO Now!. Can NOT use iPAQ expansion sleeves.

Networking: Integrated WiFi 802.11b (also supporting LEAP) and Bluetooth.

 

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