Review posted by Lisa
Gade, Editor in Chief, posted Jan. 2003 Discontinued
Introduced in December, 2002, and widely available
in Jan. 2003, the iPAQ 5450 is HP's new flagship Pocket PC. It
isn't cheap at $699, but HP has given us a couple of significant
new features for our money. In fact, the 5450 is priced at $50
less than the iPAQ 3970 was at introduction
in the Summer of 2002, while adding built-in WiFi, an improved
Bluetooth interface and a biometric finger scanner. Interestingly,
the 5450 and 3970 are similarly priced at the moment, which is
confusing since the 5450 is newer and has more features! Which
should you choose? Read on!
The 5450 ostensibly seems similar to the 3970,
but there are some nifty new features under the hood. You'll notice
a small nub antenna on the top of the PDA, and that's the WiFi
antenna. Yes, you no longer need to add a CF sleeve and CF WiFi
card to use WiFi (802.11b) with your iPAQ. In case you do want
to use sleeves, the 5450 still works with existing iPAQ sleeves.
The d-pad (directional pad) is now a small round
button rather than the large oval button used on previous iPAQs.
Why? Because a fingerprint scanner is built into the d-pad area
and resides just below the d-pad. This isn't a great d-pad for
As you've now guessed, the 5450 offers biometric
fingerprint scanning for security. It's a thermal reader that can
store images of several fingers. If you use this feature, you can
lock your iPAQ so only a swipe from one of your fingers will unlock
Finally, the 5450 has a removable battery. You
can swap a new one in whenever power's running low, or simply replace
a tired battery easily. It's nice to see more manufacturers adding
What's the Same?
Just as with the iPAQ 3900 series, you get a
lovely transflective display that's one of the best out there.
The 400 MHz XScale processor, 64 megs of RAM, 48 megs of ROM and
basic software are also the same as the 3900 series (the 3950 has
32 megs of ROM, while the 3970 has 48). Like the 3970, the 5450
has built-in Bluetooth, though the interface has been greatly improved
on the 5450.
The 5450 can use existing expansion sleeves as
well as accessories made for the iPAQ 3800 and 3900 series. I've
used my old cradle, charger and even a Stowaway keyboard without
a problem. The new cradle retains the dual USB and serial connectors
found in the 3900 series cradle.
The back of the 5450. The door
covers the user-swappable battery. The black nub at the top
houses the WiFi antenna.
Transflective displays are absolutely gorgeous, and
the iPAQ 5450, 3900 series and 1910's are
some of the best. Transflective screens reflects ambient light to illuminate
the screen (for outdoor viewability and power savings) and has backlighting.
How different is it compared to older technology reflective screen PDAs
like the Toshiba e740? Hugely different! Reflective screen PDAs look
milky and lack the color saturation and true blacks of transflective
displays. Colors are also more accurate.
Sound is typical iPAQ: as loud and good sounding as
it gets on a Pocket PC. Some folks have said they think it's quieter
than previous iPAQs, but it seems just as loud to me. In fact, iPAQs
have the loudest speaker of any Pocket PC. I've had to shout over it
in the office!
Gaming. . . well, er, if you're a gamer, this d-pad
will likely drive you nuts. Since HP targets the unit at corporate buyers,
they make no claims about the 5450's gaming perfection. The d-pad is
too small and stiff. You'll find it difficult to press the d-pad hard
enough to register your desired movements consistently while gaming.
Then the extra presses will register and goodness knows where your spaceship
or character will end up. The screen also requires a harder touch, so
you'll have to use more pressure with the stylus than with previous iPAQs.
Most popular games do run on the 5450, but graphically intensive games
(we're not talking about board games) run slowly and drop frames. Perhaps
the MediaQ accelerated graphics chip in the 5450 isn't yet well supported .
Despite it's business-like software bundle, it does
come with two cool games, including a motorbike racing game developed
exclusively for the 5450. It's called Pocket TT, and it's a stunning
3D racing game that even supports multiplayer over TCP/IP. While Pocket
TT is probably the best looking 3D driving game I've ever seen on a Pocket
PC, the in-game controls makes it a bit hard to maneuver your motorcycle. Bust'em,
the ever-popular and sweet-looking breakout style game is also included
on the CD. For some reason, Bust'em doesn't run smoothly on the 5450
Battery life depends on your wireless usage. If you
don't turn on the wireless features, you should get an average of 2.5
to 3 hours actual usage per charge. The 3900 series has longer battery
life, and in fact has a 1400 mA battery, while the 5450's has a 1250
mA battery. But hey, you can swap a new battery in, and that's a great
consolation prize. When using WiFi, I got about 1.5 to 1.75 hours per
charge. Bluetooth requires less power than WiFi, so you should see about
1.75 to 2 hours per charge when using Bluetooth.
Of course, runtime varies depending on what you do
with the PDA. If you're into high drain activities like gaming, watching
videos and playing MP3s with the screen on, you'll get less time per
charge than if you use it for PIM activities and document editing.
Like the 3900 series, you'll get a battery control
applet. You can set the "Standby" time (essentially how low
you're willing to let the battery get before it gives you warnings and
shuts down to preserve the contents of memory). So if you generally put
it in the cradle each day or at night when you get home, you can set
a low standby time since you know it'll be charged frequently. This can
significantly increase runtimes.
The sleeve connector and serial port have remained
the same as the iPAQ 3800/3900 series PDAs. I've tried the Compaq
expansion sleeves, which work fine. Note: You
do NOT need to install the drivers for the CompactFlash Expansion Pack
Plus or PC Card Expansion Pack Plus, they are included in the 5400 series
operating system. All Compaq branded accessories should work without
a problem. While the 5450 cradle has an HP logo, it seems to otherwise
be the same as the 3800/3900 series cradle. It can also use the same
charger and sync cables as the 3800/3900 series iPAQs. The popular Stowaway keyboard
also works fine.
I've thrown just about every popular software title
on this thing and so far everything runs without a problem other than
many popular highly graphical games like Bust'em, EverQuest and Intersellar
Flames, which at times run slowly or drop frames. Games from Hexacto
and Zio run fine though.
The Sierra Wireless AirCard
555 that worked well with the iPAQ 3800 series worked only for
voice but not for data connections, just as with the iPAQ 3900 series.
There's a simple workaround that allows you to make data connections
which we've posted in our discussion forum here.
Hopefully Sierra Wireless will release a new driver, so you don't have
to tweak the settings yourself!
You've Been Fingerprinted!
The 5450 is the first PDA to offer built-in
biometric security. What does biometric mean? It measures or
scans a part of your body that is unique (fingerprints, retina
scan), and uses that image to identify you. While you might forget
your password, your fingerprints should stay the same for life.
Take a look at the screen on the right-- it shows part of the
fingerprint training process. You can "enroll" more
than one finger, and in fact your finger plus someone else's
if you plan to share the iPAQ. The software has you swipe your
finger until it gets 8 successful images of the print. After
this, it should hopefully recognize you when you swipe your finger.
The iPAQ uses a thermal reader, but no matter how cold my fingers
got (and they get amazingly cold) accuracy wasn't effected.
Do you have to use biometric security? No,
it's optional. You can run your iPAQ with no security, with fingerprint,
PIN, fingerprint or PIN, fingerprint and PIN, strong alphanumeric
password, fingerprint or password, and finally fingerprint and
password. You can set it to require a password after 0 minutes,
5, 15, 30, 90 minutes, all the way up to 24 hours. How well does
it work? Let me say that you should not use fingerprint alone
(opt for fingerprint and PIN or fingerprint and password), because
there are times when your best buddy won't recognize your fingertips.
Sometimes it recognized a finger after only 1 scan, and that
means only a momentary delay before you get to use your PDA.
On other occasions I had to swipe 6 times, or resort to entering
my PIN. You can specify the number of failed attempts before
the iPAQ offers you the option to keep on trying or hard reset
(yikes- erase!) your PDA. It works, but it's less than perfect.
Why does the iPAQ have biometric fingerprint
scanning? Because it's marketed toward corporate types, and one
of the major headaches IT decision makers face is the security
of data on company PDAs. PDAs are small and easily lost, dropped
or left behind on the train seat. This means that company data
can easily fall into the wrong hands. Most users hate passwords
and significant delays in getting to the data on their device.
HP tried to find a solution that didn't depend on users remembering
their password, or worse yet, writing their password on a post-it
note taped to the back of the PDA. When the fingerprint technology
works, it also doesn't cause an annoying delay that would otherwise
drive the user to turn off security, hence driving the IT department
Bluetooth has gotten downright friendly by
today's standards. The new interface is wizard based, and 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 headsets. This is the direction that Bluetooth
interfaces need to move toward. Just as with WiFi, some folks
had problems with having to do a soft reset to turn on their
Bluetooth radios on occasion, due to out of memory errors. After
1 week, I haven't encountered this problem yet. The Bluetooth
version is 1.1. I ActiveSync-ed wirelessly, then transferred
files to a Dell Axim X5 which
had a Belkin Bluetooth CF card.
Nevo: A/V Remote Control software plus enhanced
It used to be if you wanted to control your
home entertainment components with your PDA from a decent distance,
you had to get a Sony Clié.
Not any more! You'll get an A/V remote control program called
Nevo (the same company that does much of the world's remote control
software). Nevo first debuted on the iPAQ 3900 series. This is
more than just software: if you've ever tried shareware A/V remote
control software on Pocket PCs, you've probably noticed that
the range isn't very good (who wants to get up and stand within
5 feet of her TV to change channels?). Compaq beefed up the IR
power to what they call consumer grade for the 3900 series and
that continues with the 5450. You'll be able to use your iPAQ
to control your TV, DVD, Stereo and etc. from your couch, even
if you have a large living room. You can set up more than one
room as well, telling Nevo you want to control the living room
TV, VCR and etc or the bedroom A/V gear. Nevo has a friendly
and unique user interface that won't take long to master. Setup
is easy, you can select your A/V by brand, do a few tests and
you're done. An amazing number of brands are included! More brands
and models can be downloaded from www.mynevo.com.
If you're a remote guru, you can add your remote by its code
Above: training the iPAQ to recognize your
Above: The new Bluetooth interface is much friendlier.
As expected with high end Compaq and HP PDAs,
the 5450 comes with a very generous software bundle, albeit with
a corporate focus-- i.e.: 4 different Voice over IP apps, presentation
software, conferencing software and even Check Point VPN secure
client. You'll get the usual Pocket PC Premium Edition Apps: Microsoft
Pocket Office suite including Pocket Word, Excel, Internet Explorer,
Reader, and Outlook. Also, Terminal Services, MSN Instant Messenger
for Pocket PC, MS Reader and Voice Recorder as well as handwriting
recognition. 3rd party software includes: full versions of MARGI
Presenter-to-Go and MARGI Mirror (for viewing and giving PowerPoint
presentations, Avaya IP Softphone for voice over IP via WiFi),
Check Point VPN client, Flash 5, Bust'em, RealOne Player, and Jeode
Java runtime. 3rd party demos include Pocket Watch World Clock,
Peacemaker Pro and Running Voice IP.
We've run benchmarks using VOBenchmark from Virtual
Office Systems. I've compared the iPAQ
3835, iPAQ 3970 and the 5450.
I've also tested for dropped frames in Pocket MVP (formerly Pocket
DivX), and results were not as good as the 3970, but not notably
bad. Perhaps when there's more support for the new MediaQ graphics
chip the numbers will be as excellent as the 0 dropped frames
for the 3970. Note that in raw benchmarks, the MediaQ graphics
chip gives very good results, though in real world use you probably
won't see improved application speeds. Higher
numbers are better (shown in bold).
3835 ROM 1.15 (StrongARM)
iPAQ 3970 (XScale)
128 meg SanDisk and SimpleTech
128 meg SanDisk and SimpleTech
128 meg SanDisk and SimpleTech
It has a gorgeous screen, more features than
my car and the price is a bit lower than the top of the line 3900
series when it came out. As an iPAQ 3970 owner,
do I lust after this 5450 and want to auction off my 3970? No.
While I do use WiFi and love the idea of using it sans sleeve and
CF card, that isn't enough to sell me. I'm security-minded and
thus expected to really love the biometric fingerprint reader.
I'd be thrilled if I no longer had to whip out a stylus and peck
out my password to use my iPAQ. However, the fingerprint scanner
isn't always that consistent, and about 40% of the time, I gave
up trying and resorted to stylus and PIN instead of swiping until
the iPAQ and I got it right. The battery life is noticeably shorter
than the 3970 (with WiFi turned off for fair comparison, and standby
time set down to 36 hours just as on my 3970). However, it is great
to finally have a user-replaceable battery. The 5450 seems slower
than the 3970 and even the older StrongARM 3835, though it benchmarks
well. I often see noticeable delays switching between apps and
opening menus, which is unexpected. This is probably because of
the number of drivers and support apps running to drive the WiFi
radio, Bluetooth radio, fingerprint scanner and sleeves. Some folks
have improved their 5450's speed by removing the software driver
for sleeves (don't do this if you DO use sleeves!) and quitting
all wireless apps when not using them. I generally ran with wireless
apps off and removed from the system tray, and the 5450 often seemed
a hair sluggish. Perhaps I should blame all this on my 3970: if
it wasn't so darned speedy, stable, reliable and able to outrun
most other Pocket PCs on a charge, I'd probably be more impressed
with the 5450. So the iPAQ 5450 is not by any means a bad unit,
it just hasn't surpassed my 3970 or even equaled in when it comes
to a few things I really care about: speed, stability, battery
runtime per charge and game-friendliness. If you want a high end
iPAQ but you're on a tight budget and don't need Bluetooth or built-in
WiFi, consider the iPAQ 3955, which
is now heavily discounted at Amazon.
Pro: The built-in WiFi is a winner, with strong
signal and a full compliment of configurations settings. Bluetooth
has gotten an interface facelift, and has gotten friendlier compared
to the older iPAQs. The battery is user-replaceable-- yay! The
screen, as with other recent iPAQs, is perfection. Cons: In actual
use, the 5450 seems a tad slow compared to other Pocket PC 2002
PDAs running 400 MHz processors, including the iPAQ 3900 series.
Many games don't run smoothly. The d-pad is hard to use because
it's too small and requires too much pressure. The biometric scanner
isn't consistent enough.
The 5450 and 5455 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, cradle
with both USB and serial connectors, charger, one battery, an extra stylus,
software CD and manuals.
TFT color LCD, 65,536 colors, Screen Size Diag: 3.8",
Resolution: 240 x 320.
Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable.1250mA.
XScale 400 MHz processor. 48MB Flash ROM with 22
megs available in FileStore for your use, 64 MB built-in
Size: 5.23" (not
including antenna nub) x 3.3" x .6". Weight
Approximately 7.26 oz.
in speaker, mic and stereo headphone jack. Voice
Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player 8.5 included
for your MP3 pleasure.
PC 2002 Premium operating system. 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: Avaya IP Softphone, Cisco CallManager (voice
over IP) MARGI Presenter-to-Go, Callex Pocket PC
with ETPlayer Voicemail, Flash 5, Bust'em (arcade
game), Pocket TT (3D racing game), RealOne Player,
Jeode Java runtime, Acrobat Reader, Nevo A/V remote
control, and several additional trial/demo programs.
ActiveSync 3.5 and Outlook 2000 for PCs included.
SD (Secure Digital) slot, 4 bit data bus, supporting