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HP iPAQ rz1715 Review

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Discontinued and replaced by the HP iPAQ rx1950 late Sept. 2005

Review posted July 25, 2004 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

They're here! HP's new iPAQs running Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition (WM 2003 SE) will be announced on Monday July 26, 2004. We just happened to get ours a bit early . The rz1715 is HP's new entry-level iPAQ, while the iPAQ 1945 was their previous entry level PDA. The seldom seen iPAQ 1930 was actually HP's most basic model, and the rz1715's features are very similar to that model. This new iPAQ will please those on a budget who are looking for a very compact device and have no need for integrated wireless networking. Unfortunately it lacks two key features that the 1945 had: Bluetooth and a user replaceable battery. For these two reasons, I might choose the 1945 while it's still available from retailers. If you're looking for these features and more, do consider the iPAQ rx3115 which is $70 more.

Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition was released this Summer to OEMs, and the Dell Axim X30 was the first device to come out with this new OS revision. What does WM 2003 SE add? Support for several screen resolutions and both portrait and landscape orientations. You can switch from portrait to landscape without having to soft reset the device. Landscape is great for viewing spreadsheets and web pages.

HP iPAQ rz1715
iPAQ rz1715

 

Features at a Glance

The HP iPAQ 1715 runs Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition (Pro) and has a 203 MHz processor. It has 32 megs of RAM, an SD slot that supports SDIO, a QVGA transflective display and a 1,000 mA battery that is not user replaceable. In the box you'll find the PDA, a charger and a USB sync cable that plugs into a round adapter at the end of the charger cable. A software CD, slim printed manual and a getting started guide are also included. HP has changed the package and logos and you'll see the big plus sign next to "hp" on the box, manuals, on screen launcher and Today Screen theme.

Design and Ergonomics

For many years, iPAQs ruled when it came to industrial design. They were sleek, modern, often compact and very attractive devices. Unfortunately, HP's latest iPAQs, including the rz1715 lack the sex appeal of previous iPAQs. The rz1715 has a rounded-off rectangular shape that's more business-like than stylish. The front face is finished in silver, the back is gray plastic and the top cap is gloss black plastic. The unit is very compact, with dimensions and weight nearly identical to the iPAQ 1945. Though they are nearly identical in size, the blocky design of the 1715 makes it appear bigger than the 1945. The rz1715 is just a bit smaller than the Dell Axim X30.

The HP rz1715 has a small, round directional pad that's a joy to use in every day tasks and games. The same can be said of the four front application buttons: they're small, yet easy to press, but aren't prone to accidental button presses. Good going, HP! You can also enable button lock which will prevent all buttons except the power button from turing on the unit by accident. By default the buttons launch Calendar, Contacts, Today Screen and Email, though you can assign other apps to these buttons. If you press and hold the application buttons, you can launch a different set of apps: Windows Media Player, HP Image Zone, screen orientation rotation and Record. Unlike most Pocket PCs, there is no dedicated voice recorder button on the side of the unit.

The power button, SD card slot and standard 3.5mm stereo headphone jack are located on the top edge, as are the IR window and mic. The speaker is on the rear of the unit and there's a single LED above the display which indicates charging status and reminders.

 

Deals and Shopping

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horsepower and Performance

The 1715 has a 203MHz Samsung S3C2410 processor that's XScale compatible. Previous entry level iPAQs have also used Samsung processors and they are 100% compatible with Pocket PC apps written for ARM and XScale processors. 203MHz won't blow your socks off, but if you're looking for a PDA to keep track of your contacts and schedule, view a few photos and listen to MP3s, then the 1715 will do fine.

The unit has 32 megs of RAM, 27.26 megs of which is available to you to store programs and data. Most Pocket PCs come with 64 megs of RAM, so the 1715 is a little light on memory. Like all Pocket PCs, RAM is used both for storage (like a PC's hard drive) and to run programs (like RAM on a PC). Thus you'll generally want to leave at least 16 megs of that 27.26 allocated to Program memory using the Memory control panel found on all Pocket PCs. When you first boot up the iPAQ, the OS will use 8 megs of Program RAM, leaving only 8 megs for other programs to run if you use a 16 meg allocation. That's cutting it close for more demanding applications like action games, so you may need to allocate more of that precious RAM. If you need more space, the 1715 has an SD slot so you can use SD memory cards to store programs and files.

The SD slot supports SDIO as well, so you can use it for Bluetooth and WiFi SD network cards, GPS and more. We tested it with the SanDisk WiFi + 256 megs RAM SD card and it didn't work. Hopefully SanDisk and HP will get together and find a solution since this card works with most other SDIO-enabled Pocket PCs I've tried. Happily, it did work with the SanDisk SD WiFi card (the card has no memory, just WiFi), and I was able connect to WiFi access points and surf the Net using Pocket IE in portrait and landscape modes.

The iPAQ also has 10.33 megs of persistent NAND flash memory available for storage, and this is called the File Store in HP lingo. The File Store area will survive a hard reset, so data stored here won't be lost even if the battery runs down or the device crashes and must be hard reset.

Benchmarks

We benchmarked the iPAQ rz1715 using Spb Benchmark. We've compared it with the Dell Axim X30 312MHz running WM 2003 SE and the iPAQ 1945 which was HP's previous widely available entry-level iPAQ Pocket PC.

Since the rz1715 has the slowest processor, you'd expect it to benchmark the slowest and indeed it does in most tests. I was a bit disappointed in the rz's graphics numbers since HP usually makes Pocket PCs with excellent graphics performance, even their budget models. Still, the 1715 will be an adequate performer for daily tasks such as accessing calendar and contacts info, viewing photos under 2 megs in size, working with Word and Excel documents and playing MP3s. If you're looking for a serious gaming machine or want to watch lots of videos, consider a higher end model.

Display, Sound and Multimedia

The rz1715 has a 3.5" transflective display with a standard Pocket PC resolution of 240 x 320 pixels. Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition adds support for both landscape and portrait modes and you can switch display modes on the fly (no soft reset required). To switch between modes, you'll go to Settings-> Screen and select portrait/right-handed landscape or left handed landscape. You can also press and hold the Today Screen application button to switch orientations. Unlike other WM 2003 SE models, there is no quick switcher icon on the taskbar.

screen shot

Above, Pocket IE in landscape mode, default layout setting

The display is bright, color saturated and very contrasty, as we've come to expect from HP. While the unit isn't as bright as the most expensive models, doesn't have a very large viewing angle and doesn't show the same level of contrast gradation, it will suit most all eyes and has no visible color cast. However, ClearType doesn't look good on this device and there are color aberrations clearly visible on black letters. ClearType also seems to add an overly bold look to fonts when compared to other Pocket PCs. This isn't a Second Edition bug since the Dell Axim X30 and ASUS A730 running SE looks fine with ClearType turned on.

Sound isn't ear-shattering but you should be able to hear alarms in all but noisy environments. My XDA II Pocket PC Phone Edition is noticeably louder, but it needs to be since it doubles as a phone. Sound quality is pleasant through the built-in rear-firing speaker and you can plug in a set of headphones to listen to MP3s. The 1715 uses a standard 3.5mm headphone jack and comes with Pocket Windows Media Player 9.01 for MP3 and Windows Media format movie playback. Media Player did a fine job of playing back 300 kbps .ASF videos. Of course, you can use your own video or MP3 player applications too (read our review of Pocket PC MP3 players here).

  HP iPAQ 1945 (2003, 4266MHz) Dell Axim X30 312Mhz HP iPAQ rz1715
Spb Benchmark index
1335
1474
1031
CPU index
1307
1673
1010
File system index
1184
1050
945
Graphics index
2774
3916
1783
Platform index
1291
1142
960
Write 1 MB file (KB/sec)
993
1030
755
Read 1 MB file (MB/sec)
22.7
28.6
19.2
Copy 1 MB file (KB/sec)
993
1029
746
Write 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec)
785
705
586
Read 10 KB x 100 files (MB/sec)
9.65
9.51
7.98
Copy 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec)
748
629
560
Directory list of 2000 files (thousands of files/sec)
33.3
19.8
27.4
Internal database read (records/sec)
1024
1280
835
Graphics test: DDB BitBlt (frames/sec)
407
308
238
Graphics test: DIB BitBlt (frames/sec)
20.4
21.4
13.5
Graphics test: GAPI BitBlt (frames/sec)
427
913
272
Pocket Word document open (KB/sec)
48.1
36.1
92.5
Pocket Internet Explorer HTML load (KB/sec)
9.76
6.73
4.82
Pocket Internet Explorer JPEG load (KB/sec)
187
206
71
File Explorer large folder list (files/sec)
715
592
568
Compress 1 MB file using ZIP (KB/sec)
268
230
207
Decompress 1024x768 JPEG file (KB/sec)
393
501
297
Arkaball frames per second (frames/sec)
157
262
112
CPU test: Whetstones MFLOPS (Mop/sec)
0.057
0.059
0.043
CPU test: Whetstones MOPS (Mop/sec)
37.2
43.2
28
CPU test: Whetstones MWIPS (Mop/sec)
3.66
3.88
2.76
Memory test: copy 1 MB using memcpy (MB/sec)
49.6
115
50

Since the rz1715 isn't a speed demon when it comes to processor and graphics speeds, it won't be the top choice of avid video fans and gamers. If you want to watch web quality videos (under 300k bitrate) it will do fine. However, if you're a frequent video watcher or encode your own movies from DVD at high bitrates, do consider a higher end model. We tested the iPAQ with both the free Pocket MVP and Pocket TV Enterprise with 300 kbps bitrate MPEG1 files and both ran fine. On the Spiderman Trailer MPEG1 file commonly available on the web, Pocket MVP played at 23.96 fps and dropped only 4 out of 2640 frames. "The Chosen", a BMW short film that's a 4:26 minute long, 10 meg MPEG1 file recorded at 320 x 240, 308 kbps, played at 23.98 fps and dropped 4 of 6394 frames. That's very good playback performance for a device with these specs and benchmarks!

Gaming

Though this isn't a powerful machine, we did test it with a few popular games. Puzzle games, card games and the like run perfectly well on the rz1715. More demanding games are the real challenge, and here's what we found.

- Metalion 2 first warned us we needed at least 8 megs of free Program memory. Once we increased the free memory allocation to 12 megs, the program didn't successfully launch.
- Bust 'Em 2 ran very well.
- Blade of Betrayal ran well.
- Hexacto Bounty Hunter Pinball button assignment didn't work right (seems to be a WM 2003 SE incompatibility).
- Age of Empires ran well, and the d-pad was a joy to use with this game. However, we got an out of memory error message 15 minutes into the game, with 20 megs allocated to Program memory, 12 of which was available to the game.
- Trivial Pursuit ran fine.

Again, not bad for a Pocket PC with these specs and benchmarks. If you're a casual gamer, this unit could be for you. If you're a hardcore gamer, you need the best hardware, just as with desktop PCs!

Software Bundle

Since HP calls the 1715 a "Mobile Media Companion", they've supplied it with a new launcher with four large icons that launch Music (Windows Media Player), Photos (HP's photo viewer application), Contacts and Calendar. You'll be greeted by this launcher when you first turn on the PDA rather than the standard Pocket PC Today Screen. First time users may have a hard time finding the many other programs and features that the Pocket PC offers, and the launcher perhaps overly dumbs-down the interface. Worse yet, if you select "Today" from the Start Menu to see the standard Pocket PC Today Screen, nothing happens and you're left staring at the HP Launcher. To disable the launcher, you must go to Start Menu->Settings->Today and uncheck "iPAQ Entertainment" on the items tab. You do have access to the Start Menu when the HP launcher is running.

HP also includes their Task Switcher which is less full featured than the old iPAQ iTask but gets the job done. To access it, tap on the icon with two red arrows in the taskbar. This brings up a pop-up window with icons for each task and options to close one or all running programs.

HP Image Zone is a very nice image viewer whose interface reminds me of Resco's Picture Viewer. It offers thumbnail browser views of images, full screen viewing, zoom, printing, deleting, emailing and adding voice notes to images. According to the online help, it supports JPG, GIF, BMP, PNG, VMW, 2BP, MPG, MPEG, MPE, M1V, M1U, AVI and 3GP files. Though it didn't recognize or play the MPEG1 files that we used with Pocket TV and Pocket MVP and it didn't recognize our AVI files.

Full versions of three 3rd party applications are included with the rz1715: Peacemaker Professional (allows you to beam data to PDAs running on different platforms) , Microsoft Games (Minesweeper, Reversi and Hearts) and AvantGo. There are many trial software apps on the CD as well, which you can try and buy if you like them. No backup program is included, so you'll need to use ActiveSync on the desktop to backup your iPAQ to your PC.

Battery Life

The iPAQ rz1715 has a 1,000 mA Lithium Ion battery that is not user replaceable. That's a good size battery for a unit with this processor speed and screen size, and the device should last three hours of average use accessing PIM data, working with MS Office documents and viewing photos. If you play MP3s with the display turned off, you should get even longer runtimes. Overall, we've been pleased with battery life in the short period of time we've used the unit and only wish it had the user replaceable battery that was standard on the last generation iPAQs. Why? A user replaceable battery allows you to swap batteries easily when traveling, so you don't have to run to a charger and the nearest AC outlet. Also, after two years of use when Lithium Ion batteries typically suffer reduced runtimes, you won't easily be able to replace the battery and will have to order a do-it-yourself kit from www.pdainternalbattery.com or send it back to HP for a battery replacement.

screen shot

Above, the new HP Launcher

Conclusion

A decent entry level Pocket PC, as always exuding HP quality, fit and finish. However, at $279, we do wish it had a user replaceable battery and one form or another of wireless networking built in.

Pro: Small and highly pocketable. Very good display, excellent ergonomics include buttons and d-pad. Has an SDIO slot for wireless networking cards as well as storage cards and GPS.

Cons: Gone is the stylish HP look. Processor speed and RAM could be higher for a unit in this price range. No user replaceable battery-— shame on you, HP!

Web site: www.hp.com, list price: $279

Comparison Shopping: Where to Buy

 

Specs:

Display: Transflective TFT color LCD, 64K colors, Screen Size Diag: 3.5", Resolution: 240 x 320. Supports both portrait and landscape modes.

Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is not user replaceable. 1000 mA.

Performance: 203 MHz Samsung S3C2410 processor. 32 MB built-in RAM (27.26 megs available). 32 MB Flash ROM with 10.33 megs available in File Store for your use.

Size: 4.48 x 2.75 x .53 in. Weight: 4.23 oz (120 g).

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: None.

Software: Windows Mobile 2003 Professional Second Edition operating system. Standard Windows Mobile applications include Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, Voice Recorder, Notes, Pocket Word (with Spell checker), Pocket Excel, Pocket Internet Explorer, Pocket MSN, Windows Media Player 9 (MP3, audio and video streaming), Calculator, Solitaire, Jawbreaker, Pocket Outlook Email (with Spell Checker for email), File Explorer, Infrared Beaming, VPN support (PPTP) Clock, Align Screen, Memory, Volume control. 3rd party software: Peacemaker (US Retail 1715 only), AvantGo and Microsoft Games. ActiveSync 3.7.1 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.

 

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