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HP iPAQ rz1710 Review ! - 2/25/2005 7:52:15 PM   

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Looking for a slim Pocket PC without all the trimmings? The iPAQ rz1710 might be what you need. Richard Newman finds out if the trade-offs are worthwhile.

HP has always been at the forefront of the Pocket PC market, continually refreshing their range to incorporate new features. The iPAQ rz1710 is a slight step back, replacing the earlier h1900 series with a much less well-equipped model.

A slim and elegant handheld, the rz1710 displaces only 114 x 70 x 13 mm, bringing it into shirt-pocket territory. Slight ridges on each side assure a fairly firm grip, though its angular design is less comfortable than its curvaceous predecessors. The device is satisfyingly well-built; creak-free and solid.

Coming across bright and clear

The rz1710's display is a stand-out feature of this entry-level device. Unfortunately, while initially bright and clear, one soon realises that the suitable viewing angles are quite limited; the best way to look at the screen is slightly from the left. Other than this flaw, the iPAQ's 65,536-colour, 240 x 320 3.5" transflective display is exceptional, with good colour reproduction, and a big improvement over the also-budget iPAQ h1940. The display can be toggled between landscape and portrait by holding the "Today" button.

The directional pad is a ring affair with a central button; feedback is excellent on this and all other buttons, with satisfying clicks, though the size isn't ideal for gaming. Placement is otherwise good; accidental presses are rare. Unlike most Pocket PCs, the rz1710 lacks a voice recorder button; this function is provided by the "press-and-hold" action of the Message switch. In our opinion, this was not a worthwhile economy on a feature that is intended to be spur-of-the-moment, robbing the device of a useful control.

The rz1710's stylus is generic plastic - not annoying, but not guaranteed to please. Sound through the rear-mounted speaker is quite good, though the full suite of microphone and EQ settings are absent, while output through the standard 3.5 mm headphone jack benefits from adjustable bass. For the internal speaker, however, one must trust HP's judgement. Unfortunately, the design places the speaker so precisely under the first finger joint (when holding with the left hand) that it must have been intentional, which is a great pity.

The rz1710's claim to fame on the connectivity front is its SDIO-capable expansion slot, which will allow for cameras, Wi-Fi cards, etc. Unfortunately, it lacks Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, being limited to old stalwart IrDA - not even offering Consumer IR for remote control of household devices. As the rz1710 appears intended to replace the earlier, featureful iPAQ h1900 series, the removal of Bluetooth is disappointing.

Wired connectivity is through a 22-pin serial connector, which can use a variety of cables. Provided is a USB and charger cable, but no cradle; another clear cost-saving measure.

You can't have your cake and eat it, too
With only a 203 MHz Samsung processor and 32 MB RAM, the rz1710 is more than a little anaemic - you won't be watching movies on this thing. Furthermore, after a hard reset one is left with a little over 16 MB of free RAM, and 10 MB of non-volatile memory, which are simply inadequate for any quantity of media or a decent application suite. An SD card is a near necessity, which of course eliminates connectivity expansions: a frustrating incongruity.

40 minutes of MP3 playback with dimmed backlight made nary a dent in the battery. A stress test (full volume, full brightness), however, clawed just under 2 hours out of the internal 1000 mAh Lithium Ion cell. This wouldn't have been so bad had it been user-replaceable. Instead, you'll have to wait around 4 hours for a full charge.

As expected, the rz1710 ships with Windows Mobile 2003 SE, albeit with a heavily-stripped application suite: no Microsoft Reader, and no Terminal Services Client. Value-added pre-loaded programs are limited to HP's own Task Switch, a pop-up program switcher; and HP Image Zone, a thumbnail/full-screen image gallery, which is quite usable with small libraries. The bundled applications run quickly, which appears to be the main emphasis of the device.

The Hewlett-Packard iPAQ rz1710 is at the time of writing available in North America and most European countries for a recommended price of $279 USD.

What the rz1710 does, it does quite well. It's certainly very small and usable as a PDA, with a good screen and solid build. However, there are a number of questionable omissions (presumably for the sake of size and price) that make the earlier iPAQ h1940 a better choice for many. To truly compete, the rz1710 needs a faster processor, more RAM, and better built-in connectivity, or a much lower price. However, if you won't need wireless, then you might find the compact form factor a good proposition at $279 USD.

What's positive:
Cheap and cheerful entry-level Pocket PC

What's negative:
Anaemic specifications; non-exchangeable battery

Source : InfoSyncWorld

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