- Compared to the Fujitsu-Siemens Pocket Loox 718 / 720, the major advantage of the hx4700 is the sheer existence of a WM5 / WM6 / WM6.1 upgrade. On top of that, the larger screen, the quality magnesium casing and the faster CPU with a graphics co-processor greatly helping in playing back MPEG4 Part 2 (a.k.a. ASP / DivX / XviD) videos, on the long run, made it the winner (while this wasn't certain back in 2004-2005; the author of this article has also chosen, back then, the Loox 720 over the hx4700). Of course, it has had major problems compared to the Loox: the touchpad, initially, the higher price, the very low speaker volume (while the Loox has been one of the loudest ever PDA’s around), the lack of a camera (even if the one in the 720 isn’t anything to write home about, quality-wise) and the lack of USB host support. These problems, however, are easily mitigated by the really excellent WM6.1 upgrades released in the last few months. As the Loox isn’t upgradable to WM5, several current software titles (like Esmertec Jbed to run MIDlets like Opera Mini) just can’t be run on it.
- It’s too better than the Dell Axim x50v/x51v. The Dell has vastly inferior battery life, much-much worse screen almost useless in Landscape for many users because of the major polarization issues, the plastic, thick body and the x50v WM5 upgrade having major compaction issues (as was the case with pre-WM6.1 hx4700 upgrades, though). The only real advantage, in addition to the louder buzzer, th emore gaming-friendly D-pad controller and (at least in the U.S.) lower price of the Dell is the Intel 2700G support, offering both excellent 3D hardware acceleration and great help in playing back ASP videos.
Note that I don’t even list for example the Asus 730(w) and the Toshiba e830, which all had major problems (for example, the laughable battery life of the Asus, the washed-out screen of the Toshi and the lack of WM5+ upgrades for both models) compared to the hx4700 and are now completely forgotten.
Over the years, because of HTC’s (the major Windows Mobile manufacturer of today) reluctance to produce anything similar to the hx4700, Windows Mobile users preferring a large (and quality) VGA screen had to stick with the hx4700. That is, if you wanted a 4" VGA screen but not significantly bigger (adding serious bulk: see the HTC Advantage / x7500/x7510 or even the even bigger and really expensive, SVGA [800*600] HTC Shift) and nothing less (4" is far better on a VGA device than 3.6", particularly when used in native VGA mode or an app not supporting large characters – for example, Opera Mini run under the MIDlet managers of Esmertec like the Jbed), your only choice has been the hx4700.
Fortunately, the (software) bugs of the hx4700 have all been fixed during these years; the author of this having been one of the most widely-known "hackers" having discovered several ways of fixing the issues with the official WM5 upgrades. The major problem of compaction slowdown has also been fixed in the WM 6.1 upgrade released some months ago. Yes, you will no longer see lengthy compactions if you upgrade to WM6.1.
The huge advantages and seamless operation of the WM6.1 upgrade(s) clearly make the HP iPAQ hx4700 one of the most recommended handsets for users opting for sufficiently, but not too large (4") VGA screens. Let’s see how its successor, the brand new HP iPAQ 210 compares to it. This comparison is of extreme importance because several ex-hx4700 users consider upgrading to the new device. The - without doubt - tempting price (around $400-$450 but, if you live in Canada or don't mind buying from there, you can get it for as low as $350) of the new model (which is almost half of the, originally, really overpriced hx4700) is also very hard to resist.
Thanks to Smartphone & Pocket PC Magazine publisher Hal Goldstein, I’ve been given a HP iPAQ 210. I wouldn’t have myself bought it because I already have the hx4700 – also from Hal – and just couldn’t justify the expense for such a not-that-major upgrade (I better save money for the S-E Xperia X1, the Acer/E-TEN v900 or the Gigabyte MS808 with their goodies like WVGA screen (X1) or TV receiver (the latter two models)). I never sell my past PDA’s and phones (because I want to be able to provide first-hand info on even past models), unlike most other people. This means I don’t "upgrade" but pay full price for another toy to play with. That is, you need to thank Hal for this article (and my past articles on the hx4700)
Of course, immediately after receiving the new iPAQ, I’ve started testing it. In this article, I elaborate on my experiences with my new toy. Note that this article is in no way a full review of all features of the new device. Should you want to have a more gentle introduction to the new iPAQ, read for example Brighthand’s or Smartphone & Pocket PC Magazine’s review. This article mostly targets past hx4700 users who would like to know whether it’s worth selling the old iPAQ and upgrading to the new.
1.1 The screen
As has already been mentioned, the hx4700 has probably the best and, size-wise, most useful VGA screen out there. First, its color reproduction is excellent and doesn’t have polarization issues in either orientation. (It’s at this that the Dell Axim screens severely lack.) Second, its size is large enough to make the user able to use even native (high-resolution) VGA mode and/or apps that treat their standard (SE) VGA mode as native and, therefore, using small characters (again, Jeodek / Jbed + Opera Mini). 4" is just the right size – it’s considerably larger than the 3.5… 3.7 screens of the other VGA alternatives (let alone the current crop of 2.4…2.8" VGA screens like the one in the Asus P750, several Gigabyte models or the forthcoming MDA IV; the Sony X1 will too only have a 3" for a WVGA screen). At the same time, it doesn’t severely hamper the pocketability / portability of the device, unlike with the HTC Advantage (a.k.a. x7500 and its slightly upgraded version, the x7510), which has a 5" VGA screen and is indeed more like a brick.
Let’s see whether the new model sports a screen that is at least as good as the hx4700! The answer is, fortunately, yes (at least to some degree – see the touchscreen sensitivity issues).
1.1.1 Outdoor visibility
Many have complained about the bad outdoor visibility of the 210 (while the hx4700 has average outdoor visibility). This statement, to some degree, is indeed true. As we’ll see, if you try to run your iPAQ without backlight at all, it’ll behave MUCH worse than for example the iPAQ hx4700 or most other Pocket PC’s, except for the now very common 2.8" HTC QVGA devices like the Wizard, the TyTN II / Kaiser / AT&T Tilt etc.
However, as the maximal backlight of the iPAQ 210 is VERY strong (even stronger than that of the hx4700 and much-much stronger than the 2.8" QVGA screens in the Wizard, Kaiser etc.), this isn’t a problem. I daresay: not even in direct sunlight. Just remember to turn the backlight all the way up and clearing the automatic backlight checkbox when outdoors on a sunny day, as can also be seen in the following screenshots.
Example screenshots showing all this:
220.127.116.11 No direct sunlight
(devices, from top left to bottom right: HTC Wizard, Compaq iPAQ 3660, BlackBerry 8800, Nokia N95-1, HTC s710 / Vox, HTC s310 / Oxygen, [second row:] Dell Axim x51v, HP iPAQ hx4700, HTC Universal and HP iPAQ 210)
Max backlight level, strong outdoor light without direct sunshine; all backlight levels – wherever possible; that is, not the, in this respect, by far the worst and least capable MS Smartphone platform – maxed. As can clearly be seen, the iPAQ 210 has the best visibility because of its very strong maximal backlight. The other phones / PDA’s aren’t much behind, though – without direct sunlight, they’ll behave pretty well if you maximize the backlight.