a. First, let’s start with the, in my opinion, most important news item: as you may have heard (see related PPCT thread HERE), Sony may only release the XPERIA X1, without doubt the most revolutionary Windows Mobile phone to be released this year, only next year in February. This, in the meantime, has been refined: the device is officially stated to be released H2 this year. The reason for the 2009 release date given in the official product page is as follows: “The only reason for the mysterious “10th of February release” is the fact that Sony Ericsson (or should I say Microsoft) has yet to decide on when to publicly announce the operating system and technical specifications of the X1, and thereby also a precise release date”
Indeed it’d be pretty much suicidal for Sony-Ericsson to wait almost a year with the release. It’s NOW that there aren’t any decent high-resolution (W)VGA devices on the market, not a year later, when
- there would be at least E-TEN (now: Acer) to offer the V900 and Gigabyte the MS808, which both have a digital TV tuner compatible with both handheld and standard terrestrial broadcasts and also have really decent specs. Also, BlackBerry and the Symbian / feature phone folks should not be underestimated either: S60 Touch is promised for this year (the just-announced Nokia N96 may pale in comparison to it if it's true what Nokia predicts - that is, at least something like that of Nvidia's really-really excellent GUI) and there are rumors of a touchscreen BlackBerry too. Other manufacturers may also come up with Android and LiMo-based, “killer” devices and, speaking of Linux, there’re rumors of a new Nokia Internet Tablet, this time incorporating WiMax support (one of the biggest and most frequently uttered buzzwords of this year’s MWC).
- the current hardware (particularly the Qualcomm MSM7200A chipset), assuming it isn’t changed / updated, becomes outdated in a year. Not only because of the Samsung S3C6410, which MAY be shipping then or the also way better and more powerful TI OMAP 3, which is available even now, but also because of Qualcomm’s own, new announcements (most importantly, the QST1105), which may also become available (and even shipped with some new models!) this year for industry-wide deployment.
b. Let’s go on with the HP iPAQ 210. I have some good news for you.
While it’s still not certain when CorePlayer really receives support the heavily advanced multimedia decoding features of the new PXA3x0 processors (including the PXA310 in the 210), it’s pretty much certain it will some time – see THIS brand new thread for new info. This is certainly good news - at the time of writing my last iPAQ 210 article, it was still unknown whether it would be supported or not (remember the fate of Nvidia GoForce 5500? It'll pretty much unlikely it'll ever receive any support in CorePlayer and, without it, VGA models based on the GF5500 are pretty much useless at playing back high-resolution videos.)
Also, I have some other good news to report on screen quality-wise. As was mentioned in my previous article, I’ve started a thread at BrightHand asking for help in comparing the screen to that of the iPAQ hx4700, the predecessor of the 210. With my standardized set of screen quality tester shots, fellow Smartphone and Pocket PC Magazine blogger Al Harrington has made some comparative shots of the 210 and the hx4700. They’re as follows (as usual, click the thumbnails for full-size shots):
As can be seen, the screen is on par with the old hx4700 screen, contrast-wise (and, as I've been told, also minimal backlight-level wise, which is VERY good news, considering that, so far, the hx4700 has been the most eye-friendly night-time Pocket PC because of the really-really low minimal backlight level). Note that the hx4700 ran at a definitely lower brightness level; hence it seems to be much darker in the photo. (Unfortunately, it’s notoriously hard to make decent shots of PDA screens, particularly without decent tripods – that is, tripods that are able to make vertical shots like the 128RC fluid head from Manfrotto I use for shots like this. It was very expensive but MUCH better than low-end tripods like those of hama – the latter must be known to fellow Europeans.) Make sure you buy such a semi-professional tripod + video / photo head if you plan to make comparative PDA screenshots in the dark.)
This piece of news certainly makes the iPAQ 210 probably the most appealing standalone VGA PDA of today, particularly if you need a big (4”) VGA screen. Remember: ALL the announced Windows Mobile phones have a 2.8”...3” (W)VGA screen; the only exception is the heavy and, in my opinion, because of the PXA270, outdated (even with the new, x7510 version) and pretty much awkward Advantage / Athena, the x75x0 and the painfully buggy O2 XDA Flame, which almost surely won’t be upgraded to WM6.
Remember: the iPAQ 210 does NOT have a phone built-in. Should you need a (W)VGA device with a phone, you need to remember two things:
- as has already been stated, they announced/soon-to-be-released devices (including the XPERIA X1, the MS808 and the V900 – that is, the “Holy Trinity” of the forthcoming, very appealing models – not counting in the T-Mobile Compact IV, which will only be available for T-Mobile customers) all (!) have far (!) smaller screens (2.8" (with the X1, 3", but it's WVGA) as opposed to 4"). I’ve already touched upon this subject in my previous i-mate article, but it’s still worth mentioning again: particularly if your eyesight isn’t the best (any more) and/or you plan to run your handheld in a (tweaked) native VGA mode (as opposed to the standard SE VGA) and/or you want to use Opera Mini (the best browser IMHO) or any app that may use small characters on it, a 4” VGA screen is far better than a 2.8… 3” one.
- Currently, there aren’t any decent(!) VGA phones out there – as long as you don’t want to stick to the HTC Universal (or, even worse, the buggy O2 XDA Flame or Toshiba G900.) Also, all these phones have (with the Toshi, substantially) smaller screens.
If all these are a big problem with you (much bigger a problem than keeping a separate PDA and phone with you), you might definitely want to go for the non-converged, “traditional” way – that is, the HP iPAQ 210, which, currently (and for at least half a year – and even more, if 2.8”…3” (W)VGA screens are just too small for you), seems to be the best VGA model you can have.
What phone should you use in addition to the iPAQ 210 to access the Net, you may ask. Basically, you can use any with Bluetooth and, preferably, a quick Internet connection (the 2.75G EDGE at least, but 3G and, even better, HS(D)PA is definitely better).