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Ipaq 5450 review

9:19 am on Feb 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Administrator brett_tabke is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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I bought a Hewlett Packard Ipaq 5450 about a week ago.

Decision to switch from Palm:

I switched to the Ipaq because I was thoroughly unsatisfied with the Palm m130 I had. I did not care for the Palm input system and the PDA mostly was a glorified address book that I could have just as easily replaced with a few sheets of paper in my wallet. I was also not happy with the screen size, resolution, and the fact that Palm mislead buyers into thinking the device was full 16 bit color. Palm compounded the problem by sending me an offer of compensation on the day the offer ran out. I do not for see ever owning another Palm based PDA.

Why an HP/Compaq based PDA?

First, I've enjoyed most of the HP products I've ever owned. HP generally stands for quality products that are just a cut above the competition. I've owned 10's of thousands of dollars worth of HP products and have rarely had a problem with them.

That said, the heart of this PDA is still a Compaq product. If the product had been branded as a Compaq, I certainly would not have purchased it. My experiences with about a dozen Compaq products have all been poor to bad. So it was HP's purchase of Compaq and the rebranding of the Ipaq line into HP products that sealed the deal for me. This is the first Compaq based PDA to wave the HP banner since the buyout.

Why the Ipaq 5450?

The major thing I wanted was the ability to stay connected to the net around the house and yard. That mandated a WiFi capable system. I also wanted something that didn't need lots of addons like sleeves and plugins that you have to carry around in pockets and bags. Lastly, I wanted a pda that would connect with my LG-VX10 phone to be able to dialup the net from just about any place in the US.

I looked at all the available PDA's around, and could only come up with the 5450 as a viable option for my needs. The downside to the 5450 is that at $700, the 5450 costs just about as much as a good laptop.

What's in the Box?

- Ipaq 5450
- Sync Cradle Charging Station
- Stylus
- 2 cd's
- 30 sheets of various addendums and booklets.

5450 Stats:
- 400 MHz Intel PXA250 XScale processor
- 48-MB ROM/64-MB RAM
- Integrated Wireless LAN 802.11b
- Integrated Bluetooth
- Integrated Biometric Fingerprint Reader
- Infrared and IrDA
- Transflective TFT color liquid crystal display
- Removable/Rechargeable Battery
- Integrated Secure Digital Slot I/O
- 3.5 mm 4-way Audio Jack
- Microphone, speaker and quick voice recorder.
- Microsoft Pocket PC 2002

The Ipaq Models 5450 and 5455 are the same hardware. Like all Compaq PDA series numbers, the 55 denotes it as "enterprise" level. The 55 comes with "Peacemaker" software on CD to IrDA exchange data with Palm PC's.

The 400 MHz Intel PXA250 processor is more than beefy enough to run even the most demanding applications. Although some gamers feel the recent jump in mhz from 200, is not significant. 3rd party hacks are out to allow overclocking to 500mhz.

64-MB SDRAM; 48-MB Flash ROM Memory. This is tons of memory. Not only is they excess memory in the main application space, you are left with over 20meg of "filestore" data that can be stored on the internal flash rom for permanent keeping.

Input Methods:
Handwriting recognition: this is one of the prime reasons I purchased a PocketPC based pda. The input recognition is excellent and fast. There is also a onscreen keyboard and a grapheti like character recognition.

There is a button on the side of the Ipaq that triggers a voice recorder. This is very handy to record quick notes to yourself in the middle of meetings or in the grocery store.

There is a nifty vibrate mode in addition to a standard audio alarm.

I was quite surprised how easy it was to get the Ipaq up and running with my wireless system. I was able to get it up and surfing the net within five minutes of turning on the Ipaq.

Unfortunately, PocketPC does not contain any netware like networked drivers. The only way to use the Ipaq as a network client on your local network is via VPN. I've not investigated this further yet, but I am very disappointed that I can not surf my local boxes without additional software that may or may not work.

At this point, I couldn't care less about bluetooth - I wish it didn't have it. I don't for see ever using the feature at all.

The Charging station (hot sync thingo) has both USB and Serial interfaces.

If you remember, this was one of my biggest beefs with the Palm m130. The Palm hot sync cradle was extremely poor and sounded like you had just broken it every time you pulled it out of the cradle.

The Ipaq's cradle is well made. The PDA slips in and out with the slightest touch - no forcing required whether you have a sleeve on the PDA or not.

On the down side, there is no "sync button" on the cradle and requires a constant connection to the PC. Where as with the palm, I would only fire up the sync software when I need to sync with the PDA, the PocketPC requires it to be on at all times. To compound problems, the software is a hardwired registry entry. Additionally, the sync software running on the PC side is taking a whopping 3% processor usage even just setting there. Compare that to less that .05% for my digital camera device monitor that detects a camera being plugged into the system.

The Transflective TFT liquid crystal display at 64K color (65,536 colors) (16-bit) is pretty good. It is right at "laptop" or flatscreen quality. The viewable image size is 2.26 in wide x 3.02 in tall (57.6 mm wide x 76.8 mm tall), 3.8 in Diagonal (96 mm): 240 x 320 pixel resolution.

The Ipaq supports SD or MMC (Secure Digital or MultiMedia) cards. Fortunately, this was the same that my Palm used. A simple plugin and go to get it to work.

SD cards are great. I bought about 10-64 meg cards on closeout a few weeks ago. They work great for carrying MP3's and pictures.

Protective Cover:
There is the plastic cover that comes with the Ipaq that is 90% useless. It's low grade (but perty) plastic and it is not possible to really use the Ipaq with the case on. It's really perplexing that something this low grade would be in the box with the Ipaq. It's like painting a Rolls Royce with the paint brush.

I certainly miss the cool "beam me up scotty" flip cover of the Palm. Evidently HP feels that they need to get Ipaq owners into the mode of buying stuff for their pda because buying a quality case is the first thing all Ipaq owners must do.

The Case:
I'm struggling with this issue of the case and the cover. The case neither fits in my hand comfortably, or reliably. The case is very slippery. In just 15-20hours usage I have caught the Ipaq as it was slipping out of my hand several times. It just isn't a good fit.

HP/Compaq could alleviate this major design flaw with some sort of "finger grip" material on the sides of the Ipaq. I'm not sure what the entire answer is, but I hope a quality case and cover will address this issue as I've read story after story about people breaking their Ipaqs after being dropped from as little as two feet onto carpet.

I guess I was spoiled by the m130 that fits comfortably and reliably in my hand. I also would not hesitate to drop the
m130 on carpet from head height. (that is something I would never try with the Ipaq and it's flimsy cover.

Power Supplies:
The 5450 includes a 1250 mAh Lithium-Ion Polymer removable / rechargeable battery. There is also a internal Back up battery so you can swap the main battery without losing any data. There is also a beefier 2500 mAh battery accessory you can buy. It takes about 2.5 hours to charge the main battery. If the system is on in the cradle, it will take 3 to 6 hours to charge.

There is a quick record button on the top left. It also serves as the volume up and down for media. I'd not considered this a feature I needed when I purchased the Ipaq, but it is one I am using constantly now. The microphone is located on the lower left of the case so that you hold the Ipaq to your face just like a cell phone to record.

There is a builtin low grade speaker that won't win any awards, but there is also a headphone jack. The PocketPC os comes with Microsoft media player. Playing mp3's is a snap and they sound just as good as a desk top. Combine the Ipaq with a quality amplifier, the sd storage cards, and you have an entire disk jockey system.

No Joypad:
The 5450 directional joypad has been slammed from one end of the net to the other. HP has even acknowledged the problem by putting out a memo that in effect says, "don't send it back to us - that's the way it works".

The joypad does not register clicks properly. If you have large thumbs like I do, it is very difficult to virtually impossible to use the joypad. 3 or 4 clicks are often needed to get the os to register the movement. Some say that it should loosen up a bit in usage, but I don't hold out any hope. The only answer is to stick with the stylus and forget the joypad exists.

Fingerprint Reader:
The 5450 contains a finger print reader. You can specify that the Ipaq shouldn't turn on without a fingerprint match. I was unable to get the finger print to recognize my fingers reliably. You place your finger just below the joypad and swipe it downward. The small line you can see below the joypad is a heat sensitive bar that reads the ridges. More hype than substance.

Nevo Universal Remote IR Controller:
One of the applications in ROM on the 5450 is a universal remote controller. It worked well to setup my 3 tv's, two vcrs, and one dvd player. They all worked well from about 7-8ft away. Once the palm was further away, it became difficult to control the devices. I probably won't use this too much if at all.

The OS is pure PocketPC 2002 by Microsoft. The PDA side is powerful and easy to use. The pc side is Outlook. I have yet to come to terms with this reality.

It is just the opposite of the Palm, where I found the Palm PDA side to be poor and the desktop side excellent. The pc side of the Palm is so easy to use, that even if I toss the m130, I will continue to use the Palm desktop software as my prime pim/contacts manager.

There is nothing but a simple quick start guide to get you going. This is insufficient for a product of this caliber. Additionally, there are dozens of sheets of paper in the box that are addendums and specific guides for WiFi and Bluetooth (each with addendums). These all could have easily been combined into one manual. The manual is on disk as a PDF and certainly should have been printed and included in the box.

When Spending this kind of money on a PDA, you would expect a certain level of quality. This is twice as true when it has the HP logo on it. However, one need only surf some of the conversations going on out there about the 5450, to find that all is not well in HP Ipaq land. There are wide ranging stories of software and hardware problems with the 5450. Whether this is just a vocal minority or the makings of a real problem, that is debatable. I've not had to reset my Ipaq yet and have not had any major errors.

That said, I've not used much third party software yet, and really won't know what I have on my hands for a couple of months.

10:14 am on Feb 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

joined:Sept 16, 2001
votes: 0

Great review, can't understand why you buy these things though, wy buy when you can play with them for a few weeks and then return it with some things you want changed :)

At this point, I couldn't care less about bluetooth - I wish it didn't have it. I don't for see ever using the feature at all.

My dear MR. Tabke that hurts badly ;)
Trust me bluetooth will take on, i hoped after this summer it would go faster, it didn't but i think it will take of but not in the scale that was discussed at the Bluetooth conference's.
Every other product at CeBit 2002 had it and that must meen something.
A new version is under development which will enable larger datatransfer and a longer range, but then less datatransfer (The longer distance between the connection points the smaller amount of data can be transfered per second), i see different points with 802.11a/b/g than with bluetooth.
I will not go in to all of them now though (We don't want to make this post the longest one in Webmasterworld history ;) )

I've tried earlier Ipaq versions, and they've been working alright, what i've been after in a PDA is mostly the ability to use other computers performance and running smoothly.
I've watched DVD's, played Quaker etc on a Ipaq, all was done via either wires or wireless.
One thing that i liked was the ability it has to modifiy the screen according to the light, helped a lot out in sunlight.

I think most people find Palm PDA's quite cool, they are nice looking, but i can't really say they "do it for me" they are alright if you only want to use it for organizing things, sending SMS, EMS, MMS via bluetooth.

If you would buy your first PDA, and didn't want to spend to much money i would probably recommend
What MR. Dell never said they would do: a Dell PDA [dell.com]

I haven't actually tested one out, but for that price i think it's worth playing with just for a few minutes (In the beginning you could get one from 150$!)

9:31 am on Mar 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

joined:Sept 15, 2002
votes: 0

I've been using PDAs since Psion's first models came out, and I also own one of those Compaqs. I can't remember the model number because it's stashed away in the cupboard. They're pretty useless for surfing the net unless you use a magnifying glass, but they are great machines offering a lot. You can even watch short video clips on them.

Why is is stashed away? Well, now I own a Nokia 7650, and whilst it doesn't do all the number crunching that a compaq can, I rarely used those features anyway. If you want to do anything serious, you need to do it on a PC or a laptop. The built in camera on the phone is the real killer feature.

I'd just like to point out one thing about Bluetooth. Whilst it's a REAL PAIN to set up, when it works it's great. Now I can connect my laptop to the net via my 7650 on a half decent bit rate, and I don't even need to know where the phone is. So long as it's in the room, my Bluetooth connection will find it.

The trend is definately towards integrated phone/PDAs. I'm surprised Compaq was so slow to pick up on that.

4:04 am on Mar 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Administrator from US 

WebmasterWorld Administrator brett_tabke is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Sept 21, 1999
votes: 17

Well you are right Laz - guess what I'm shopping for? A bluetooth ready phone. I'm not fond of carrying around a cable to connect from the pda to the phone I have now. Unfortuantely, the workable bluetooth phones are few and far between over here that will work with my mobile service.

So, I guess I'll try one of those bluetooth adapters that plug into the headset jack. You get the bluetooth headset as a bonus.