Geeks.com is selling the HP iPAQ h2210 for less than $220 this week, with a… 3600 mAh extra battery and a 128 MB SD card. While this model is pretty old now it is still very capable with its 400 Mhz processor and so we thought that we could review it from the point of view of an affordable SIP phone (Ekiga, Gizmo, Stanaphone, FreeWorldDialup, Skype). Read more for our findings and a quick rundown of its amazing battery life times!
The iPaq h2210 was released about 2.8 years ago and it is running the PocketPC 2003 OS (preloaded with the latest ROM version 1.10) with the addition of Pocket Word/Excel. It runs on a PXA255 Intel CPU at 400 Mhz, it has 64 MBs of RAM (50 MBs available to the user) and 32 MBs of storage (3.8 MBs available to the user). It uses a QVGA 3.5″ transflective TFT (brighter than Dell’s Axim X5 model which was released around the same time in 2003). The device also includes IrDA, Bluetooth 1.1 from Windcom (now Broadcomm), an SD/SDIO slot, and a compact flash slot. The device connects to the PC via a USB cable and it also has a cradle. The cradle can charge the PDA and an additional 900 mAh battery, but not the 3600 mAh one which is too big to fit on the cradle. The PDA does not have WiFi support, but we used our ($35) Linksys WiFi CF card to complete the tests. The PDA also features a 3.5mm headphone jack and an integrated microphone. We found its stylus hefty and easy to grab. The h2210 is rubberized on its two sides for a better grip. We found the four buttons at the bottom easy to click and the 5-way joystick is easy to use and precise.
The PDA that it would be fair to compare to because it was released at a similar time and because it’s using the same CPU, is the Dell Axim X5-Advanced. Having used both devices with the PPC2003 operating system I can truthfully say that the h2210 is a much faster device. Not only does it use faster RAM (and boots in about 14 seconds), but videos are not dropping frames as they do on the Axim X5 (e.g. when using QVGA WMV videos with either Windows Media Player or TCPMP in landscape mode). We found the h2210 on par with the rx3115 PDA which uses the (newer, technologically-speaking) 300 Mhz Samsung CPU.
The device’s leading mobile feature is probably its Bluetooth software which worked very well with the devices we paired it with. We could exchange files and even use a mobile phone as a modem to leach its GPRS connection. The exact same success we had by using IrDA too (we used a Sony Ericsson K300 phone and we got the PDA to the internet via IrDA at around 7 KB/sec).
The Geeks.com offer also comes with a 128 MB HP-branded SD card. If you only want to install applications and have some pictures in it, then 128 MBs is enough for you. If you want to watch full movies though, or listen to music, we advise you buy 1 or 2 GBs SD cards. We tested the PDA with our 1 GB Sandisk card and it worked perfectly too.
On the software side HP has included a few nice applications in there, like Nevo, which allows you to control your HiFi/TV devices via CIR (“Consumer Infrared”). Read here for some pictures of Nevo from a previous HP iPaq review. Other HP-only goodies include the HP Image Viewer, HP Printing, and the non-working HP Backup (more on this below). HP has also touched-up a number of Setting panels over the default Windows ones.
The default battery the device comes with is a 900 mAh which yielded for us about 10.2 hours of continuous “normal PDA” usage (screen at 20% of brightness, BT/IrDA off). It also managed about 8 hours of mp3 playback (with the screen off), which is better than my iPod Mini’s 6 hours (first generation) and about 4.5 hours of actively using WiFi (which is better than Nokia’s 770 Internet Tablet performance at 3.5 hours). There is also a secondary Li-on battery which can keep up the RAM contents for up to 20 minutes, just enough to keep your data safe when you are changing batteries or if a main battery fails.
Of course, the whole excitement of this purchase is the 3600 mAh HP-branded battery. And indeed, it has not dissapointed us. Surely, such a big battery adds bulk and weight to this otherwise slim and compact PDA (the battery weighs as much as the PDA itself), but its benefits outweigh the… Added fat (even with the added bulk it still fits in the case that the device comes with). Here are our battery tests with the extra battery:
Continuous “lite pda usage”, BT/IrDA off, screen at 20%= 43 hours.
Mp3 playback, screen off, BT/IrDA off= 33 hours.
WiFi ON (not always actively used), BT/IrDA off, screen at 0-20% (depending if I was using the PDA or just waiting for a SIP call, in which case the screen would turn off within 10 seconds)= 31 hours.
We estimate that with this battery forgeteful users could leave their PDA into standby mode and without recharging for over 2 months, without losing the RAM contents!
VoIP on the Go
Naturally, having such a big battery lying around you start thinking what would you be able to do with it. One feature that I can never get enough of because of fear of battery depletion, is WiFi. WiFi is a big battery life sucker, especially when used on an external slot via CF/SD, but the 3600 mAh battery can bring new life to the PDA as a mobile internet station, complement your current cellphone as a SIP solution and maybe even replace occasionally your laptop! We used the PDA’s microphone (located next to the 3.5mm headphone jack) to talk through and most of the time we used headphones rather than the PDA’s internal speaker because this can create an echo effect on the other side of the line. The device’s Bluetooth stack doesn’t support the headset/handsfree profiles.
We downloaded and installed the latest Agile Messenger beta for multi-IM support (Jabber, AIM, ICQ, Y! and MSN are all supported), the latest SJPhone-Plus beta and Skype. Skype comes with two flavors, one that is good for 312 Mhz CPUs and lower, and one that for faster CPUs. We tried the version that requires faster CPUs and the PDA managed the encoding/decoding of Skype’s protocol just fine. There were no dropouts or problems whatsoever.
With SJphone, which is a generic SIP application, we were able to configure it to use our Ekiga, Gizmo, Stanaphone and FreeWorldDialup accounts (sample configuration). They all worked beautifully in terms of voice chatting but the application itself is a bit unstable still. A stable version is expected in the next few weeks.
Overall, I was very happy using the PDA additionally as a SIP client around the house or work. As long as there is an available WiFi network and you happen to have Skype/Gizmo minutes so you can call landline/cellphones or lots of online friends, this mobile SIP solution can work wonders! No reason anymore to stay glued to your laptop or computer just to use VoIP.
Generally speaking, there are just three problems with this PDA:
1. It would have been nice if HP had added on-board WiFi. But I can understand the argument of dual-wireless in 2003 being a difficult task both economically and technologically.
2. The user storage space being only 3.8 MBs is a big problem, exactly as big as I described it a few months ago on another HP PDA review. I installed 4 applications that each was over 3 MBs, plus 3 more applications at around 1 MB each, and a few more utilities and that was enough to only end up with 20 MBs of free RAM and only 1.2 MBs of free ROM storage space. I ended up not installing the VB runtime, the .NET framework runtime and the Java runtime because all that wouldn’t fit in RAM. HP should have included 64 MBs of NAND on this and any other model that cost over $250 at the time of its release (this model used to cost $399). Thankfully, Geeks.com is selling this PDA with a 128 MB SD card as a gift so you should be all set for applications that don’t require to be installed in RAM like drivers/system-software needs to.
3. The third problem is the HP Backup application, which resets the device if you try to backup on the SD card. I tried two different SD cards and the problem remains. Of course, this application works for other users of the h2210, but not everyone of us have the same third party applications installed (which might be the root of the problem).
Need an affordable PDA that is still current in terms of speed and features, comes with a 128 MB SD card and an extra battery that yields a battery life that puts all your friend’s gadgets to shame? Then you just found it! All you need to additionally do is get a WiFi CF card that usually cost below $40 these days.