Most of this review has been about software, but then apart from the generous 152MB of memory, the WiFi for media streaming, and the Bluetooth, it’s the software that will sell the iPAQ rx3715. For the record though, there is an SD card slot in the top of the casing which supports SDIO so you can add peripherals as well as more memory, while a button on the left side of the casing where you might more usually find a jog wheel activates the camera. The four buttons which more normally activate key Windows Mobile Applications are, this time around, dedicated to the Mobile Media control area, the HP Image Zone viewer, Nevo’s infrared remote control tool and the iTask application switcher.
You get a docking cradle which is rather nicely styled and coloured slate grey like the hardware, and a dongle which allows you to charge the iPAQ rx3715 without the cradle. There’s a carry case too, which is a nice touch for a device Hewlett Packard clearly expects to be toted frequently by its owners.
For all its megapixels don’t expect the built-in camera to replace a good dedicated digital camera. Dedicated cameras are still far and away better than anything you’ll find in a phone or PDA. The media streaming is nice, and it works, but I stream audio to my old Mio 558 over WiFi so it’s hardly a special feature. Nevo’s TV remote control? I could buy one of a number of applications to provide this feature.
I couldn’t close without a word on battery life. Rather than invent a fancy new fangled media streaming test, I ran the test I always run for Pocket PCs – simple looping of MP3 music until the battery gives out. WiFi and Bluetooth were turned off, the screen set always on and at half brightness, speaker volume as high as possible and beam receive was off. A low battery warning came through after four hours 22 minutes, music continued for 6 hours 25 minutes and when music playback stopped so did the machine. This is a pretty good result and I conclude that HP has put some effort into getting the battery to perform well.
You could be forgiven for thinking that HP is targeting PalmOne’s market directly with the rx3715. But let’s take a step back from that for a moment. You can buy PalmOne’s flagship Zire 72 for £231 inc VAT and delivery from Clove. The same company is selling the rx3715 for £360 including VAT and delivery. So the rx3715 will set you back more than £100 more.
Palm OS based devices have tens of thousands of third party applications including masses of excellent freeware to choose from, while the array of Pocket PC software is still small (though growing), by comparison.
OK, the Zire 72 lacks the huge memory, WiFi (though it does have Bluetooth and infrared), MPEG player and media streaming. But you can add the first two and even have a chance of adding media streaming through the new PalmOne WiFi card – though I have not seen the card yet so can’t give a view on it.
So maybe the rx3715 isn’t so much a PalmOne killer as a shot at opening up the consumer area for wannabe Pocket PC owners. Personally I’m not sure I like the dedicated main screen or the way the main Windows Mobile applications are hidden from view. But it will be interesting to see how well this device does in retail – it is expensive for a consumer focussed media device for all its streaming, built in wireless and standard Windows Mobile functions. But then again, it is a novel, slick and cleverly thought through combination of hardware and software.
HP is definitely serious about targeting the consumer PDA market, and there are a lot of good features on the rx3715 that could make it a winner on the high street. That said, the price is high for a consumer product, which could swing potential buyers towards a Palm OS device.