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HP iPAQ h5550

Hewlett Packard has a strong range of PDAs, and the h5550 is its all singing all dancing model, offering both 802.11b and Bluetooth along with a huge amount of RAM and biometric fingerprint recognition. That last feature is unique, only appearing in one other PDA – this model’s predecessor – but the combination of top-of-the-range features puts the h5550 at the very highest tip of the specifications tree, and not surprisingly, also pretty close to the top of this group’s price tree.

It is easy to see why having both Bluetooth and 802.11b on hand is useful. In the office wireless networking requires the latter, but when you are out and about and needing to make data calls with a mobile phone you need the former. We set both up in a jiffy, pairing with a SonyEricsson T68 Bluetooth phone and mooching around on our 802.11b network without problems. And yes, you can have both on at once if you really need to – Hewlett Packard even provides a little utility on the Start menu to turn both on and off together.

The 128MB of RAM is generous – you won’t find more on a PDA at present, and it is boosted by an area of Flash ROM which allows you to keep crucial data safe even when the battery looses all power. Up to 20MB of Flash ROM is accessible depending on the configuration of your device. Our review model had 17.4MB available. If still more memory is needed, the SD card slot can provide it.

The fingerprint recognition software is designed to work in conjunction with Windows Mobile’s own password protection system, or separately from it, and the reader is built into the area beneath navigation button so that it looks like a design feature rather than a security one. We aren’t entirely convinced fingerprint recognition is a great idea – or even an especially useful one, but this is the second time we’ve seen it in an iPAQ, so Hewlett Packard must like it.

As you’d expect from a PDA at this price and with dual wireless options, the h5550 has a top notch processor, the Intel XScale PXA 255 running at 400MHz. We are also pleased to note that it has a large screen – 3.8 inches measured across opposing corners is the largest you’ll find in any current Pocket PC. The overall hardware size and weight do reflect all that is crammed in, though, and this is the heaviest machine on test.

As usual we turned wireless options off for our battery test, and then looped MP3s for as long as we could manage. The battery itself ran for two hours 55 minutes, while music was delivered for just one hour 55. This is pretty poor battery life and certainly if you are an avid wireless communications user you will need regular supplies of mains power. There are three pieces of good news on this front: the already noted flash memory which if you use it means vital data should be safe, the fact that HP provides a mains power adaptor which is easier to carry around than the cradle, and the fact that the battery is removable so it is possible to carry a charged spare (or two) around.

Verdict

With Bluetooth and 802.11b on board, and plenty of RAM, this is definitely a PDA aimed squarely at the professional user. Its solid build means it should take a few knocks, and the large screen improves its potential for viewing complex information like Web pages or spreadsheet data. But it is heavy, the battery life could be better, and it will set you back a wad of cash.


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