HP iPaq h6340 Wi-Fi, GSM PocketPC
The ideal mobile companion?
Review I've been an advocate of the PDA pretty much since its inception. I've had everything from a Psion Organiser to a Compaq iPaq travelling around with me over the years, and during that time I've seen the PDA evolve significantly, writes Riyad Emeran.
These days a PDA can no longer be a glorified Filofax, because that kind of functionality can be found in just about any mobile phone. No, in the modern age, the PDA has to pack a pretty decent amount of functionality into a sexy body if it has any hope of gracing the pocket of a style/techno junkie.
The PDA has evolved in many areas, including the incorporation of large, colour screens, memory card slots and audio/video playback. However, the most important evolutionary advancement for the PDA has to be connectivity.
Early PDAs relied on infrared ports for connectivity, and I can still remember Palm basing an entire advertising campaign around the ability to beam contacts from one device to another. The next step was the integration of Bluetooth, which allowed a PDA to communicate with a similarly equipped mobile phone - this potentially put your email in your pocket, but of course you still had to make sure you had a Bluetooth phone with you. Next up was the introduction of integrated Wi-Fi, which for me at least, represented a milestone, and convinced me to put my money on the table and buy an iPaq h5450.
But now, the communication bar has been raised again with the release of the HP iPaq h6340. Not only does this latest iPaq incorporate Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, it also has built-in GSM/GPRS functionality. So, what you're getting here is a 'one device does all' scenario - something that, in theory at least, makes a lot of sense.
Let me start off by saying that I wasn't particularly keen on the h6340 when it landed on my desk. I wasn't sure that I wanted a single device that did everything, because, as the unit in front of me highlighted, the result would be a reasonably large and unattractive solution - with dimensions of 11.9 x 7.5 x 1.9cm and a weight of 190g, you definitely know when this device is in your pocket. However, as I started to get acquainted with the h6340, I didn't just warm to it, I found myself starting to love it.
OK, so the h6340 doesn't look quite as slim and stylish as some PDAs - especially some other iPaqs. But once I got past the fact that the chassis was plastic, rather than metal, I accepted that the h6340 isn't a bad looking device. If there's one thing that really spoils the looks, it's the massive antenna stuck on the top left corner, but I have to assume that this is a necessity for the plethora of connectivity options at your disposal. Also, it's not surprising that this unit isn't as slim as some of the other iPaqs, since it has a lot more functionality squeezed into it.
If you look at the base specs of the h6340, you might become a little concerned. For a start, the CPU that drives it is a Texas Instruments chip running at a very conservative 168MHz. Considering that the last Pocket PC we looked at - the Dell Axim X30 - was based on a CPU running at 624MHz, you might worry about the h6340's horsepower. However, I can't say that I found the h6340 to be particularly sluggish, and I'd rather have a slower processor with more supporting functionality anyway. The problem with the PDA market is that it has become a numbers game: manufacturers are just throwing faster processors or more memory at their devices in an attempt to entice buyers. With this in mind, HP should be commended for deciding to design something different, rather than just plonking a faster chip in an aging device.
As far as memory goes, you get 64MB of internal storage - again this might not sound like a huge amount, but it wasn't that long ago when 64MB of storage was considered more than generous. And the h6340 does have an SD IO slot, so storage space is potentially limitless.
The screen is a 3.5in transflective TFT with a resolution of 240 x 320 - pretty standard for a Pocket PC these days. Unfortunately, there was no landscape mode available on the h6340, something that's been integral on most recent Pocket PCs. You can of course use third-party utilities to achieve a landscape view, but it's a shame that a feature as useful as this isn't there as standard.
Without a doubt, the mobile connectivity is the most important aspect of this device. Enabling and disabling the wireless connections has been made unbelievably simple. Tapping the Wireless icon, located at the bottom right of the screen will bring up the Wireless Menu. From here you can decide which of the wireless connectivity devices you want enabled or disabled. Simply tapping the Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or GSM/GPRS icons will toggle them on or off, while a separate button at the bottom allows you to turn them all off with one tap.
Not only is it easy to switch your wireless adaptors on and off, but the in-built wireless manager is pretty clever in its own right. If you have the GSM/GPRS connection activated and you open up Internet Explorer, the h6340 will establish a GPRS connection and resolve your home page. However, if you happen to have the Wi-Fi adaptor enabled as well and are in range of a usable 802.11b connection, the h6340 will use this when you open Internet Explorer instead of the slower and potentially more expensive GPRS connection.
If you want to use the h6340 as a phone, HP has made things as easy as possible for you. Of course you can select the Phone program from the Start menu if you desire, but it's far easier to press the green Phone button located under the screen. Regular iPaq users will be used to seeing the shortcut buttons positioned here, but on the h6340 only two of the four buttons are programmable, while the other two are adorned with red and green Phone symbols for making and ending calls.
Once you've pressed the green Phone button to activate the Phone program, you're greeted with a numeric keypad. Thankfully, the buttons are large enough for you to use your finger to dial instead of taking the stylus out. When making a phone call you can hold the h6340 up to your ear like a phone, although it does feel like you've got half a sandwich stuck to your head. You can of course use the supplied, wired hands free kit instead, but I chose to pair the h6340 up with a Bluetooth headset, which worked flawlessly. However, even though using a Bluetooth headset is perfect for answering incoming calls, making calls is still a bit of a chore due to a lack of voice dialling. It would be great if you could assign recordings to names in your Contacts list, so that you could dial their phone number via a Bluetooth headset, just like you can with most modern mobile phones - with this function you wouldn't have to take the h6340 out of your bag or pocket in order to make a call. That said, another point in favour of the h6340 is that it's a quad-band device, so you should be able to use it pretty much anywhere in the world.
You can also choose to send SMS messages from here as well, which is pretty handy. To make your text messaging, and in fact your emailing easier, HP has also included a clip on keyboard in the box. The keyboard is a commendable bundled accessory, but I found it a little too small for comfortable use. All things considered, I think I'd rather compose my messages with the stylus, especially since the Pocket PC Transcriber can read my admittedly messy handwriting better than most humans.
One aspect that I did find annoying in the communication functionality was the Inbox. I set up an email account so that I could download and reply to my work emails, and then set this account, aptly called Work, to be the default account. However, I discovered that if I sent an SMS message from the Phone program, when I later opened my Inbox, the account had changed to SMS. The result of this is that you end up having to constantly switch accounts if you're using the h6340 to send SMS and email. On the plus side though, just like with Internet Explorer, the Inbox program will choose the best available connectivity option when you're sending and receiving mail.
In the top right corner, above the screen you'll find the power button, as well as three indicator lights - one for GSM/GPRS, one for Bluetooth and one for Wi-Fi. When the adaptors are off these lights remain dark, but when you enable each one, they flash, to remind you that the corresponding feature is activated. Above the screen in the centre is the infrared port, which gives you a fourth wireless connectivity option. I have to say that I was a little disappointed to find that HP had not included the Nevo remote control software on the h6340. This is a little program that allows you to use a Pocket PC as a universal remote, for pretty much any piece of consumer electronics equipment. It's a great little feature, and one that I have used on many occasions with my own iPaq.
On the left hand side you'll find a headphone socket covered with a rubber bung, and a shortcut button to the voice recorder function. The latter can be programmed to be used with a different application if you prefer. On the right there are + and - buttons for the system volume, and the SD IO slot. The stylus slides into the top right corner at the rear, and is of the usual high-quality that I've come to expect from iPaq styli.
At the rear is the removable battery, behind which sits the GSM/GPRS SIM card. There's also a sliding lock that holds the battery in place - if the switch isn't in the locked position, the iPaq will refuse to power on.
In the box you get the iPaq itself, the aforementioned keyboard, a power adaptor, a carrying case and a docking cradle. I'm a big fan of docking cradles and I just can't understand why PalmOne no longer bundles them with its PDAs, especially since Palm Pilots were the devices that introduced them in the first place. The cradle supplied with the h6340 is a good one - as well as having a space for the iPaq there's also a slot to charge a second battery simultaneously. The USB cable is hard wired into the cradle, while a power socked is also in evidence for the power supply to plug into - the iPaq can charge over USB, but it will charge more quickly using the power supply. If you want to charge the h6340 without the docking cradle, there's also an adapter in the box for this purpose - the adapter allows the power supply to plug into the connector at the base of the iPaq.
So, is the iPaq h6340 the perfect mobile companion? Well, not quite, but it's very nearly there. The lack of voice dialling is a major disappointment, since I don't want to be taking a device this size out of my bag every time I want to make a call. Also, the annoying account switching if you're a regular user of both SMS and email really shouldn't happen.
But despite all the issues and niggles, the h6340 is still the closest thing I've seen to a pocket size device that can serve all your mobile needs. And with a retail price of £458 including VAT, it's decent value as well. If you're thinking that's a lot for a PDA, don't forget that the h6340 is also a quad-band mobile phone, and if you want to buy one of the latest mobile phones without a contract, you'll probably end up paying a few hundred pounds for the privilege. No, the iPaq h6340 isn't perfect, but it's close enough to win my recommendation.
If you want a pocket-sized companion that can do pretty much everything, you should take a long hard look at the iPaq h6340. It may not have the fastest CPU or the most memory, but it is a cracking little PDA, with more connection options than London Underground.
|HP iPaq 6340|
|Price||£458 inc. VAT|
|More info||The HP website|
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