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Last Updated : 02 July 2012

 

Welcome to the in-depth and long term review of the HP IPAQ 110.  It is  called the IPAQ 112 in Australia but I have a US version.  My work colleague has the the 112 other even has the 111.  For this review I'm trying to separate my comments on the hardware from the operating system. Hence will attempt to provide an objective Windows Mobile 6 review and of course a comparison to Palm TX and Palm OS 5.  (Because the hardware can actually be good whilst the software really bad.)

As you can guess my Palm TX has finally been replaced.  I was sad to see it go but change is also as good - but will the Ipaq be all that I expected or will it be a repeat of my disappointing original Windows Mobile (then call Pocket PC 2002) based PDA experience?

Ipaq's hardware

The hardware aspect of the Ipaq 110 can be described as entirely non-Apple.  Ever held a real iPod or iPod Touch? Well don't expect that level of quality in construction.  I wasn't too impressed with the TX  but the latest iPaq feels even worse like a cheap mobile phone. Sure it feels solid enough in a plastic sense and has a rubberized coating on the back to make holding a more secure proposition.  Mid-range mobile phones have a much better feel of quality these days - mainly because they are made of real metal.  The Ipaq 110 is plastic all over - good or bad - I'm not really sure but one does yearn for the days of more quality like the original Compaq and Palm series.

The main connector at the bottom of the Ipaq is a mini-USB so it's a good start, I'm sure everyone is truly tired of propriety connectors.  USB charges and allows data transfers between the Ipaq any device.  The usual buttons are spread around the case but the small power button rates a mention as it is clearly ergonomically placed for left or right handed use!

The touch of the buttons are toy like in feedback, except for the power and voice recorder buttons.  The SD card holder mechanism is quite solid and spring loaded.  However since the failure of the other Ipaq 112 mechanism, namely it would no longer hold the SD card in makes me wonder about the latest Ipaq's build quality.  No more MP3's for you mate.

The IPAQ 110 screen is a 320x480 pixel unit that displays the usual 262K of colors at any one time and the images it produces is quite nice.  It's not ultra sharp but good enough screen made for a late 2007 device.  The screen is about equal to the one on the TX.  The backlighting, font choice, finer resolution of the images and colors are the main differences between the two. The Ipaq looks more 2007 than the older TX.  However only the main screen and top header and bottom bar have the new graphics. The rest of the system screens still have simple white backgrounds of the older versions.  The model up the, Ipaq 210 has a 640x480 screen which by all accounts is even better but the price difference is much greater than we where willing to pay.

The sound quality is not great but is perfectly acceptable.  Same as the Pam TX. As a bonus it has a voice recorder which I don't need to used but for this review I tried it out.  It's fine nothing more.  It has a few other features worth mentioning, namely the green/orange power and charging LED and a separate Wi-Fi and bluetooth active light. 

As for standard memory for programs to run on - it obviously has enough to run 8 or so programs.  There's 64Megs for programs but only a max of 17 Megs to run programs and it also has 197 Megs of on board storage.  So if your a typical user like myself there's plenty to go round.  No additional SD cards are included in the sales package.

Ipaq's software package

The latest Windows Mobile 6 OS for PDAs and smartphones is some 3 versions from the last version I had and so I was expecting a lot of changes.  I was disappointed, there was nothing new.  Note that buying a new Ipaq does not include the latest version of Outlook for your PC.  You have to pay extra for that piece of software.

Apart from the standard Windows OS features there aren't too many additions.  The only significant other non-Microsoft software are HP's Wi-Fi and Bluetooth management, ClearVue PDF reader, Rhinocode's TodayPanel Lite. 

Ipaq's processing speed

Finally, Windows Mobile 6 works at a pace that you work at.  No more lags when looking up addresses and checking appointments etc...  It is probably a tad faster than the Palm TX.  However it is undeniable to say the the 624Mhz CPU is the main reason why it now runs quickly.  When compared to the HTC Touch Dual that runs on a 400Mhz CPU, the Ipaq is noticeably faster.  I would not recommend a PDA or smartphone with any lower speed CPU when running Windows Mobile.  Imagine a Palm OS running 624MHz and speed freaks would be in PDA heaven.  However since the TX is just as fast with it's current processor one can only imagine.

Ipaq's security

A review of the Ipaq would not be complete without examining Windows Mobile 6 security features. And I can tell you that security is just OK but not very well thought out.  More to the point the data is not encrypted when stored in system memory.  However there is a encryption feature for the memory card which is a good start but due to the way its been implemented only certain bits of data are encrypted.  Dependent on the time and where they where created.  Hence it is quite an effort to transfer data - quite pointless. It relies on a security certificate that resides on the system memory to validate.  So the data cannot be read by any other PC. Thus should you hard reset all the memory card's data cannot be recovered.  I haven't tried backing up the security certificate, so don't know if it is actually possible or works.

When activated the basic password required login validation routine is actually quite complex.  Basically lets you input 7 tries at the password before it starts a 'check digit'.  The lets you another 7 times then the same 'check digit' then it increases the time which you have to wait before you input a new password try.  The time extends every time a wrong one is input.  So theoretically if you have a good password it would take a very long time by the simple brute force method to unlock.  However it is a MS product so you can be sure there's flaw somewhere - being cynical there.

However I would be far happier to know that my data was encrypted by separate password and that after number of failed password tries my data is permanently scrambled or deleted.  Yes, I prefer the Palm OS method.  However I do like the ability to encrypt memory card data but not the silly way Windows Mobile 6 does it.

That said I now use the open source and free keepass.info  program in the Ipaq that I sync with the desktop version when needed.

Calendar - Contacts - Notes

The calendar is a very important part of the reason why I use a PDA,  Thankfully WM 6 does not disappoint.  It syncs with Outlook which I reluctantly use because I prefer the Palm Desktop, Thunderbird or Eudora combo.  Read on for a more complete reasons why.  It is equal to the TX's version.

The WM6 Contacts address book application is like excellent.  Lot of fields and nice categories.  However I wish the filter by categories was easier to select than pressing the button and cycling through all the categories until you get the right one.  Surely a drop down box like the Palm is easier to use and implement.

The ability of a PDA to jot down quick notes is another essential function.  With the Ipaq 110, once the short cut key is assigned everything is fine.  However it all falls down when it comes to sorting.  Your notes are in individual little files that you have to sort out your self into different categories.  Even Syncing with Outlook, your notes are in a similar mess.  When you want to find one you previously input it means searching through a very long list some 300+ in may case. The names are truncated and it unnecessarily shows the file size of the note - quite pointless in a Notes view. Even worse is the inability to see notes that you have sorted into different folders because folders don't show up in the Notes view.  You need the File Explorer to sort the notes files into some sort of order.  Palm TX and the Palm Desktop combo wins hands down when it comes to managing notes.

Internet and Web browser.

The internet browser is becoming increasingly important in a PDA and Internet Explorer on WM6 truly hits rock bottom.  For a browser to be so limited with a massive 624Mhz CPU backing it up is truly a joke.  It has not improved over the last 5 years.  For an operating system that is also used on mobile phones it truly shows how the lack of competition makes MS sit on their butts. That said the Blazer browser on the Palm TX which was great at the time is similarly a joke these days but it is over 3 years old.  To put it in prospective a Nokia S60 OS based phone has a better browser than either PDAs.  However all are last place compared to the Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch Safari based web browsers.  Apple deserves the accolades for such a good product.  Try a 3rd party browser on the IPAQ if you want to exploit the hardware.

The most disappointing part is that for a device released in 2008 the Ipaq's standard browser don't properly support CSS and FLASH.  Still sluggish with larger web pages.  It's no better than the one on the Palm TX.

Other software

Windows Mobile 6 does have one feature that I can rave about and that is the integrated MSN Messenger or as it is now called Windows Live!  Yes you can now get Instant messenger access from your PDA.  Unfortunately Microsoft seems to performing some 'upgrades' or maybe its crashed, whatever, it hasn't been working reliably during the week I decided to write this review (March 2008). 

MS Word, Excel and finally Powerpoint is there.  Cut down version of the desktop they work very well indeed.  Most of my spreadsheets and word files work without needing to reformat.  However there is relative issue with the format that you should know about.  Although you can open most files natively if you do any modifications you need to save it in the PDA's native format.  There is no choice.  Overall they are superior to the DocsToGo for the Palm TX except for the need to save in the PDA format.

Wireless connectivity

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity with the USB connector are powerful combinations and all works well.  Wi-Fi connection does take a little while to become active.  I miss the Infrared beaming of contacts and to use it as a personal TV remove control.  Nevertheless WEP, WPA and WPA2 network security are supported as are all the usual Wi-Fi connection methods.  It's easy to setup and use.

Multitasking

Much has been said about the ability of Windows Mobile 6 to multitask (running more than one application at the same time).  Personally as long as it can place MP3's in the back ground I'm happy.  However multitasking on WM6 is also a serious flaw with any WM 6 based device.  Closing programs still don't turn them off, they sit just still there slowing the device down eventually causing the thing to crash. Despite all thee years there is still the lack of any function to switch between applications.  If multitasking is such a great feature why not make it easy to use?  So on the surface of it - let's face it everyone - this is an Microsoft IN the know joke.  They couldn't get the programs to turn off properly so they call it a feature.  To me this is plain and simple memory leaking flaw left broken.

Windows Media 6 user interface uses Vista like look and feel?

Many authoritative publications say it designed to look more like Vista. The reality is that changing the home screen's colors do not make it even close to Vista. Windows mobile 6 menus do not fade in or out, there isnít even any transparency. It's only on the one screen everything else is barebones. Itís not even close to matching XP interface. Even low power mobile phones have more visual tricks than this OS. Typical triumph of marketing than reality.

Sure MS has to attempted to foster 3rd party software so judging the basic functions - yes it's all there but anyone would expect more inherent OS type functionality for an OS that has been developed over 10 years.  Especially in terms of standard customization like fonts sizes and colors.

Finally fixing the Outlook/Exchange interface is nice but the world has moved on. Everyone uses webmail style email and messaging. Only slack IT departments havenít moved on.  Of course we all know that Microsoft are still trying to keep use using specific software rather than a web browser fair enough - if you've got the money?

Issues: Sorting data

You will be spending quite awhile sorting files into folders.  And even then it may not help you.  Unlike Palm OS it was never important to make folders because of the Category feature.  There are predefined folders which the programs create files in which you can't change if you want the programs to locate them automatically. 

ActiveSync works!

I was surprised when I was able to sync the Ipaq to a Windows XP based PC without any problems what so ever.  It never worked reliably before. In fact mobile phone software sync'ed better with outlook than Windows Mobile.  Still, if you haven't got the latest version of Outlook, sorting data in particular notes and Excel files is not very tidy.

GPS connectivity for the Ipaq.

The IPAQ does not come with an inbuilt GPS. So I use the Nokia LD-3W Bluetooth GPS receiver.  In order to get the LD-3W to connect to a Windows Mobile 6 based mobile is to use the following settings.  (After much trial and error): 

- Install the free Google Maps program then:
- Turn on the LD-3W.
- Pair the LD with the IPAQ.
- Go to the External GPS Icon in the settings menu and select GPD1 as the GPS Program Port. 
- Then select COM6 as the GPS hardware port.
- Then set the Baud rate to 4800. 
- Tick the Manage GPS automatically tick box.
- Close all running programs or a soft reset to make sure there are no extra programs running.
- Go to Settings - HP IPAQ Wireless option: 
- Connect to a WLAN if available.
- Go to Bluetooth Connections and find the GPS unit.
- Double click the icon to make it an active connection.
- Run Google Maps.
- Go to Menu and select Use GPS.
- It should detect it straight away and connect it will also ask you whether to select the LD-3W as the default GPS receiver.  Do so if you wish.

That said - you really need a Wi-Fi connection in order to make proper use of the GPS because there aren't any maps included.

Palm TX Vs HP 110 data transfer.

How to transfer from Palm TX to Ipaq?  Transferring data from a Palm or Palm desktop is very easy if you have a TX or E2.  Simply put in the CD you got with the Palm and go to the main menu.  I think it's called installing additional software.  Change the sync method to Outlook and Sync the TX.  The sync the data to the Ipaq.  No need of additional software.  A new profile in Outlook would have already been created with the Sync.

Battery Life

The Ipaq's battery life is very similar to the TX.  It seems to run down quickly even without bluetooth or Wi-Fi turned off.  Clearly it's caused by the fast processor but it does loose power even turned off.  Like the TX it will last a day with extensive use without wireless options turned on.

Conclusion

So far despite the criticisms I am enjoying using the IPAQ.  It's clearly usable and a better experience than the last 'Ipaq' model I had.  (Stable - making sure to diligently turn off every application)  The latest hardware by HP is a little cheap in feel but it does the job, the internal specifications are great though. 

Current retail pricing of the IPAQ 110 are too high. RRP A$399  However it is essentially the same price as the Palm TX which is like wise over priced for such an old piece of tech.  Reduce you prices Palm and make them sweat.  (That said they do sell for at least $50 less at bulk retailers.)

Clearly Microsoft targeted Palm but clearly and like many of it's latest releases have missed the mark.  They caught up but that's it.  This is not innovation it's more like catch up or follow the leader. Disagree all you want but use the Ipaq and the Palm TX side by side.

The Ipaq is now a suitable alternative if you can live with it's way of doing things. The latest Windows Mobile 6 is NOT a knock out blow (not even close) to the ancient Palm OS.  At the most I think Windows Mobile has finally caught up - in most areas.  Personally I'd be slightly happier with an updated Palm TX due to the excellent notes quick and very simply category based sorting and no brainer security/encryption features.  So if Palm still makes them in a couple years time I will probably be changing back.

 




 




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