The Future, in a Neat Silver Case
Lovely color TFT LCD screen, voice recorder, nice built-in applications
The Bottom Line:
Absolutely outstanding, if you have over $1,000 to spend on a Pocket PC.
With the introduction of the Compaq iPAQ Pocket PC H3670, pocket-size PDA computers are finally beginning to become less like pocket organizers and more like computers. Don't get me wrong here -- I do indeed have a Palm III, and it's still very useful for many things. But can I do all the things on my Palm III that I can do on my "real" computer at home? Not even close.
This latest Compaq iPAQ Pocket PC, however, threatens to change all that. With its sizable amount of memory (64 MB RAM) and its totally new operating system, the Pocket PC H3670 certainly looks to be one of the neatest toys out there right now.
Although there are tons of features to discuss here, the one I'll talk about first is the screen. Absolutely gorgeous for anything so small, I've found the H3670's screen to be one of its nicest attributes. The 12-bit, 4,096-color display utilizes the latest and greatest in LCD screens, color-reflective thin film transistor (TFT) technology. Though real computer monitors would laugh at the 2.26" by 3.02" screen, its .24 mm dot pitch and excellent 240 x 320 resolution make colors vivid and words very easy to read. As if that weren't enough, Compaq has added a sensor at the top of the device which keeps tabs on the amount of ambient light. If the room suddenly gets darker, this iPAQ Pocket PC will adjust by brightening the screen, and vice versa. Pretty neat, huh?
Now let's move on to size. This thing is absolutely tiny, given the amount of functionality it has. At just 5.11" x 3.28" x .62", one could easily keep this in a front shirt or pants pocket, or surely in a small briefcase pocket. Weighing in at just over 6 ounces, it barely weighs more than most current, smaller cellular phones. Unfortunately, what it may give up in exchange for its superior size and weight is battery life; the battery on this thing just does not last very long. If you expect to use this device a lot, you'll probably have to recharge the battery more than once a week at the very least.
The iPAQ Pocket PC H3670 retains all the features of its predecessors, such as a nice contact list and calendar. New and potentially useful features include a voice recorder, a stereo audio-output jack, an improved speaker, and easier integration through your home computer's USB port. There's also an expansion slot, which will be discussed in more detail just below.
Another really nice thing about the iPAQ H3670 is its upgradability. Sure, the 64 MB of RAM is fixed and can't be increased, but the OS is upgradable. Since its ROM (16 MB) is flashable, one can easily upgrade in the future. The included expansion slot, as I mentioned earlier, will allow you to add various cards to improve your Pocket PC's features, such as 32 or 64 MB add-ons of Flash Memory. The degree to which this will be useful depends largely on the extent to which different expansion cards are made for use with this device, which only the future will tell. Combine all these things, however, with the capability of exchanging information with other kinds of PDAs through the infrared port (by using a program called Peacemaker), and you have yourself a nice little computer which won't be outdated in a couple of months.
I mentioned earlier that the H3670 boasts what Compaq calls "a totally redesigned operating system." While I'm not so sure about that, given the strong resemblance it bears to certain other Pocket PC-based Windows platforms, this iPAQ's operating system does seem to be fairly decent -- especially for a Pocket PC. With included applications such as Pocket versions of Word and Excel, a fairly decent media player, and a moderately full-featured web browser, you actually can use this Pocket PC to do many of the tasks which were formerly relegated exclusively to full-size computers.
Alas, not everything with this wonderful-sounding device is quite as nice as it seems from the ads. Not surprisingly, some of the features on this brand-new handheld device are not quite as new and revolutionary as Compaq would like you to believe. QStart, for example, is a "Compaq Exclusive!" feature offered by the iPAQ H3670, which basically categorizes your applications for easier launching. I hate to say it, folks, but this really isn't much of an improvement over the way my Palm III does it.
The major stumbling point with the Compaq iPAQ Pocket PC H3670 is sure to be price. If money were no object, every man, woman, and child with the slightest bit of geekiness inside would surely run right out and grab one of these babies. Unfortunately, at $649, few people are going to be able to buy these right away. I mean, seriously, my home computer scarcely cost more than that.
Add in $200 for an expansion pack and more money for any other upgrades or add-ons you want (e.g., $100 for a Stowaway portable keyboard, $160 for a 56k modem, $200 for a 64MB flash memory add-on card, which also requires the $200 expansion pack), and you're already talking a LOT of money -- easily enough to buy yourself a nice P4 home system at that point. So, if it's really worth it to you, go for it; for the rest of us, however, we'll be waiting awhile.