HP iPAQ rx5720 PDA Review

Today I am reviewing the HP iPAQ 5720 Travel Companion which is an all in one satellite navigation system and PDA. Sales of satellite navigation systems have rocketed over the last 5 years and there seems to be no slow down in sight.

So how does a combined satellite navigation and PDA system stack up? and is it worth buying?

I am going to split this review into two. This week I will cover the PDA side of things and the overall usability of the device. Next week I will be putting the TomTom satellite navigation through its paces.

Here is a brief rundown of the technical specifications:

Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0
Pocket PC versions of Microsoft Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Internet Explorer
Microsoft Windows Media Player 10
TomTom NAVIGATOR 6 and integrated GPS receiver
3.5” QVGA touch screen panel
Samsung SC32442 400Mhz processor
64Mb RAM
1Gb Flash Memory
Integrated Bluetooth v2.0
Secure Digital (SDIO) expansion slot
Inside the box you will find the following items:

HP iPAQ rx5702
Touch screen stylus
Carrying case
Battery
USB cable
CD-ROM (includes Outlook 2002 and synchronization software)
User documentation
Wall charger
Car kit – includes windscreen mount, iPAQ holder and car charger

Setup

When the device is first switched on you are guided through a few initial setup screens to get things configured correctly. Setup was straightforward. I installed the iPAQ software on a Windows XP system which already had Microsoft Outlook 2003 installed. The setup was smart enough to detect I already had Outlook installed and so it did not try installing Outlook from the CD-ROM. If you don’t have Outlook already installed on your PC then you are prompted to install Outlook 2002 which is provided on the CD-ROM.

Once setup was complete, it synchronized my Outlook calendar, e-mail inbox and contacts. This process went very smoothly with no problems. You also have the option to create a shared folder on your PC which allows you to synchronize documents between your PC and the iPAQ.

Once the setup process is completed you can then start exploring the iPAQ. The best place to start is the ‘Today’ page. This is the page that is displayed when you first switch on the device. It shows you at a glance the current date and time, your calendar appointments for the day, any unread email messages, battery life indicator, etc.

Usability

You can navigate around the iPAQ using either the provided stylus or by using the buttons on the right-hand side of the screen. People who don’t like using a stylus on the touch screen will welcome these buttons. I found the stylus pretty easy to use and rarely used the buttons.

On the side of the device there are also hot-key buttons to access commonly used functions such as rotating the screen and using the media player. The ability to rotate the screen is useful, especially when using applications like Excel and Word. I found it easier to use these applications when the screen is in portrait mode rather than the default landscape mode.

The 400Mhz processor seemed fast enough for this type of device. Applications loaded quickly and I didn’t observe any sluggishness or undue delays whilst using the device.

Office Software

Outlook is probably the best piece of software on the iPAQ. I found it straightforward to check my emails, manage my appointments and lookup contacts.

I personally found using applications like Excel and Word on this device too fiddly. The screen is just too small to work effectively with any documents, although if you just want to store documents or transfer documents from one PC to another, then it will perform fine.

There are several options available for entering text in applications like Word and Excel. You can either use an on screen keyboard or use one of the handwriting recognition methods. I found the Block Recognizer and Letter Recognizer very difficult to use, the iPAQ had difficulty recognizing my handwriting. I had much greater success using the Transcriber Only method. I found this method much more natural, more closely resembling using a pen on paper, although still a bit fiddly at times.

Connectivity

This device only supports Bluetooth, there is no wireless capability, so bear that in mind before purchasing. This means once you have disconnected the iPAQ from your PC, you are going to be limited in being able to perform tasks like checking for new emails and appointments, etc. unless you have a Bluetooth enabled PC.

If the lack of wireless puts you off, then I recommend you take a look at the next model up, the iPAQ rx5900 which supports wireless. This would give you the option of connecting the iPAQ to a wireless network.

If you only need to synchronize your emails and calendar once a day then the IPAQ rx5702 will perform fine. You could for example, synchronize the iPAQ using the USB cable first thing in the morning, and then check your calendar and new emails on the train whilst commuting into work. For these types of task it will perform great. You could then synchronize the iPAQ again once you arrive at the office.

I found the iPAQ performed well performing these types of tasks. It was useful being able to synchronize my calendar in the morning and then take the device out and about, and get reminders about forthcoming appointments later in the day.

The Bluetooth feature worked well. I had no problem establishing a connection with my mobile phone and transferring documents between the two devices.

Media

The iPAQ also comes with Microsoft Windows Media Player 10 and HP Photosmart Mobile. I encountered no problems managing my audio tracks and photos. It also comes bundled with a couple of games including Solitaire.

iPAQ rx5720 Add-Ons

As mentioned earlier, the iPAQ rx5720 does not support wireless out of the box. Having said that, the iPAQ rx5720 does have a SDIO slot. If you really want wireless capability then you can purchase a wireless card separately and plug it into the SDIO slot. These cards retail in the UK for under £20 so they are not too expensive.

Also, if you find using the stylus too fiddly for entering data then you can purchase a bluetooth keyboard. There are many types on the market but the Brando Bluetooth Smart Keyboard is one possibility.

PDA Summary

Overall this is not a bad PDA device offering easy integration with Outlook on your PC. I found Outlook worked very well with the screen size although you may find power applications like Word and Excel too fiddly to use.

The overall usability of the device is easy to use and it has a good battery life. The lack of wireless may put off power users who want to regularly connect up to a network to synchronize the device. If you only want to synchronize the iPAQ once a day or once a week using a USB cable then it will perform fine. A separate SDIO wireless card can be purchased though to overcome this limitation.

TomTom Satellite Navigation

Next week I will complete this review by giving a full rundown of the TomTom satellite navigation system that is included on the PDA. My initial tests so far show it to be an excellent sat nav system, so come back next week for the full report.

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