HP iPAQ hx2790c: First Impressions

Update: I found out how to get the battery information in two clicks. Click the Start menu, and click "Today". The Today screen shows some system information, including battery levels. It only shows a percentage, and not an estimate of the time remaining.

Today I borrowed the iPAQ purchased for the ICC lab. After performing a full reset (so I could see the "out of the box" experience), I proceeded to set it up and see what it could do after a few hours of use. So far, the experience has been pretty poor. Here are some of the issues I noticed in the process of connecting to the uog-wifi network and browsing Slashdot:

Hardware Issues

  • Wifi is slow. The wifi card only supports 802.11b, but it was taking it at least 20 seconds to download a page.
  • You can't control the iPAQ at all with the lid on. The only available button is the voice recording button. A scroll and click button on the side would be incredibly useful.
  • You can't scroll without the stylus. I think I was meeting a pretty simple use case: I had a coffee in one hand, and wanted to scroll through a web with the other. You have to use two hands - one for the iPAQ, and one for the stylus. Fail!
  • The plastic screen cover doesn't flip back underneath, and sticks out in front of the unit. I'd really worry about breaking it off in a tight environment such as a subway.

Pocket Internet Explorer

  • Pocket IE is really bad. Horribly bad. Worse than IE6. It didn't properly render any website I went to. It probably works better if the site has a mobile version, but it had basic issues such as graphics corruption and overlapping elements. Worse yet, there was no way to disable CSS (since it was doing such a bad job). Pocket IE also has no back history menu, and no forward button.
  • I managed to get a cryptic error message out of Pocket IE within about 10 minutes of use. This one came up while re-logging into the uog-wifi web authentication system.

Windows Mobile 5 OS

  • The user interface widgets are dull. This is probably a legacy of older devices which didn't support many colours in their screens, or were greyscale only. While many widgets, such as the Start menu, look fine, tabs, buttons, and scrollbars all look ugly and out of place.
  • OK buttons are in a strange place - instead of being in the normal position in a dialog, they are always in the upper right corner of the title bar of the dialog, or of the PDA screen. It is consistent within the OS, but not with any other UI out there.
  • There is no easy way to see battery status. In this case, there is both a hardware and a software failure. The unit itself has no indicator for battery status, other than showing that it is being charged. As well, to see the charge through the OS, you have to go to Start -> Settings -> System -> Power Options. Four clicks is kind of ridiculous for something that should be easily shown.
  • Switching applications is not obvious. They appear to "layer" over each other. Most Windows users wouldn't think to use the Start menu to open an application which is all ready running.

Positive Aspects

  • Installing Opera was really simple. I went to opera.com in Pocket IE, followed the download link, and when prompted had it open the downloaded installer (a cabinet file). More on Opera Mobile in a later posting.
  • The Windows Media player is simple to use, and I was easily able to get a stream playing from the net. The speaker is not bad. I was able to successfully sync a pair of Bluetooth headphones, though the sound was very choppy. I don't know what the cause of that is at the moment.

I'll post more as I use the PDA. I'm pretty picky about the UI on most devices, but I think I'm finding issues which would cause serious problems for the general public.

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