HP iPAQ 6515 Review

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

If you want one device to do it all, the quad-band HP iPAQ hw6515 deserves a serious look. Key features include Windows Mobile 2003 Pocket PC (second edition), EDGE high-speed data support, a 312 MHz Intel xScale processor, 55 MB of RAM, Bluetooth, a 1.3 megapixel camera, and a 240 x 240 color touch screen. When coupled with a Cingular data plan, this little number makes a powerful mobile office.

Give yourself the best in connectivity, productivity, and mobility! With high-end features including GSM/GPRS/EDGE technologies and multiple messaging, the sleek HP iPAQ hw6515 is ready to serve your mobile communications needs.


CNET reviewed HP iPAQ 6515 :
The compact HP iPaq hw6515 features Bluetooth, EDGE, GPS radios, and solid battery life. The smart phone also has a QWERTY keyboard and various messaging options. Unfortunately, the HP iPaq hw6515 doesn't have integrated Wi-Fi or Windows Mobile 5, and it suffers from sluggish performance occasionally. The HP iPaq hw6515 offers great tools for the mobile professional, but its poky performance keeps it from achieving smart-phone greatness.

Palm Treo 650 Review

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Cingular Wireless and palmOne Inc. today announced the availability of the Treo 650 smartphone, the first device of its kind to take advantage of the carrier's EDGE (Enhanced Data for Global Evolution) network -- the fastest national wireless data network in the country. The Treo 650 also is a quad-band worldphone, so Cingular customers can make and receive voice calls in 170 countries and access data in nearly 75 countries. The Treo 650 combines a compact, full-featured mobile phone with email, a Palm OS organizer, messaging, web access and digital camera, letting users organize and simplify their business and personal lives all in one device.

The newest member of the Treo family builds on the award-winning design of the Treo 600 with new and improved features, including a high-resolution screen; expanded multimedia capabilities, such as an MP3 player and video capture and playback; removable battery; non-volatile memory; and Bluetooth wireless technology. Equipped with EDGE technology, the Treo 650 can access accelerated data speeds averaging up to 135 kilobits per second (kbps), which is nearly three times the speed of a conventional wired dial-up connection. Cingular's EDGE network is available in more than 8,500 cities and towns and along 30,000 miles of highways. EDGE's fast data speeds and widespread coverage, combined with a high-resolution screen, improved QWERTY keyboard for easy text entry, and user-replaceable battery, make the Treo 650 an ideal platform for enterprise email and vertical market applications. When deployed with enterprise email solutions, such as Cingular's XpressMail or GoodLink by Good Technology, the Treo 650 enables users to send and receive email, meeting invitations, and updates to contact directories and to-do lists.

CNET reviewed The Palm Treo 650:
The Palm Treo 650 benefits from an improved display and keyboard, integrated Bluetooth, and a speakerphone. The world phone also has a 312MHz processor, Palm OS 5.4, multimedia, and e-mail support. Sadly, the Palm Treo 650 has meager integrated memory, no built-in Wi-Fi, and a low-resolution camera. Also, the Treo 650's headphone jack isn't standard size, and you can't use its Bluetooth as a wireless modem. Though it has its shortcomings, the Palm Treo 650 offers solid performance and adds some key features to maintain its reign as smart-phone leader.

Garmin iQue M3 Review

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Garmin M3 GPS-enabled PocketPC, a followup to the older M5, sacrifices certain of its predecessor's features in exchange for a much more palatable price tag. We find out whether the trade off was worth it.

Design and Construction

In an aesthetic sense, the M3 is bland. It's utilitarian enough that it should fit in alright in a variety of vehicles without either looking garish or looking too drab, which is certainly what Garmin was going for.
In a functionality sense, the M3 is still bland. It's designed for one thing, to do it well, and to do it without many frills. No unneccessary buttons or features, no fancy addons--all you need is five buttons, the standard jacks and ports, and a screen.

Although the icon on the bottom right button resembles a standard power icon, it's actually a stylized Q, denoting the button for the QueMap application. While this app automatically launches when you turn on the GPS, the button is available in case, you get lost on the Today screen, I suppose. The real power button is in the top center.
Sitting on the back of the device is the panel antenna that serves the GPS reciever. As soon as you unlatch this, by sliding down the switch seen on the upper right, it automatically activates the GPS and launches the navigator application. Close the flip, and it turns the GPS off, easy as could be asked. That's just about the most flashy hardware feature that you're likely to find on the M3.

Processor

Despite being only 312 MHz, the M3's processor is quite suitable for GPS applications. In navigational use, slowdowns only occur when doing searches or changing the map zoom. Finding a particular address or listing points-of-interest can be somewhat lengthy, as much as six or seven seconds depending on how much it's searching. Depending on the level of zoom, it can also sometimes take several seconds for the system to render the map again. But at the zoom levels that you'd normally use when driving, the redraws take only a few fractions.

The relatively low processor speed does mean that the M3 is somewhat less suited to high-end activities such as video, action games, and other uses that require a lot of bit-sorting.

Operating System

The M3 runs on Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, slightly modified to accomodate Garmin's needs. The top system bar now includes a GPS satellite icon to indicate whether the reciever is on or off, and whether or not it has a lock. Tapping this brings up a small status panel, showing available memory, battery power, backlight, and running programs. This, along with Garmin's navigation software and GPS utility installed in the device ROM, there's not much remarkable about the M3's OS.

Garmin will not be offering an upgrade to Windows Mobile 5.0 for the M3. The hardware isn't designed for it, and it would provide relatively little benefit to this sort of device.

Display

Despite the resolution being considerably lower than the other two devices I've been using lately (my VGA Axim and a HVGA Palm TX) the M3's screen is sharp and clear. When it's installed in a vehicle, the M3 tends to be a little farther away from you than if you were holding it in your hand, which helps reduce the visibility of jagged edges. It's extremely bright, which makes it easily visible even when you're driving in the daytime.

Memory

Of the Garmin's 64 MB of main RAM, 47 MB is available to the user. This is further split between program memory and storage memory, leaving roughly 23 MB available for each. Plenty for navigation and a few programs, though you'll have to have a memory card anyway to store more and a handful of maps.

The 32 MB of flash memory is almost entirely occupied by the operating system, leaving only 2.1 MB of free flash for the user. With so little to spare, I have to wonder why Garmin even bothered with providing it to the user

Size & Weight

Despite it's relatively large length and thickness, the M3 feels surprisingly light. It's not actually that light, since it's just shy of 6 ounces, but the profile and the construction make it feel less massive than a more dense machine.

Expansion

A single SDIO slot mounted on the top of the device provides room for additional memory and/or wireless connectivity options such as WiFi and Bluetooth.

Docking

For desktop use, the M3 doesn't include a cradle, opting instead for a simple AC adapter and USB sync cable. Instead, it invests in an automotive cradle. Unlike most car mounts, based on a gooseneck design, the M3's mount has a series of rotating interlocked pieces which allow you to angle and tilt the display however it's most convenient for you. I opted to place it on the forward area of the driver's side window.

I was actually impressed by the M3's car mount. Most suction-cup mounts I've seen have a tendancy to give way after being attached for a while, but this one didn't flinch. Even with it attached to a window in the car's driver-side door, enduring the jolts of being opened and closed, it steadfastly held on as long as I left it there.

Communication

Unlike its more expensive sibling, the M5, the M3 has no built-in wireless capabilities. If you want to add connectivity of any kind, you'll need to use the SDIO slot. With only 49 MB of internal memory available, the best candidate for this is Sandisk's 256 MB WiFi combo card, which provides both storage and communication in a single package.

Audio

Being designed for in-car navigation, the M3 comes with a wonderfully loud internal speaker for shouting directions over the noise of engines, people, or what have you. While all that volume is probably neccessary for city driving, I usually turned it down a bit. When you're just driving silently along, or sitting quietly in a parking lot, it can be quite startling to hear a mechanical voice say "LOST SATELLITE LOCK!" In any event, I don't imagine that you'll lack for being able to hear the M3 when it gives you and order.

Battery

For much of the M3's use, it would presumably reside in its car cradle, being fed a continuous stream of power from the vehicle. In this sense, for its primary purpose its battery life is almost irrelevant. However, many people may use it for hiking, cycling, , or other "unplugged" activities. Although Garmin advertises 5 to 7 hours of use away from a power supply, real-world experience shows that the battery life will be somewhat less.

For GPS use, the reciever was left on, backlight at 100%, and the device used for navigation and POI searches.

For PDA testing, the backlight was set to roughly 25%, and ordinary low-impact activities performed, such as PIM, light games, and book reading.

GPS

For those who aren't familiar with the Global Positioning System, a quick outline. The main body of the Global Positioning System, also called NAVSTAR, is a network of around 24 satellites, built and maintained by the U.S. Department of Defense. These satellites sit in a complex series of orbits which guarantee that at least four satellites will be in line-of-sight from any location on Earth, at any time of the day or night. These satellites are equipped with a radio and an atomic clock, and continually broadcast their own location as well as the time of their transmission. Using this extremely precise information, a radio receiver on the ground can use several satellites to triangulate the receiver's location almost anywhere in the world. With a lock on four satellite signals, a receiver can calculate its location in three dimensions: latitude, longitude, and altitude. A 12 channel receiver such as the M3 can hold a lock on up to 12 different satellites at once, providing extra precision and insurance against the loss signal from certain satellites. Originally designed for military use, the NAVSTAR system is now broadly used by civilian interests all around the world.

The M3 also features support for enhancements to the standard GPS network. The Wide Area Augmentation System, or WAAS, was designed to reduce GPS margin of error by up to 80%, using additional satellites that sit over the continental United States to broadcast corrections for the rest of the NAVSTAR system. The net result is that the margin of error for a GPS reciever that uses WAAS is about 3 meters, compared to 15 meters for a receiver without it. Most higher-end GPS receivers feature WAAS, including many Bluetooth models. Because of the stationary nature of the WAAS satellites, these corrections only work within the continental United States, southern Alaska, and parts of Canada. A similar system called EGNOS, which the M3 also supports, is in place for Europe.

So what does all this translate into in real terms? Well, quite a lot. The end result is that a GPS enabled device such as the M3 can locate your exact position on the planet to less than 9.8 feet, 99.95% of the time. For a device primarily meant for car navigation, such as the M3, 9.8 feet is an almost meaningless margin of error. This allows it to display your location, and the roads around you, in accurate and smooth-scrolling representation, perfectly following you as you make a turn or continue past the side street.

Of course, while the M3 is primarily road-navigation oriented, it's not exclusively so. Garmin's included maps and application only support roadways, but third-party add-on programs can provide maps for hiking, boating, and even air travel.

In field testing, my main point of comparison against the M3 was my Bluetooth GPS receiver, a Dell-branded DConnex BT-308 which also features 12-channel reception and WAAS correction.

Most of the time I experienced no noticible difference in tracking. There were a few notable exceptions though. Three times--twice in a parking lot, and once in my driveway at home--the M3 lost its satellite fix for no reason that I could discern: it simply dropped. Going under a bridge caused the M3 to momentarily stutter in its tracking, catching up several seconds later. In none of the former instances did my Bluetooth GPS indicate a change in lock status, or fail to track my movement. Pulling into a garage with a metal roof promptly caused both receivers to drop their locks, but this is hardly unexpected.

Of course, having the location data is only half the battle. The rest is displaying it, mapping it, and using it to provide navigational aid.

The QueNav application that's built into the M3 has strengths and weaknesses. It's a good application for navigating. Even if you don't have a route programmed, it will tell you exactly where you are, what roads are coming up, nearby locations, etcetera. It's not great if you want to look at a map. You can't pan the map display, you can't zoom into a different area, and you can't perform functions such as tracing the distance between two points. You can search for addresses, but not tap on them. Overall, while the software works as advertised, it's not something that I would use to replace another mapping program such as TomTom or Mapopolis, or even a conventional paper map.

As with almost any mapset, there are a few noticible errors. Certain establishments are missing from the points-of-interest database. For instance, under the category of Chinese food, it lists the New China restaurant on North Main Street near the bank, but not the Ho Ho China Buffet farther up N. Main in the old Ames plaza. It didn't bother me too much--I don't really like Chinese food. After turning onto Curtis Road, the M3 spent several minutes insisting that I was on Cherry Street before it caught on to reality.

Altogether, the M3 is about as good of a "pure" navigational system as you can get out of the box, though it has room to be improved. A more map-styled viewing mode would be apprecciated, as would a simplified points-of-interest search. But if your primary concern is a flexible, high-end GPS navigation device, the M3 is a contender.

Conclusion

The M3 serves well in the arena for which it was designed. Outside its niche, it's lacking for the more advanced features found in other devices. In the end, it comes down to an exercise in what features matter the most, and what you're willing to give up to goet them.

Pros:

* Integrated GPS
* Good accessories
* Reasonable price

Cons:

* Marginal handheld features

Bottom Line

The M3 makes for a solid and reasonably reliable GPS navigation system, though it's less suited for more than basic handheld computing functions.

PalmOne Treo 650 Review

Monday, December 19, 2005

I don't care what anyone says about the Treo 650's memory issues, lack of WiFi support, limited Bluetooth functionality, poor sound quality, dialing delays or the fact that it's only available on Sprint PCS. It's the still the best Smartphone on the market. Mobile business professionals who want an integrated device should look no further, especially if your organization uses Microsoft Exchange for email and calendaring.

It's no secret that palmOne created an evolutionary device with the Treo 650, rather than a revolutionary one. They've been criticized at length for taking this course of action, but what business and government wants is stability and progressive enhancements. Organizations are still just now adopting the Treo 600, so a massive shift would probably have hurt palmOne more than it would have helped, and we all know palmOne doesn't need any more bad press. Overall I really like the Treo 650, but this review won't be glowing. palmOne has done very well in many areas, but there's plenty of room for improvement with the next model.

Due to the length of this review we have included below a table of contents so you can jump to a particular section you are most interested in.

The 650 features both dedicated phone answer and hang up buttons, the latter doubling as the power button and force to sleep button. There are also dedicated home, menu, calendar and email buttons. Noticeably absent from a wireless device is a button to launch the web browser, but there's only so much space available. Surrounded by these buttons is the slightly smaller D-pad with action button in the center. All of the buttons feel solid and the D-pad is extremely functional; I think it's even better now that it's smaller. People with smaller thumbs will probably be able to navigate the device with one hand a little bit easier now.

Underneath these keys is the revised keyboard. The Treo 600 keyboard was either good or terrible, largely depending on whether or not you ever used a Treo 300. I still contend the Treo 300 offered the best integrated keyboard, except perhaps the BlackBerry devices it was licensed from. The 600 was much more cramped and palmOne tried to do something about that. The keys are slightly larger and fanned up on the corners, something that is becoming very popular with notebook PCs. The little extra size in the keys makes a noticeable difference over the Treo 600. Women or people with long fingernails will still probably be frustrated with the tiny keys, but in most cases this new alignment will be appreciated. The keyboard is very responsive, providing a nice tactile click when depressed.

The keyboard features 35 keys. Most keys have multiple functions that can easily be accessed by a blue function button on the left, the Alt button, or shift keys in both lower corners. The space bar is large, though the enter key could be a touch bigger and should have a different treatment than the very similar backspace key above it.

The Treo 650 memory is a love hate sort of thing. palmOne made a smart move by adding non-volatile memory. That means when the Treo loses power, the memory will not be wiped out. But at the same time, they only made 23.7 MB available to the user, which stores some files less efficiently than the Treo 600, resulting in less net storage space. palmOne has resolved the situation by providing users who request it with a free 128MB memory card. They think the memory can be used more efficiently with a software patch, but at this time, no patch is available.

It's really a shame that this is even an issue. After determining that business users would rather have more memory than WiFi in the Tungsten T5; there is no reasonable explanation for why the Treo 650 got such a raw deal in the memory department. While it's true that many users will find the memory ample for all their contacts, email and a few games, it's really not enough for moderate to power users. I maxed out the RAM with 6 applications in addition to what comes pre-installed. Of course programs can be installed to the Secure Digital card slot, but taking cards in and out is a pain and they're hard to keep track of.

For light users, the memory isn't going to be a problem at all, but anyone who was busting at the seems with a Treo 600, is going to be in a worse position now. The memory issue is the most significant Treo 650 blunder in my view and sadly one that can't really be improved on, short of a removable memory card. While it's not a deal killer, it's a mistake that simply should not have been made. Whoever thought this was a good idea needs to be removed from the planning team for future devices.

The Treo 650 is currently only available in a CDMA (800/1900 MHz) model on the Sprint PCS network. At some point in 2005 palmOne is expected to release a GSM/GRPS/EDGE (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) model. Both models will operate the same way, they'll simply connect to the voice and data networks a little differently. In addition to the mobile phone/data connection, the Treo 650 also offers Bluetooth and Infrared. Sadly WiFi is not included and is currently not able to be added via the Secure Digital slot. There is a hack in process that will allow this and palmOne will surely officially support WiFi via the SD slot at some point, but it took them many months to figure it out for the Tungsten T3, so I wouldn't hold my breath.

Mobile Phone/Data

The Treo 650 sparkles as a phone, but really shines as a data device, thanks to Sprint's speedy data network. Downloading 20-30 entire emails through VersaMail is fast and reliable, at least 100 times faster than doing the same on a Tungsten T5 with a Bluetooth connection to a mobile phone with T-Mobile. This fact is the single most important issue with the Treo 650 I believe, and the one that should be the lynchpin that will seal many prospective buyers.

The phone in the 650 is pretty good, but a few software bugs prevent it from being great. For one, any time you dial out of the call log or phone book, there is a delay of up to five seconds before the call is attempted. Making a call by entering the number manually doesn't have this problem, so I can only assume it's a software communication bug that can probably be fixed with, yes another patch.

Another fun issue is that you can't hang up on a single call if you have two that are active. For instance, if you re talking to Person A, and Person B calls you. If you answer Person B's call, there is no way to hang up on just one of the calls. The hang up software button is replaced with one that only lets users kill all calls. I'm sure this too can be repaired, but it's another on the list of annoying issues that shouldn't happen.

As far as dialing, numbers can be directly entered, selected from an email (which is a small but very nice feature), selected from the call log or picked off the contact list. Selecting a number from the phone book is a major pain. Even if you have 50 people with two phone numbers each, it takes three clicks with the d-pad to get to the second person on the list. There is paging using the stylus, or you can type in the first few characters of either the first or last name and the list will filter down. I prefer the way many traditional mobile phones present the information, letting the user first select the person then the phone number to call. This is a usability issue that concerns me as I think it takes longer than in should to access a phone number, especially one handed.

The call log stores call data for seemingly every call I've ever made. New contact records can be created right out of the log, an "add contact" button will appear next to numbers that are not in your contact list already. It won't let you append a new number to an existing contact though, a nice feature in the future perhaps. The call log also defaults to cancel, so to browse numbers another key press has to take place first. Again, dialing out of the call log is laggy, but will likely be fixed at some point.

From the phone program, users can also quickly launch applications. There are four quick buttons to get to contacts, call log, voicemail and web. Paging down opens up several more choices; including 48 slots for speed dial entries or shortcuts to applications, documents, etc.

Aside from the annoyances, which I think can be relatively easily repaired, and the lack of voice dialing, the phone is pretty solid. The data is the real winner here though. I'll be interested to see how the data networks of other carriers stack up, but on Sprint PCS, the Treo 650 has been a pleasure. I'll actually be much more sad to give it up than I thought I would be.

Bluetooth

The Bluetooth 1.1 integration in the Treo 650 is a huge improvement over the Treo 600. Sprint has muffled the usefulness a little bit though by disabling the dial-up networking feature. This essentially means that notebook owners with Bluetooth can't use the Treo 650 as a modem. Clearly Sprint is trying to for notebook users into buying an air card with its own data plan. An understandable goal, but it only upsets people and a hack was released to work around this problem within a week of the Treo 650 being released.

The Treo 650's Bluetooth does support headsets though, which is great. Using the wizard, I easily paired with my Sony Ericsson HBH 65. The connection between the headset and the Treo 650 is much faster than between the headset and my Sony Ericsson K700i. The quality of the connection is much worse though. I had bad static at even short distances. Other Treo 650 owners that I've talked with also have similar issues with Jabra's Bluetooth headset. I can only hope that the radio strength can be resolved with a software patch in the future.

Aside from the headset connection, the Bluetooth can be used to sync the Treo 650 with a Bluetooth enabled PC. There's a handy little wizard to set up the pairing with instructions on allowing Bluetooth sync on the PC. Users that are not familiar with Bluetooth might be a little confused with setting up the serial connection, there's little support for this. The sync process is slow going, as one might expect, but it's substantially faster than syncing over IR and of course there are no wires needed.

The integrated Bluetooth is a smart addition to the Treo line, something that greatly increases the usability of the device. If the quality of the radio can be improved with software, all the better, but it's not so bad that the Bluetooth hurts the Treo 650. If it's a hardware issue, it definitely needs to be addressed next time around.
The Treo 650 is a good phone and a great data device. I suspect, thanks to the Exchange license, that palmOne will be able to convert a lot of potential BlackBerry buyers. I'm disappointed with the testing of the Treo 650 and some of the bone headed decisions and inconsistencies from the Tungsten T5, which are targeted at a similar audience. Overall though, palmOne does enough right and most of their issues can likely be fixed with a patch, or resolved with self-help third party hacks.

Perhaps the best thing going for the Treo 650 is the competition, which is generally pretty poor and misguided. The Treo easily towers above the competition, including devices that cost much more. There's no doubt palmOne built on the success of the Treo 600, without taking many risks along the way. Hopefully the next iteration will continue the evolution in a little less time.

Pros
Exchange integration
Clear and bright display
Fast Sprint data rates
Good application integration
Very good keyboard

Cons
Poor QA testing by palmOne
No WiFi support
Limited built-in memory

Bottom Line
Even with the numerous shortcomings, I really like the Treo 650. It's the best Smartphone on the market and the ultimate business tool.

Torq P100 Review

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


The Torq P100 is another entry into the Windows Mobile Smartphone market, which could use some more quality products. The Torq P100 is an updated version of the ETEN M500, designed for the North American market. You're not going to see this at any mainstream stores or mobile phone carriers even. At the moment it's available through Sound Solutions, the US distributor for Torq. But just because it's hard to find, that doesn't mean it's not worth the search. My boss at work has an older T-Mobile PPC Phone and spent most of my review period drooling over this one.



In the Box

* Device Cradle
* Manual & Quick Guide CDs
* Leather Case
* Headset
* AC Adapter
* Battery Pack
* Stylus


Specs

* Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition Pocket PC Phone Edition Operating System
* SDIO card slot
* Digital Camera 1.3 mega pixel, SXGA 1280x960
* GSM quad-band 850/900/1800/1900 MHz,GPRS Class B / Multi-slot 10
* Bluetooth Communications
* Interface/Data IrDA
* USB Sync
* Power jack
* 2.5mm headset jack
* Microphone
* Speaker phone
* Battery Li-Ion, 1440 mAH, rechargeable, replaceable
* Display 2.8", 240 x 320, 65,536 colors TFT LCD w/ Touch Panel
* Memory 128 MB Flash RAM, 64 MB SDRAM
* Processor Samsung 2440A 400 MHz, 32-bit RISC processor

Conclusion

This is a well designed Smartphone in a small package. If you don't need a unit with integrated keyboard, it's going to be hard to beat the P100 in terms of size, execution and quality. It is missing WiFi, which is a downer, but that still doesn't hurt it enough to not recommend it. If you need a small Smartphone that's well done right now, there's no reason to avoid the P100. When they add WiFi, Windows Mobile 5 and a better camera, it will be a fantastic product.

Pros

* Well designed
* Bluetooth
* Large Memory

Cons

* No Wifi
* Old OS
* Poor flash
* Not widely distributed