HP's battery-efficient iPaq 510 takes orders
SMART: Unlike many of its competitors, Hewlett-Packard's iPaq 510 Voice Messenger is feature-smart, not feature-rich.
Mobile phones these days have so many new features that people often end up with more phone than they need or want. The Hewlett-Packard iPaq 510 Voice Messenger smartly concentrates on the functions that most users probably need. We were fortunate enough to get our hands on a beta 510 that worked extremely well and generally seemed ready for prime time in an increasingly competitive market.
The two principal features that set the 510 apart from other smart phones are the fact that it runs a full version of Microsoft Windows Mobile 6'the OS, and devices running it, are expected to arrive in April or May'and it has voice commands that make even the phone's advanced features almost hands-free.
The phone weighs 3.6 ounces and is 4.21 inches long by 1.91 inches wide. It is just over a half-inch thick, at 0.64 inches. The screen is color and the resolution is 176 by 220, with a 2-inch diagonal viewing area. It's driven by a 200-MHz Texas Instruments OMAP processor. Extras also include an integrated Micro SD card slot.
Now, if you read our reviews often, you might expect us to scald the 510 for its relatively modest specifications. And compared with other phones on the market, the 510 does look a little anemic. But there is a reason for this: battery life.
The lower-resolution screen and slower processor help extend the life of the battery'and we mean real talk time not standby time, which really only applies to people who leave their phone powered in their sock drawer for days without taking any calls.
In our tests, the 510 kept working for 6 hours, 42 minutes while our gabby assistant did her thing. Many smart phones give you four or five hours of talk time.
And you won't really miss the extra horsepower. Once you get the phone powered up and working, there is no hint of slowdown when using the directional pad to select a program from the graphical menu. We did notice a little lag when watching a movie (you get a miniaturized version of Windows Media Player 10), though for the most part the video displayed adequately.
One problem was that using Windows Mobile 6 with a slower processor means that turning the system on takes about as long as booting a PC. From standby mode this isn't a problem, but when you switch on the 510 from a complete stop, it takes 34 seconds before you can actually start typing in a phone number.
Windows Mobile 6 itself is a huge improvement over older versions. The 510 comes with the Professional edition, with which you can create Office Mobile documents that can later be read on your desktop PC without any third-party programs. The Smartphone edition can read documents and make some edits as well, but not as well as Professional.
Of course, Mobile 6 syncs with Outlook e-mail, and though the software was still in beta when we tested it, everything worked well. It dumped our entire contact database PC to the phone in just a few seconds. If you need to add new contacts by hand, the process is pretty easy, as you can put most numbers in by voice command or text typing.
HP dropped the QWERTY keyboard in this model in favor of the standard number pad keys'but the 510 probably doesn't need the keyboard, or at least needs it a lot less than other phones. The Voice Commander feature works well with your contact database; you simply activate the program and start speaking.
The phone understands 20 commands. You do have to either select the Voice Commander program icon or push the microphone button before it will listen to you. And it times out pretty quickly, so if you wait too long, it will stop listening for your voice and drop back into the main menu.
So, to keep activating the Voice Commander, you do have to have a hand on the keypad at some point. Pushing one button starts the process, though. You can say, 'dial Vince,' and it will search your contact database for the correct person. It will then read back who it thinks you are trying to call and ask you to confirm or cancel.
When two contacts are very similar, such as Vince's work number or Vince's cell phone, it will let you choose which one to dial. It won't dial any numbers without specific confirmation from the user, so there is little chance of accidentally reaching out and touching someone because the 510 didn't hear you correctly.
You can also say 'digital dial' followed by the number you would like to call. Again, it will repeat the number back to you for confirmation.
We dictated more than 50 phone numbers and the 510 got only a few wrong. The microphone seems to get confused by any background noise, even a television playing at normal volume. When things are pretty quiet, the 510 works a lot better, getting near 100 percent accuracy. This might make it appropriate for use in a car, so long as you have the radio off.
The phone also can give you the time, and read your e-mail or SMS text messages back to you. Every so often, a word was hard to understand, but considering it's reading e-mail in context, you normally can figure it out.
You can also verbally compose either SMS or e-mail messages using the 510. This is not the same as voice recognition. Instead, the 510 lets you attach a voice file to your e-mail.
The little device comes packed with EDGE network cellular service for Web browsing. Our test unit came with Cingular Wireless. In the Washington area, the network is able to load Web pages pretty quickly. There is also a WiFi 802.11b/g radio with integrated WPA2 security, which really extends the 510 capabilities when you need to surf the Web but don't need to make a cellular connection, such as when sitting in an airport lounge or a coffee shop.
It also has a tiny 1.3-megapixel camera that is pretty much standard on any phone these days.
The iPaq 510 is a unique little phone that is good for people who want their entire Outlook contacts in the palm of their hand, but don't do enough typing to warrant a full QWERTY keyboard.
The Voice Commander feature is innovative and can enable hands-free operation for those who travel in their cars or other moderately controllable audio environments.