HP's smart-phone alternative

Hewlett-Packard's iPAQ h6315

Rick Steele

The Treo 650 and BlackBerry 7100t are handheld computers that are arguably more cell phone than personal digital assistant. Hewlett-Packard's iPAQ h6315, on the other hand, is more PDA. But with the right options, it's nearly as functional as its PDA/cell phone competitors'nearly.

The iPaqs have a long history as the all-in-ones of the handheld community, and the h6315, which we first looked at in the Aug. 16 issue and again just a few weeks ago, is no exception.

Priced at $587 (GSA), the h6315 comes with everything you would need in a PDA: 802.11b, Bluetooth, Microsoft Office compatibility, a 0.3-megapixel digital camera, a 200MHz Intel processor, 64M of RAM, a SecureDigital slot ... the list seems endless. Oh, and did we mention it's a cell phone?

So why don't we review it alongside the Treo 650 and BlackBerry 7100t? In large part, because the h6315 doesn't have a built-in QWERTY keyboard/telephone keypad. It's a bundled add-on, making the iPaq less pocket friendly than its competitors. And frankly, the iPaq is a PDA first and foremost, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

If you like the functionality of the iPaq'maybe because it has built-in WiFi, unlike the Treo 650 and BlackBerry 7100t'you won't be disappointed in its bells and whistles. It uses Microsoft's Pocket PC operating system and Pocket versions of Outlook, Word, Excel and Internet Explorer, so it feels more like a computer than the others. Just keep in mind the cell phone features are weak and making calls is cumbersome. Specifically, the iPaq's shape makes it uncomfortable to use. After a couple of minutes in a phone conversation, your ear starts to hurt and your three-inch LCD is smudged.

Likewise, the attachable QWERTY keyboard doesn't work well and feels flimsy. Furthermore, to charge the device without removing the battery, you have to connect the whole unit to the charging bay, which can't be accomplished without removing the QWERTY keyboard. That is to say, you can't type and recharge at the same time.

In short, if you're more interested in buying a good PDA to complement your current cell phone, or if you want a PDA/cell phone but don't spend a lot of time on the phone, the iPaq is about as good as it gets. But as a true PDA/cell phone a la the Treo 650 and BlackBerry 7100t, it's still catching up.

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