A Look at HP's iPaq 4150by Wei-Meng Lee
Recently, I was evaluating some of the Pocket PCs available on the market and HP was very kind to send me a review unit of its popular iPaq series of Pocket PCs--the iPaq 4150. My main criterion for buying a Pocket PC today is that it must have built-in wireless connectivity. The HP H4150 satisfies that very nicely by supporting the three wireless technologies--Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and IrDA.
The first thing I noticed when taking the H4150 out of the box is the new form factor that HP is pursuing. Having been the owner of two iPaqs--the older 3600 and 3800 series--this new form is much smaller and lighter. HP started using the new designs with the H1900 and H2200 series.
While the new form factor is both lighter and smaller, it's bad news for those users who have invested in cases or sleeves for the older Pocket PCs. Figure 2 shows some of the other members in the iPaq family and their shapes.
The H4150 is powered by a fast Intel XScale processor, running at 400MHz. It has 64MB of SDRAM (of which 55MB is user-accessible) and a 32MB Flash ROM. Its 3.5" transflective TFT display (113.6mm by 70.6mm by 13.5mm) supports 64,000 colors. Maximum resolution is 240 by 320. It weighs a mere 4.67 ounces, which makes it one of the lightest Pocket PCs I have ever used. The H4150 runs Windows Mobile 2003, which comes preinstalled with the .NET Compact Framework runtime in ROM.
What is amazing is that in this small package you get three wireless options: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and IrDA. The first two appeal to me, as I want to be able to get connected on the road via GRPS and get on wireless hotspots whenever one is present.
The H4150 comes with an integrated SD slot for SD/MMC cards (and is also SDIO-compatible). If you need to add additional storage for listening to music or watching videos, then this expansion option is useful.
Another thing I like about the H4150 is its removable battery. My older iPaqs (the 3650 and the 3870) were plagued with battery problems (they tended to die after a few months of usage) and required me to send the entire unit back for servicing since the batteries were not user-replaceable. The removable battery means this is no longer an issue. The charging cradle even allow you to charge a second battery simultaneously with the H4150 (see Figure 3).
Configuring wireless access is a matter of running the iPaq Wireless application, located in the Start menu. Two options are available here--Bluetooth and WLAN--and are shown in Figure 4. The wireless application is simple to use with unprotected networks.
If you have a few wireless networks available and you want to manually select your preferred network, or enter WEP keys, then you need to click on the networking icon located at the top of the screen (see Figure 5). The wireless adapter in the H4150 supports WEP and 802.1x authentication.
One frustrating experience I had with the H4150 is that I can't seem to find the MAC address of the wireless adapter. As my home wireless network is protected by MAC address filtering, I need the MAC address of my wireless cards to be manually entered in my wireless router. I tried locating the MAC address on the H4150, but to no avail. Ultimately, I disabled MAC address filtering on my wireless router and let the H4150 get associated before I examined the MAC address using the web-based admin utility of my wireless router.
Because the wireless adapter in the H4150 takes up a lot of power, the WLAN is automatically turned off when you perform a soft reset on the device.
The Bluetooth manager in the H4150 is quite different from the version that was used in the 3600 and 3800 series. The Bluetooth Manager is launched by a click on the Bluetooth icon at the bottom of the screen (see Figure 6):
The Bluetooth Manager will guide you through the process of pairing with other devices, connecting to a Bluetooth-enabled phone, etc. (See Figure 7.)
Unlike the wireless adapter, the H4150 does not automatically turn off the Bluetooth radio after a soft reset.
There is a great selection of applications for the Pocket PC on the market. Besides those that you can download from the Internet, the H4150 comes bundled with a suite of software. I have highlighted some that I find useful.
WorldMate is an application that every traveler must have. It shows the various time zones and allows you to convert currencies, view weather forecasts, show dialing prefixes, and convert units like bra sizes, dress sizes, etc. One really cool feature of WorldMate is that the information displayed can be updated through the Internet, and so you can be sure you have the most recent currency exchange rate.
The Standard Edition is bundled with the H4150 (see Figure 9). The Professional Edition supports more features such as flight information, extended weather forecasts, and more.
Windows Media Player 9.0 (see Figure 10) comes with Windows Mobile 2003 and is not really bundled software. But I think it deserves a special mention, as I used it to double up my Pocket PC as a MP3 and video player. The sound and video quality is really superb, and I would honestly tell you it beats my iPod in terms of sound quality!
One nice feature of Windows Media Player 9.0 is that it supports full-screen playback of video (see Figure 11). I loaded my H4150 with an SD memory card and now I am never bored on the train again!
Another bundled application is the AudiblePlayer 3.5 (see Figure 12). Most of you should already be familiar with AudiblePlayer. It allows you to listen to a book, as opposed to reading it. The H4150 comes with some sample books for Audible Player. I use it when I am driving so that I can "read" and drive at the same time!
Accessories for the H4150
While the H4150 is a cool device, nothing is perfect. I was disappointed that it does not come with a built-in camera. I have also heard many complaints about the lack of remote control software on the H4150. So to conclude the review, let's look at some of the accessories you can buy to equip your H4150.
The H4150 does not come with any remote control software. If you are willing to shell out about $25, you can purchase the Total Remote from Griffin Technology. The Total Remote is a product that contains two components--a Total Remote Transmitter Module (see Figure 13) that plugs into the audio output of your Pocket PC, and an application that allows you to control various devices (such as TVs, DVD players, etc.).
I downloaded the software component (free three-day trial) of Total Remote (see Figure 14) and I was able to use the Total Remote to sample the infrared signal from my TV remote control, which I then used to make my Pocket PC control my TV. I had limited success at very close range (2 to 3 centimeters), but I suspect that is because I do not have the transmitter module. In any case, the Total Remote should be a useful "universal" remote controller that you can use to control all of your various devices at home. However, the Total Remote Transmitter Module fits into the audio jack of the H4150 (which is located at the top of the device), whereas the built-in IrDA port of the H4150 is located at the bottom left of the device, making it very awkward to use for controlling your devices.
For those of you who yearn for a camera for your H4150, you can purchase those SD-card cameras available. These cameras are quite small in size and plug directly into the SD slot on your H4150. Figure 15 shows the HP Photosmart 1.3MP and Veo Photo Traveler 130S 1.3MP digital cameras for Pocket PCs.
Wei-Meng Lee (Microsoft MVP) http://weimenglee.blogspot.com is a technologist and founder of Developer Learning Solutions http://www.developerlearningsolutions.com, a technology company specializing in hands-on training on the latest Microsoft technologies.
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