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Hardware Reviews: HP iPaq 5450 PDA


Wi-Fi will definitely become a a standard feature for PDAs in the next years. HP recently released the first PDA featuring built-in Wi-Fi which gives us a idea what the future of PDAs could look like.
HP's iPAQ H5450 is the latest and most advanced Pocket PC PDA available on the market. It features Wireless connectivity through  built-in Wireless LAN (802.11b) and Bluetooth adapters. Other highlights are biometric identification (fingerprint reader), a bright high-resolution LCD display and a 400 MHz XScale CPU.


1. Device

Like all other iPAQ devices, the 5450 is not a PDA which you can carry around in your shirt-pocket. It looks very similar to the iPAQ 3900 series, the curvy design makes it look smaller than it is. The reason for the size of the 5450 is definitely the number of features which have been included. The 5450 is a sophisticated high-end device targeted to the demanding business user who doesn't care too much about the high price. The iPAQ comes with a USB/Serial Cradle, a CD full of software (including ActiveSync, Outlook) and a slip case with a protective screen cover.

2. Pocket Windows

The device is running Microsoft's Pocket PC 2002 operating system, which includes Pocket Word and Pocket Excel as well as synchronization with a PC using Microsoft's Active Sync technology. We tested synchronization with a Dell Laptop computer, connecting the cradle through USB and the serial port. It took us quite some time to get Active Sync to work. Somehow it didn't recognize the device on the USB port, but in the end it worked with the serial port connection. The USB connection would allow to charge the device while connected to a computer. This leads us to the first issue with the iPAQ 5450: the PDA's software is often buggy and immature.

3. WLAN/ Wi-Fi

Our main interest for testing was the wireless LAN functionality of the device. By default, Wi-Fi is turned off for a good reason. Power consumption of the 5450 doubles when Wi-Fi is turned on! When trying to turn of Wi-Fi we got the message: "Not enough memory. Please reset your iPAQ.". We would see this message many more times later on, also when using the Bluetooth features. The quality of the software drivers for the wireless functions of the device definitely needs to be improved by HP. This will be possible with a software update and we expect HP offer a service pack for the 5450 very soon. Setting up a Internet connection using a wireless Hotspot worked perfectly. No configuration settings were necessary when only one access point was in reach of the device. It would connect immediately and we were able to surf the Internet with Pocket Internet Explorer or download our e-Mails with the mail client. The screen resolution of 240x320 pixels still makes surfing the Internet difficult. For normal websites the device will only display a small area of the page and the user has to scroll horizontally and vertically in order to read the whole content. Pages in XHTML format are designed for small screen devices and allow easy navigation. Many news portals have been adapted to feature XHTML content, which makes reading news on a PDA a great experience.

4. Battery

The iPAQ 5450 allows exchanging the battery while the device is running (is has a small extra-battery which should give you enough time to exchange the battery without losing data). This feature is important, because the PDA's battery won't last for more than 2 hours with Wi-Fi turned on. 2 hours is a very short time considering that people might spend quite some time reading news on the Internet and the Wi-Fi module usually stays on after connecting to a access point. With small battery, the usability of the iPAQ for a field where constant Wi-Fi connectivity is required is quite poor. The only reasonable usage of Wi-Fi with the device is downloading and sending e-Mails or synchronizing business data. But never forget to turn off the Wi-Fi feature after having completed the synchronization, it will give you more battery time.

5. Speed

Microsoft Pocket PC 2002 is a modern operating system, it supports a whole lot of media formats, allows many programs to run concurrently and is very well integrated with the desktop versions of Microsoft Windows. But compared to a 10 years old Palm Pilot, the PDA somehow feels slow. When pointing on the touchscreen quite often the system will require more than a second to react and it won't even show that the system is processing the event already. This might make you tip on the button onve more which will result in multiple events being processed as soon as the system starts reacting to the events.

6. Conclusion

From our point of view, despite of a lot restrictions in the current version, the iPAQ leads the way to the future of PDAs. It also contains a slot for a SIM card (undocumented), a speaker and a microphone, which could make it upgradeable to a smart phone. As soon as the manufacturers succeed to overcome the very short battery lifetime and the software gets more mature, the PDA could get   closer to becoming the mobile communication center.


Hardware Specs:

Operating System: Microsoft Pocket PC 2002
Processor: 400MHz Intel XScale
Memory: 64 MB RAM, 48 MB ROM
Display Type: 16 bit, 64K color, 240 x 320, .24mm Dot Pitch, 3.8" diagonal / 96mm, Transflective TFT liquid crystal display
Expansion: SD Memory Slot (Supports SD/MMC, SDIO type standard), Optional expansion packs
Wireless Connectivity: Built in Bluetooth (1.1 compliant) and 802.11b
Audio: 3.5mm Stereo Mini Jack
Security: Biometric fingerprint reader
Battery: lithium-polymer removable/rechargeable 1250 mAh
Dimensions: (H x W x D): 5.20 x 3.32 x 0.62 in (133 x 84.2 x 15.9 mm)
Weight: 7.26 oz (206 g)

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Network Computing: WLAN Sicherheits-Tips
tecCHANNEL.de: Wireless LANs im Überblick
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