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Another Feature






IPaq offers more than just basic PDA functionalities

JAKARTA (JP): Here is another product that sold like our Kijang vans right after it was introduced: the Compaq iPaq PocketPC. It is a personal digital assistant (PDA) based on the Microsoft Windows PocketPC operating system. It is clear that Compaq was successful in executing the concept of PDA when it designed this iPaq. There are a lot of things to like about this gadget.

Incidentally, in most cases, the demo unit I receive for reviewing purposes is one that has been tested and circulated from one reviewer to another. It makes sense, because review units are not cheap, rejected units. In some cases, the notebooks that I test drive cost more than my car. However, when the review unit of iPaq PocketPC arrived, courtesy of PTCompaq Indonesia, I was in for a big surprise. It was still in its originalpackaging. I had to open it to check the contents against the loan form.

The iPaq is a tad larger than my IBM WorkPad c3, which is actually a PalmV. Unlike the WorkPad, the iPaq H3000 has a lush, stainless steel-like casing. The downside is that it can be rather slippery on a sweaty palm. Luckily, it also comes with a black fiberglass jacket that Compaq calls a "basic style pack". I used this jacket during the review out of fear that the unit would slip out of my hand and crash on the floor. It also feels alittle heavier than the WorkPad. It comes with 32 MB of static memory.

The cradle also takes more space than the WorkPad's, although it is actually the stylish legs that make it larger. The good thing is that the power adapter can be directly connected to the iPaq. This is a nice featurethat I wish had also been available on the WorkPad. I would not have to carry the cradle when I travel if all I need to do is recharge the battery. Another important difference is that the iPaq has a color display. The display resolution is 240 x 320, and it can produce thousands of colors. The text and lines are crisp and the colors are brilliant. The backlightingcan be set according to your preference. We can also set the device to automatically adjust the brightness level of its display according to the ambient light. The iPaq once again reminded me that life is more beautiful in color.

Hey, do not laugh at what I have just said. When Color Graphics Adapter (CGA) was first introduced in the early 1980s, a lot of PC users -- myself included -- had terrible headaches all the time because of the low resolution, which made the text difficult to read. It was only when the Video Graphics Array (VGA) color display arrived that people began to accept color on their screens. So when it comes to computer display, color has not always been the greatest thing.

To take out the spring-locked stylus, we have to press a small button on top of the unit. It will pop out, and we can pull it out of its storage. The box contains a spare stylus.

Applications

The iPaq PocketPC is connected to the PC through the USB. If your PC doesnot have a USB port, do not worry. You can buy the optional serial cradle or the serial sync cable that will connect the unit directly to the PC without using a cradle. The software that I had to install on the PC side was Microsoft ActiveSync. Each time the iPaq was put on the cradle, the synchronization of the data took place automatically.

What is available on iPaq PocketPC H3630? It has all the standard applications that you would expect from a decent PDA, including a calendar,a tasks list, a contacts list, a notepad and a calculator. However, as it uses the Microsoft PocketPC, we should not be surprised that it comes with Pocket Word, Pocket Excel, Internet Explorer and Inbox. There is also Microsoft Money to let you keep track of your expenses during business trips. Oh, I almost forgot. Solitaire is also included.

Copying a Word 2000 file from my desktop PC to the iPaq involved a file conversion. It is understandable, as the Pocket Word program has to be as small as possible and therefore cannot support all the features that the Desktop Word 2000 offers. The process is a little bit tedious, however. I had to load Windows Explorer, find the Word file that I wanted to transfer to iPaq, click with the right mouse button and click again on copy. Then Ihad to go to ActiveSync, click on the explore button to get to the folder in iPaq where I wanted to save the file. I thought I would save it in the personal folder on iPaq, so I clicked on the icon with the right mouse button and clicked again on paste. ActiveSync did warn me that some features might be lost during the conversion.

I have not seen or heard of a foldable keyboard for the iPaq yet. My guess is that it is also in the pipeline, given the tremendous popularity foldable keyboards have among Palm users. Compaq is planning to sell a variety of expansion packs for the iPaq, including the ones that will connect it to your LAN or the Internet. There are also expansion packs thatcan add storage space using Compact Flash.

Nifty features

The iPaq lets us choose between two different sizes of an on-screen keyboard. Needless to say, I preferred the slightly larger one. Strangely, I could not find the button for Caps lock. That would make it harder to type in abbreviations such as CGA and VGA. On the other hand, the automaticword completion feature can help ease the chore of inputting text, althoughit takes some getting used to. You scribble two letters, and PocketPC willsuggest a word. Of course, it may not be the one that you have in mind, butsometimes it works. In Microsoft Money, for example, when I scribbled "lu" in the Account Name field, PocketPC offers the word "lunch". When I tapped on the word, it was immediately entered into the field.

Among the greatest features that I like is Microsoft Reader. This application, which also uses Microsoft technology called ClearType, will display pages of an electronic book. Two books were included as samples, one of them was Hans Christian Andersen's Two Fairy Tales. The picture viewer lets us download image files. PVSplash plays downloaded video files and Media Player allows us to play audio files, including MP3 files. The speaker is very tiny, and you should use headphones if you want to use it as an MP3 player. For MP3 aficionados, Compaq offers iPaq Personal Audio Player, the PA-1.

We can also record conversations with iPaq. The button, unfortunately, did not give me sufficient feedback when I pressed it. I would not know whether I was recording or not if I had not looked at the screen. Compaq needs to redesign the button to make iPaq a good recording device. On the software side, however, I was very surprised to see that I could adjust thequality of recording -- from the highest quality of 44 KHz to the lowest. Alower quality means a smaller file size.

The iPaq is certainly packed with features. It is not for you if what youwant is just basic PDA functionalities. However, it does offer many features that are not available on my WorkPad, for example. Scribbling notes is easier with iPaq, and we do not have to learn the Graffiti shorthand. The iPaq includes decent handwriting recognition capability.

The iPaq PocketPC uses a lithium polymer battery, which is inside the unit. However, its battery life was not as long as I had expected. I set the brightness at its highest level, and that might have been the cause.

Compaq seems to be expanding out of selling servers and PCs. It is marketing its own version of research in Motion's BlackBerry pagers, which can also send and receive email messages, the iPaq W1000 and iPaq H1100. Ithas also been co-developing an iPaq Home Internet Appliance with Microsoft.We can expect more great and stylish non-PC products from this company in the near future. (zatni@cbn.net.id)




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