HP has plenty of experience of manufacturing PDAs, but this is only its second ever attempt at producing a smart phone. Its previous offering was the 514 Voice Messenger, which was aimed squarely at the budget end of the market. This iPAQ 614c Business Navigator model is pricier at around £340 sim-free, but packs in more advanced features including HSDPA support and onboard GPS.
In terms of size, the 614c is closer to a traditional PDA than a mobile phone. This has allowed HP to add a fairly large 71mm (2.8-inch) screen and to kit it out with a rather spacious keypad. The phone is aimed primarily at business users and as such, it needs to be able to stand up to some abuse. Thankfully, its sturdy construction gives you the impression that it could go 12 rounds with Tyson and come off none the worse for wear.
The device's keypad is unusual because it features a raised circle in the centre. This acts as a virtual touch wheel, similar to that found on the classic iPods. In menus or a long list, you can run your finger around the wheel to quickly scoot up and down through the options. It's a welcome addition, and much more intuitive to use than the traditional Windows Mobile rocker wheel.
When it comes to connectivity you couldn't really ask for more. In addition to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, it also supports HSDPA for mobile broadband. The 614c has onboard Assisted GPS support, too. The 'assisted' part means that it downloads extra data once every few days that helps the GPS chip to lock on to satellites faster than usual. It seems to do the trick as even in built up areas it's quite fast at getting a lock on a decent number of satellites. Unfortunately, there's no GPS navigation software included, although there is a Google Maps application that can use the GPS chip to track your location.
Our 614c review model includes a 3-megapixel camera, although HP also offers the 614 variant without the snapper for those corporations paranoid about having cameras on their premises. Shots from the camera on our model were above average. The autofocus works well and it captures a decent amount of detail and natural colours.
The 520MHz processor keeps the Windows Mobile 6 Professional operating system ticking along at decent pace and in use the device feels responsive. Naturally, you get the usual range of WM6 applications including Pocket Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
One of the big problems with the 614c is its sheer bulk. It's a good deal larger than we expected and its wide, thick design means it's actually quite uncomfortable to hold. It feels heavy and the dull black and sliver styling doesn't add anything to its appeal.
Given the size of the device, we feel HP could have add a full Qwerty keyboard, Instead, you're left with a fairly standard 20-key numerical pad, so most text input has to be done using the stylus on the touchscreen. The display actually isn't all that impressive either. It's only QVGA, although a full VGA resolution could have been a realistic option and been much better for browsing Web pages.
The phone's battery life is also poor. From a full charge we only got around a day of use out of it.
The 614c has some great features including its HSDPA and GPS support. We also love its virtual scroll wheel and sturdy build quality. However, it's a shame that the battery lacks oomph and that HP hasn't managed to package the phone in a more slimline and elegant design.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday