Hewlett Packard's latest iPAQ has a lengthy name -- the iPAQ rw6815 Personal Messenger. It makes it sound like some sort of dedicated mobile IM machine, with no use for anything work-related. That's an incorrect impression, as this Pocket PC, like others that run Windows Mobile 5.0, is as adept at picking up your personal email as at linking up with office networks.
It does talk to you, though, which can be disconcerting at times. At least you can switch that particular feature off.
You can buy the iPAQ rw6815 Personal Messenger for £351 from eXpansys, which is where our review sample came from.
The iPAQ rw6815 Personal Messenger has a lift-up screen cover -- one of the most distinctive things about its design. You can see the screen through it, and when you want to prod at it to use its touch-sensitivity you lift the cover up, Star Trek communicator style. You may well be tempted to order friends from north of the border to beam you up.
Actually, we hated this. It's something HP has done intermittently in the past, and we're surprised it survives. The good news is that you can take the screen cover away with no more effort than simply pulling it free from the slots at the top of the main device that hold it in place. Then you can throw it away. Sorry, HP -- though thanks for providing the external case that protects the rw6815, with or without its sci-fi screen cover.
There's another notable detail about the rw6815: its size. The device is very, very stubby at just 102mm tall. It's rather fat at 19mm and about as wide as usual for a Pocket PC at 58mm. This means it feels slightly different to the usual handheld, and rests quite easily in the pocket. We rather like the stubby format.
Hewlett Packard has not had to compromise on the screen size to get to this overall size and shape, though -- it measures 68mm corner to corner.
The silver-all-over casing is quite appealing, though it's mostly plastic with just a few splashes of metal, for example for two of the four buttons that sit under the screen. The metal buttons are the Call and End keys, the others two softmenu buttons. In their centre is a small navigation key and to their left and right are two speakers.
The device sends stereo output to a headset as well as to these little speakers, but don't expect to hear any stereo effects from them -- they're too close together to make that work properly. And don't expect to be able to easily use your favourite headset as the connector, on the bottom edge of the casing, is of the 2.5mm variety (as opposed to the standard 3.5mm).
The iPAQ rw6815 Personal Messenger is a Tri-band GSM handset with GPRS and EDGE. It has infrared, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi built in, which sounds like the bases are all covered. But the Wi-Fi is 'b' only, so data transfer won't be up to the speed of the much more common -- and faster -- 'g' standard.
We mentioned earlier that the iPAQ rw6815 Personal Messenger talks. It can, for example, tell you about calendar reminders, missed calls, and most disconcertingly, will even tell you who is trying to call you, if they are in the Contacts database, and it'll read out their phone number if they aren't. This is fun, but not something you'll necessarily want to have turned on all the time. Especially if you refer to your significant other as 'Splodgykins' or something similarly embarrassing in the Contact database.
You can make voice recordings using another on-board application -- you just hold down a key on the right edge of the casing and the software starts to run. Another sidekey starts the 2-megapixel camera running. Its lens is on the back of the casing and is accompanied by a very small self-portrait mirror and a bright LED flash that can double up as a torch -- though you have to turn this on through the camera software rather than with a dedicated key. The flash isn't bright enough to shed light on photography subjects more than a couple of metres away, though.
Fresh out of its box, the iPAQ rw6815 Personal Messenger had a massive 114MB of free memory for storage of your own programmes and data. You can easily add to this with miniSD cards, and the slot is nicely accessible on the top edge of the casing, so you don't need to power down to swap cards.
Making voice calls was unproblematic. We found the iPAQ rw6815 Personal Messenger was comfortable to hold in the hand during calls, thanks to its relatively stubby design.
Using the Internet via Wi-Fi or mobile network was also straightforward, and the relatively large screen made viewing Web pages more satisfying than it is on mobile phones and smart phones.
We asked the iPAQ rw6815 Personal Messenger to play music continuously with its screen on to test the battery and got 8.2 hours of music. That's not bad, but we would have liked more. If you are a serious Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or music lover you may be looking at a daily battery charge.
Thanks to eXpansys for providing a review sample of this phone.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide