HP is pitching its new iPaq rx3715 not as an organisational tool but as an entertainment device (hence the Mobile Media Companion name instead of Pocket PC). In addition to the basic digital audio and video features found on most Pocket PCs, this model sports a built-in 1.2-megapixel digital camera and apps for managing digital music, photos, and video on PCs throughout your home via a Wi-Fi wireless network. It's a great idea, but this software is strictly for early adopters. Nevertheless, the iPaq rx3715 is an impressive PDA with a long list of features and excellent performance.
The rx3715 fills the void left by the recent departure of the Sony CLIE from the market -- it's an advanced PDA with innovative entertainment features. If you don't need the camera or the more esoteric entertainment programs, however, the Dell Axim X30 offers similar features and performance for significantly less.
The HP iPaq rx3715 looks distinctly different from previous iPaq devices. The trademark silver is gone, replaced by a dark-grey case with black highlights. Despite the new colours, this boxy, rectangular PDA is no breakthrough in industrial design. It does feel well built, as if it could easily withstand the rigours of mobile use. Measuring 114 by 71 by 15mm and weighing 159g, it isn't particularly small or light, but since it's loaded with two different forms of wireless communication and a camera, that's to be expected.
Below the display are four programmable buttons preset to load the universal remote-control application, the photo software, the digital media server, and the HP iTask launcher. In the centre is a very small directional pad inscribed with tiny icons for controlling functions such as play/pause on A/V gear. These are intended for use with the two remote-control and media server applications. Because of the pad's small size, we found it difficult to master.
The left side has a button for launching the camera. The lens is located on the back, above the replaceable lithium-ion battery, with a small mirror for taking self-portraits. On top of the rx3715, you'll find the standard 3.5mm headphone jack, the power button, the infrared port, and an SDIO/MMC slot.
Just above the screen on the front are two LEDs. One indicates battery power status when blinking amber and other alerts when blinking green. The blue light indicates that Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or both connections are active.
To protect the rx3715, HP includes a cover. The supplied cradle looks sharp and holds the handheld securely -- so much so, in fact, that it took both hands to separate them. The power adaptor will work well for travellers, but you'll need to purchase a separate USB sync cable or take the whole cradle with you on trips.
HP endowed the iPaq rx3715 with plenty of muscle to meet its multimedia mission. It's equipped with a 400MHz Samsung S3C2440 processor, 64MB of RAM, and 128MB of flash memory (for a total of 152MB of user-accessible memory). It comes with all the Pocket PC staples: Pocket versions of Word, Excel, Outlook, and Internet Explorer. You'll also find a few new features in Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, such as the ability to rotate the screen from Portrait to Landscape display. Additionally, you get a handful of useful HP and third-party utilities, such as iTask, iPaq Backup, and Pocket TV Pro for playing MPEG movie files.