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May 11, 2007

HP iPaq hw6925 Pocket PC

First Impressions
For a while there, HP was grinding out so many new models of new iPaqs that you needed a team of census takers to keep up with the population. Recently, however, I notice that the iPaq population is tapering off and reaching some kind of equilibrium. But who knows this could be the lull before the storm. After all, HP has just given birth to its first Smartphone, which could signal a whole new population explosion. And Windows Mobile 6 is also already out.

I am still grappling with the decision whether to become a dedicated Smartphone or Pocket PC Phone or Pocket PC and Smartphone packer. I vacillate each time I review a new unit. However, the new iPaq hw6925 is certainly a persuasive device for embracing the Pocket PC phone edition platform exclusively. Let's explore some of the compelling reasons this would be so.

The 6925 is a square-screen device, which brings to mind Palm's square-screen Treos. If you think that the Treo screen is too small, but still want the convenience of a phone, QWERTY keyboard, and a larger screen, you may wish to consider the 6925.

One of the problems with the Treo is its lack of an 802.11b/g radio. Well, the 6925 not only offers built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and InfraRed wireless connectivity, but it also has an on-board GPS receiver. Couple that with a 1.3 MPX camera with flash, and you have an attractive device.

Of course, the bigger screen means a bigger footprint, and at 4.65x2.8x.71 inches and 6.33 ounces, the 6925 is definitely in the heavy weight class compared to a Treo. The 3.0 inch Transflective,TFT, QVGA 64 color screen with LED backlight seems huge compared to the Treo 2.5 inch screen. The resolution, however, is the same low 240 x 240 pixels. So, you don't see any more image area on the 6925 screen than you do on the Treo screen.

Physical features
Let's take a quick walk around this black and silver unit and kick the tires. On the face we find a phone speaker at the top and two LED lights: a combination green/amber/red LED for phone connectivity and charging indicator and a blue light as a Bluetooth and Wi-Fi indicator. On the right top there is a power on/off bar. Holding down the power button when the unit is on will bring up a handy menu with some useful functions.

Covering the screen, HP offers a see-through, smoke-colored, fold-up screen protector that can be removed if you wish. Below the screen are the customer green and red phone symbols for starting and ending calls that surround left and right softkey buttons. In the very center of the button bar is a five-function joystick button that I find extremely easy to use for navigation and selections. It also acts as a camera button.

The 39-key QWERTY keypad uses round, backlit keys that I find a little difficult to use one-handed with one thumb compared to the more closely spaced Treo keys. Special keys include an OK button, a Windows Start button, and the space bar also functions to display special characters and international symbols. Set off with black keys, the number keys on the right stand out clearly.

On the right side of the unit, at the top, there is a volume up/down slider switch. Below that is a button that activates the camera. The IR port is located at the bottom.

The bottom panel contains the power/syn cable connector, which, unfortunately, is a non-standard type connector. I wish it were a law that all connectors must be mini-USB for standardization and so that you didn't have to carry an entire spider web of cables on a trip. The bottom also house a reset button hole and the microphone opening. HP has elected to place a 2.5 mm audio port here too. Plan to buy an adapter to connect to more standard 3.5 mm external devices.

The right side houses the stylus silo and a mini-SD card port.

To remove the battery cover on the back on the unit, press the silver button and slide it down. You must remove the 1200 mAh Lion battery to insert a SIM card. Supposedly the talk time is about four hours with seven days standby. There is an extended life 1800 mAh battery available. Above the battery cover you have a self-portrait mirror and a flash flanking the 1.3 MPX camera lens. The external device speaker is located to the right of the lens.

Under the hood
This device sports an Intel(R) PXA270, 416 MHz processor with 64 MB SCRAM (45 MB available for persistent user storage). I would certainly recommend more memory in future iterations.

Offering quad band GSM (850/900/1800/1900)/GPRS/EDGE connectivity, this phone does not connect to the fastest wireless cell phone networks, but it does have Wi-Fi as a compensation for even faster connectivity. Unfortunately, it is the 802.11/b instead of the faster 802.11g standard. Perhaps this is a good time to mention that 6925 is an unlocked device that will allow you to use the carrier of your choice.

Software included
Pre-stalled software includes Calendar, Contacts,Tasks,,Voice Recorder, Notes, Word Mobile, Excel Mobile, PowerPoint Mobile, Internet Explorer Mobile, Windows Media Player 10 Mobile, Calculator, Solitaire, Bubble Breaker, Clock, Align Screen, and Memory.

On the CD there are additional selections: Microsoft Outlook 2002, Microsoft ActiveSync 4.1 (Desktop device synchronization), Windows Media Player 10, Desktop Phone Data Manager for PC, HP Protect tools secured by CREDANT Technologies, and HP Photosmart Premier Software.

What's in the box
Thank you HP, for remembering to include a cradle in the box. I only wish the cradle were capable of charging a spare battery while the unit is charging simultaneously. The AC power cord that plugs into the back of the modem for power comes with an adapter that fits into the bottom of the unit if you do not want to use the cradle. There is also a separate USB cable for syncing directly with a PC. The missing link is a cable for car charging when you use the device for GPS. You also get a black, plastic stylus and a stereo ear plugs with a microphone for use as a telephone headset.

It comes with a handy, black plastic, clip-on belt holster. I found the holster extremely useful for quick access and convenience. But I stopped using it because of the danger of the unit dislodging when I bumped into something and jarred the clip that secures the device. I also found it would come out of the holster when I sat down in certain positions and could easily and inadvertently leave the device behind.

A comprehensive printed manual comes in the box along with the aforementioned software. In addition, you get HP Ipaq Navigation Maps and Software three-CD set as a 60 day free trial. I did not bother to install it only to have to uninstall it after 60 days because I have plenty of my own navigation software. The built-in GPS receiver will work with any software.

What rules and what drools
This multi-functional, all-in-one device is remarkable for its capabilities, for it does just about everything you can ask of a handheld device from acting as a PIM to complex computing, word processing, and presentation functions as well as taking pictures and guiding you to your destination--all while talking on the phone. The backlit external QWERTY keyboard definitely rules too. I appreciate the large screen. I like the optional Wireless Bar that you can place on the Today screen. It shows what wireless devices are active and allows you to turn them on/off with a tap. At first I wasn't sure about the flip cover screen protector. But it does protect the screen and is a lot less trouble than removing the device from a pouch or case. I prefer the mini-SD card it uses over the micro-SD card for several reasons. One is that the mini cards are less expensive and easier to find. Another reason is that they cannot get lost as easily. The unlocked aspect of this phone rules. A Pocket PC with a flash camera is a rarity, so that rules too. I appreciate the dedicated external camera button. Another really cool, non-drool feature is that you can attach GPS coordinates to a picture. It accommodates push email if you are a total slave to your email and facilitates SMS and MMS services. I like the uncomplicated simple-to-use joystick button. I am grateful that HP includes a cradle in the box, for some manufacturers are forgetting to tuck one in to keep costs down, I suppose.

Put on your bib. There are some drools. This machine could stand a memory transplant--try twice the memory or more. I found the keyboard difficult to use one-handed because of its size. I wish the charging/syncing connector were the more universal mini-USB type--big drool. The fact that many handhelds are offering two and three MPX cameras, and this one only has 1.3 drools. Bluetooth 1.2, as opposed to 2.0 drools, and 802.11b instead of 802.11g Wi-Fi standard drools. I suppose one could wish for a more powerful processor as well, but at 412 MHz, it could be worse. Battery life could be better, but at least you can purchase an extended life battery and use the original as a spare. That brings me to lament that the cradle will not charge a spare battery. Another big drool is that it lacks a car charger for use as a GPS unit when travelling.

The 6925 is a bit on the spendy side at a suggested retail price of $579. No doubt a little judicious shopping could pay off with a better price. One reason that the price is high is that it is an unlocked device and not subsidized by any carrier with a contract and price plan. Of course, the other reason for a high price tag is that it is simply packed with features that cost money to bundle.

Soon may be a good time to purchase one of these little beauties because there will be a rush for the new Windows Mobile 6 devices, and you can probably pick up WM5 machines at bargain prices. HP will not divulge if the iPaq 6900 series is going to be able to upgrade to WM6. With any luck, the 6925 will be one of the devices HP supports for upgrading.

Clearly, there is no such thing as a perfect device, for everyone's needs and tastes vary. For many people, however, the iPaq 6925 could certainly be the perfect machine because it offers so much. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of another machine on the market right now that has as many features as the 6925 at the same price.

If you are looking for a powerful Pocket PC phone with built-in camera, GPS, BT, Wi-Fi, and an external thumb board, then the iPaq 6925 would make a swell pocket companion to do your bidding.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to learn if HP intends to offer an upgrade to Windows Mobile 6 for this device. I hope so.

Posted by tim at May 11, 2007 08:01 PM