HP iPAQ h6340 review
Wireless is the heart and soul of this addition to HP’s iPAQ handheld series – it’s packed with GSM, GPRS, 802.11b, Bluetooth and infrared. The big benefit here is that you carry just one device around for all phone and data requirements. Browse the Internet, send and receive emails or text messages, access corporate data, synchronise and share files, all without wires. The drawback is that it feels large and chunky, and there’s never any doubt that you’re talking into a PDA, not a phone.
Still, it manages to feel smaller than the O2 xda II. In fact, it’s about 10mm shorter at 74 x 21 x 138mm (WDH), and 8g lighter at 192g. But in common with the xda II, it lacks the built-in keyboard of the more compact Treo 600 or the BlackBerry 7100v.
Instead, a thumb-board accessory (supplied in the box) clips to the bottom of the unit. Although the close-packed keys are a bit of a squeeze for thumbs, it’s a lot faster than using the onscreen virtual keyboard. However, it isn’t without annoying design foibles. Since it’s much lighter than the body of the PDA the device feels top-heavy when keying, and it’s awkward to operate the Shift key and neighbouring A and Z keys at the same time.
Thankfully there’s nothing to complain about with the wireless features. We had no trouble using the h6340 as a phone; calls were clear with plenty of volume, and the Speakerphone mode plus a wired earphone adds flexibility. GPRS gives an always-on connection to corporate data, and with quad-band operation you can make calls in practically every country across the globe – with an appropriate network contract. Add 802.11b wireless LAN and you can check emails or browse the Internet at hotspots, or synchronise remotely with Microsoft Exchange 2003. Bluetooth allows easy local synchronisation or connection to peripherals such as a GPS receiver.
All the radio connections can be turned on and off individually, or all off together, from a handy icon at the bottom of the Today screen. This launches iPAQ Wireless, an HP application for configuring, monitoring and controlling the radios. In addition, the signal status icons at the top of the display can also toggle into Flight mode, a quick way of turning all radios off at once.
There’s also a useful application called HP Profiles where you set sound, screen, power and wireless preferences for five usage patterns. For example, a profile called Quiet might enable vibration alerts, and GPS could turn the brightness up to full and enable Bluetooth.
All these travel-oriented functions are of no use without enough battery power to run them though, and it’s here that the h6340 comes up trumps. With the unusual arrangement of a lithium-ion main battery and a rechargeable NiMH backup, it played back an MP3 file for a stunning 14 hours, 43 minutes. HP claims a talk time of 4 hours. Both batteries recharge from the mains in the USB cradle, which also has a slot for charging a spare main battery. You can buy a double-life battery too. An adaptor plug is supplied to charge the h6340 without the cradle.
To reflect its job as a phone, call answer and hang-up have been assigned to hardware buttons below the screen, leaving just contacts, inbox and a difficult-to-control direction pad. The left side of the case carries the headphone jack, Voice Record and Reset buttons; the right side has volume up/down and an SD/SDIO/MMC slot; and both sides have rubber inserts for better grip. That leaves the antenna, infrared and stylus slot at the top.