HP iPAQ 514 Voice Messenger review

Price when reviewed

HP’s latest iPAQ doesn’t at all resemble its predecessors: with the release of Windows Mobile 6, the company has ventured into the smartphone world.

Like the Orange E650, the 514 runs the Standard version of WM6, so there’s no touchscreen, but the 514 relies on just a standard phone keypad. It’s otherwise standard fare, with a shortcut button at the bottom-right side, and an up/down bar on the left, just next to an easily accessible MicroSD card slot.

Build quality is sturdy, and there’s a distinctly businesslike feel to it. The keys are comfortably rounded and it sits nicely in the hand. We’re happy enough with the 2in active-matrix screen, although the low resolution ruins some of WM6’s new icons.

There’s 802.11b/g onboard as well as Bluetooth, but other data connections are limited to GPRS/EDGE. You can use VoIP applications over Wi-Fi, though, courtesy of a built-in SIP client, or use Skype. DirectPush email also comes as standard, although your Exchange Server will need to support it.

HP does make a few interesting additions to the standard WM6 offering, principal among which is Voice Commander. This recognises voice commands for a range of jobs, such as making a call, launching an application or starting music playback. It can also read emails and text messages to you, albeit in a rather stilted computer voice. It’s an intriguing concept, but we found it hit and miss in practice.

The plus side of the 102g weight is that most of it comes from the battery. Rated at 1,100mAh, we saw several days between charges and, like most smartphones, it can be charged over USB. We’re pleased to see a separate headphone jack, although it’s disappointing that it’s a 2.5mm version and that the supplied handsfree/headphones are best described as adequate. A passable 1.3-megapixel camera completes the feature line-up.

There’s nothing quite as innovative about the iPAQ 514 as its PDA progenitors, but that’s not to say it’s a bad phone. Its fuss-free ergonomics, strong battery life and the fact it has both Wi-Fi and WM6 onboard make it an excellent choice for those who don’t need a full QWERTY keyboard.

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