HP iPAQ hw6515 Mobile Messenger review

18 Aug 2005

HP is out to beat BlackBerry at its own game, and succeeds. This PDA/phone slips easily into a pocket yet offers all the features we've come to expect from a powerful Pocket PC.

Price when reviewed: 
370(£434 inc VAT) Deliverymore
5

The hw6515 is far more than just a potential BlackBerry killer. This miniature marvel isn't merely here to send and receive emails - it can play music, synchronise your calendar with your office from across the country, and it can take photos and record videos. Oh, and it also includes a GPS satellite-navigation receiver.

In fact, the hw6515 is crammed with receivers; it's a truly global device, with quad-band GSM and EDGE support. The only notable omissions are Wi-Fi and 3G. This means GPRS is the most likely way you'll keep in touch with the office when on the move, and part of the power of the hw6515 is that, for some jobs, it can replace a notebook. You can receive an email with a Word file attachment, open it up in Pocket Word, make your changes and send it back.

The keyboard isn't the answer to every prayer, though. The chassis is only 71mm wide and, although HP makes a good stab at squeezing in all the vital keys, we never felt comfortable typing. However, it's far easier than handwriting recognition and we made few mistakes: you could write a detailed email on the device, but not a ten-page report.

Despite the impressive-sounding 1.3-megapixel resolution, we're less convinced by the merits of the integrated camera. See www.pcpro.co.uk for an idea of what to expect, but the trademark characteristics are a lack of focus and, in bright light, a tendency to awful overexposure. The video feature could come in handy though, with a respectable resolution of 352 x 288.

The GPS navigation is more than token too. The software is powered by TomTom, renowned for its accurate maps, turn-by-turn voice directions and intuitive interface. This doesn't even suffer from being squeezed down to the screen's 320 x 320 resolution, as opposed to the 320 x 480 most Pocket PCs use. You get one free region map to download but to make full use you'll need the complete set of Western Europe maps. These normally cost €199 (£138), but you get a 35 per cent discount as standard.

There's one more feature offered by the hw6515: it's also a phone. Sound quality is only average, and we occasionally wanted to boost the volume higher than it could go - we wouldn't recommend this for someone on the phone all the time, every day. And that's quite aside from the fact that you'll look slightly foolish with a PDA clamped to your ear. Fortunately, HP bundles a respectable hands-free stereo headset; if you're listening to music when a call comes through, the music is paused and you press a button on the microphone piece to accept the call.

However, you'll need to buy an SD card or a mini SD card to slip into the two available slots if you want to store more than a couple of different tracks. There's 12MB of flash ROM available, but that's best for backups as it won't lose its data if the battery runs flat. We advise you leave the 64MB of RAM alone to keep the iPAQ responsive.

With a 312MHz processor inside, we weren't expecting spectacular speed anyway, but in fact we found the hw6515 quite nippy - there are occasional pauses, but nothing frustrating. Even when playing video, it managed to cope with barely a stutter. Just note that this is one time you'll miss a 3:2 ratio screen.

Aside from that, the screen is certainly up to scratch. Based on transflective technology, it makes use of ambient light and so remains readable both inside and out, and also manages to tick all the right boxes: vibrant, bright and with good viewing angles. The major benefit it holds over BlackBerry devices (and smartphones) is that it's also a touchscreen, which makes navigation and web browsing so much more pleasant.