If you already own a PDA then there is little incentive upgrading. If all you want to do is keep track of your contacts and appointments, even the cheapest handheld will suffice. However, if you want to run the latest applications - such as MPEG video in landscape mode, or even connect wirelessly to a hotspot or home network, the HP iPAQ rx3715 may well be the one for you.



The top-of-the-range PDA has a sleeker look that sits snugly in the hand. Navigation, as with all PDAs, is based around four function keys for instant access to applications such as Contacts and Address Book. The 3.5in dominates the look of the device. A neat touch is the addition of screen rotation, so you can view pictures or run video in the wider portrait mode. This is a feature that has been sadly lacking from Pocket PC devices for some time.

The rx3715 is being promoted as a handheld rather than a Mobile Media Companion. In real terms, this means HP has changed the Home screen so that you can directly access your MP3 and video files, or even use the PDA to remotely control your TV, video recorder or even manage your hi-fi wirelessly. With both Bluetooth and 802.11b integrated into the device, you can even connect it up to your mobile phone to check for email when out and about.

At the heart of HP's proposition is a built-in 1.2-megapixel digital camera. While such an inclusion is standard practice in the latest feature phones, when it comes to finding them integrated into a handheld, they are still few and far between. It can store up to 75 images at a maximum resolution of 1280 x 960 pixels. Images can be taken using either the main navigation button, or in similar fashion to a normal digital camera via a button above the screen. A software button on the screen can also be used but this is slightly more awkward to use. Picture quality is reasonable - especially if you have ever seen pictures taken by a camera-phone.

The 4x digital zoom works well but you do sacrifice a great deal of quality, as the images reduce in image quality to cope with the scanning. For instance, images have a maximum image quality of 320 x 240 pixels at 4x zoom. Due to the limitations of the screen, the viewfinder doesn't offer the best response in outdoors situations. However, it is much better when used indoors. With no built-in flash, you'll need to make sure there is a light source otherwise images will be over-shadowed.

If you want to use the rx3715 as a standard PDA, then you'll find that the 400MHz Samsung processor has sufficient power to launch and run applications with ease. We found that MPEG video was extremely smooth in playback. With a total memory of 152MB, which is split up as 56MB user available RAM and 96MB user available flash ROM, the rx3715 offers plenty of room for expansion.

Verdict

In order to keep handheld sales buoyant, manufacturers are being forced to pack more into their devices. With the focus on multimedia rather than simply as a business tool, HP is hoping that lifestyle over content will lure buyers. Sure, there are cheaper handhelds on the market but HP's gambit convinced us that the rx3715 is well ahead of the pack in terms of usability and style.