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(Pocket-lint) - Before the iPod, there was the HP iPaq, which for a number of years was as synonymous with PDAs as Apple is with MP3 players. However, until now the company hasn’t really been a large player in the satnav market. Satnav companies, such as Garmin and Navman, have tried to create a PDA-based satnav in the past but with little success. Taking its experience in handhelds, this is the first hybrid PDA/satnav that really works.

The look is fantastic; gone is the box of years past, with a neat curved design that isn’t just good for looking at but is designed to slip easily into your pocket. Finished in silver and bronze it has an asymmetrical look that still manages to fit in a 3.5-inch touchscreen display. There's a 400MHz processor, and 64MB of memory, which powers the HP with little lag. Applications run smoothly, and you'll find an SD-card reader on the top of the Travel Companion, allowing you to add more memory for your files.

Being a PDA, its loaded with Windows Mobile 5.0, so you can use it collect all your email as well as use as an MP3/video player. With Wi-Fi and Bluetooth built-in you can hook up to hotspots, or even to your mobile phone, for sharing files or getting the latest updates.

A SiRF Star III GPS module provides the most accurate navigation currently possible, and we found it to locate satellites within seconds. HP isn’t a satnav company, so it’s teamed up with TomTom to handle the maps side of things. This is a wise choice, opting for the leading GPS player in the market. It comes with full European mapping stored on 2GB of flash memory. As with all Mobile 5.0 devices, a button on the side allows you to switch the display to landscape mode. This is the best mode for maps, as it allows you to get a lot more detail on the screen. Full postcode support makes it easy to enter your destination, and the HP stores a list of recently visited places.

Being a handheld, it’s equally usable for using when walking around as it is when in the car. You’ll find all you need to hook it up to your car, including a dashboard mount as well as a battery charger. What makes the rx5900 so appealing is how simple it is to use. Whether as a PDA or a GPS, it switches seamlessly and never feels as though you are compromising the quality of either.


On the surface there is nothing particularly new to be had from the HP rx5900 but the combination of HP and TomToms knowledge makes it more than the sum of its parts, making it the best hybrid device we’ve used.

If you need something a little more diverse than a simple satnav unit, we suggest that this is the one for you.

Writing by Mike Browne. Originally published on 2 April 2007.