June 25, 2004

HP iPaq 4155 PDA Review by Arogan

(Editor's note: This review was first posted on our awesome discussion board by FirstAdopter.com member Arogan)

I finally upgraded from my ancient Handspring Visor Deluxe. Normally these run $450 retail, but I got it for $277 no tax shipped through a friend for a refurbished model.

When I make my comparison to palm I'll use my wife's Tungsten T (TT) as the base of comparison so it's a little more fair.

TT was purchased direct from Palm as an open box for about $200 about 6 months ago.

- Criteria: It has to be small enough to fit my pocket, must have bluetooth but wifi a plus, must be color, must be able to do multimedia pretty well (video/audio - mp3), must have a voice recorder, user replaceable battery a BIG plus, and close to $200

- Refurbished quality: iPaq came very nicely packaged with all software, manuals, accessories, even the protective film on the screen. TT came pretty bare and didn't have the additional OEM software (the essentials disc). So far the iPaq seems like new to me. TT is already experience some digitization drift issues (and of course it's out of warranty) [Read More]

- Size: TT collapsed is still about the smallest pda out there. The iPaq is very thin and is just a bit larger than a collapsed TT and much smaller when the TT is expanded.
- Screen: some people have complained about a yellow tone, but I haven't really noticed. The trans-reflective 320X240 screen is great. I think both screens look great but I give the nod to iPaq for the larger useable screen (no permanent graffiti silk screen) and it's a bit brighter/clearer.
- Battery: TT has a longer life but is NOT user replaceable. iPaq is shorter especially if you are using wifi a lot. After 2hrs of heavy use showing off the unit (pocket quake) and wifi use I had 52% battery left. Impressive that the iPaq packs so much functionality in such a small package and still manages to have a user replaceable battery (and not having to resort to something like a lithium polymer battery).
- Acessories: Much harder to come by for this particular model of iPq. Basically I had a choice of a rhinoskin leather or rhinoskin metal case. I tried both. The way the metal case opens (hinge on the right) it's very hard to grasp when actually using it in the case. The metal is also slippery and hard to grasp. I went with the leather, which is a tad more bulky but otherwise works pretty well. $30 at Compusa. For Sync/charger cables I had to go online. I picked up some from iBiz. I hear the 4155 pulls more power than other iPaq models so it's pretty picky. The ibiz stuff seems to work fine.

http://store.yahoo.com/ibizpda/travkitaccla4.html (toggle switch on the cable between sync/charge)

http://store.yahoo.com/ibizpda/usbcharkitfo4.html (no switch. sync-charge at the the same time)

Some say the switch kind works more reliably. So far both have worked fine.
Palm has quite a bit more retail presence as far as accessories go. I also picked up a stowaway wireless keyboard:


Watch out for Sandisk 512mb SD cards. I've read many negative reports AFTER I had already ordered one. Well as far as I'm concerned they are true! I can't write and read reliably through the iPaq or a stand alone reader without constant corruption and reformatting. I picked up a Lexar 512mb sd for $150 after rebate at Compusa. It works perfectly!

- Usage: If you are very comfortable with windows then Pocketpc should be very easy to pickup. In fact I think it's a bit easier than palm. You don't have to learn about palm file types like pdb, prc and vfs. explorer in activesync is awesome. Your pda becomes a removable hard drive that you can just drag a drop files. No need to "sync." Install apps to the SD card is a snap. It's very well supported by the OS (much better than VFS). Windows 2003 mobile edition is also a true multi-tasking OS. The downside is the stupid OS doesn't make it easy to stop running programs. The little "X" only hides the program. Microsoft in their infinite wisdom of course wants you to leave all apps running and just have you switch between them gobbling up precious memory. Security is kind of crap too. You can't password protect/hide individual entries (calendar, address, notes, etc) like you can in palm. All you can do is password protect the entire device. The included file explorer is pretty worthless. In some ways 2003 mobile is a bit too much like desktop windows. You still have a registry that can get mucked up. You still have to "reboot" (aka soft reset) for some settings to take effect (like clear type). In many ways palm is just simpler and I think very easy to grasp for less computer savey users. I can see why palm still has 60% of the market. But if you are a power user I think you'll get more out of the Pocketpc.

- Internet/networking
Wifi is actually very good and web surfing is surprising fast compared to TT. For TT I had to rig up a sort of bluetooth to ethernet bridge so there is a hit there. Also there is no need for a proxy with PIE (pocket internet explorer). It tries to wrap text and squish stuff down to fit on the small screen. With the included Resco explorer you can even map network shares just like in winxp. You can easily copy files back and forth over wifi. With the included hp printing you can print to any network shared printer. I was surprised to find quite a few of my favorite sites had "mobile" editions which were quite enjoyable to surf on the iPaq.

- Useful Apps:
This took a lot of time just to figure out what the must have apps are. A good place to start is this list:
and a nice site for free software:

My picks:
- Resco File Explorer (included with iPaq) - also handles your encryption needs. even installs a desktop file explorer shell extension. This way you can encrypt/decrypt on the pda or on your desktop.
- Mobipocket Reader (there is a free version)
- Pocket Player - windows media player isn't bad. You can even turn off the screen while playing mp3's. The only thing that sucks is I couldn't figure out how to sort playlists.
- PocketBible - NIV
- Lextionary - dictionary
- HP Mobile Print - (included with ipaq)
- ipaq image zone - (included with ipaq)
- battery pack - the default today screen just SUCKS without this. It's a little quirky. Tip: don't change the "X" default to close instead of hide. Some apps don't like this change and will hang the device.
- Worldmate (included with ipaq) - nice world time, weather, and unit/currently conversions. Will update current exchange rate/weather through activesync or wifi.
- PocketQuake - http://quake.pocketmatrix.com/
- Remote Display Control for Pocket PC
lets you control your pocketpc from the desktop! Sort of a reverse terminal services.
- resco audio recorder - record directly to mp3
- flash format - utilities to verify/format your SD card
- pocketnotepad - http://tillanosoft.com
- dvd -> pocketpc. Dr. Divx works pretty well.

Best player is Beta Player:


I did some test with wm9 and I still like divx better.
- emulation:
All the 8 bit stuff plays perfect.
SNES isn't bad. It's a bit slow but playable even with sound. GBA/Genesis is pretty darn slow with sound.
TG16 plays very well considering how advance that system was.
- database:
For look up my favorite is still TomeRaider:
Super fast and very small file sizes.

Bottom line: I've been officially converted over to the Pocketpc camp. It really feels more like a mini computer than just a PDA. If you can find one for $277 I think it's a great value. I personally don't think any PDA is worth $450.

Ranked #1 at pcworld

New rom update (haven't tried it yet)

[Discuss this Review on the Best Community on the Net]

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