First Looks: HP iPAQ rx5900 Travel Companion

Return of the PDA

Return of the PDA

PDAs have been decreasing in popularity over the past year or so because of rising interests in smartphones. With both telephony and PDA functions in one handy form, it’s easy to see why smartphones are so highly sought after. From an organizer point of view then, PDA does appear dated but that doesn’t mean it is time for it to retire. In different commercial industries, PDA is still preferred, especially in the realm of navigation and in light of growing adoption of wireless protocols. A prime example is the new HP iPAQ rx5900.

More to look forward to

The rx5900’s design is unorthodox to say the least. Instead of using the conventional bar form factor with a touchscreen in portrait orientation, the rx5900 has a touchscreen that is in landscape orientation by default. Buttons are located on the right of the display, making the rx5900 look more like a portable media player than a PDA. Display orientation however, can be easily rotated to portrait orientation at a touch of a button if need be. Located on the right profile are the Quick Launch, Navigation Menu, Media Player and power buttons while an SD expansion slot, record button and reset pin are positioned at the crown of the unit. These basically sum up all the mechanical controls that are available on the rx5900. Input connectors are all neatly tucked away at the left profile of the device and this is where you can find the mini-USB port, 3.5mm audio jack and docking point for the optional GPS antenna.

Pixels of the built-in QVGA touchscreen are arranged in a 240 by 320 lattice and since it has been treated with an antiglare coating, the rx5900 should remain useable even when used outdoors. Even so, we would have liked to see HP thrown in a sharper VGA display, not just to keep the rx5900 closer to tech trends, but also to make it a more compelling PDA for purchase considerations. Nevertheless, the platform is modular and perhaps a VGA display is already in the cards.

Navigation is wonderfully simple, made so by a combination of a nine-way navigation pad and Exit key eastside of the screen.

Wherever I may roam

A key selling point of the rx5900 is its GPS function. Bundled with a car charger and cradle, the rx5900 is a complete navigation solution out of the box. The cradle attaches easily to windscreens by means of a suction cup and because it has a movable joint, the unit can be adjusted to match different driving positions for optimum viewing angle. Unfortunately, the design of the cradle is a little flawed as the design of the cradle is such that the slot where the stylus resides is completely enclosed when docked. All other buttons however, are still accessible.

The bundled MapKing GPS software worked without a hitch in our road tests, although certain preset routes were found to be less than optimal. Nevertheless, the rx5900 was able to guide us to our destinations smoothly. Storage wise, a combination of an SD card slot and 2GB of onboard memory should provide users with plenty of room for multimedia and document files. For car owners with headunits that have a 3.5mm AUX-in jack, the rx5900 can even double up as a car jukebox via a standard 3.5mm audio cable.

Final Thoughts

At US$499 (about S$791), the HP iPAQ rx5900 Travel Companion is not your typical budget PDA. However, for the price you are paying, you’ll be well assured of getting a host of useful features and software capability that other PDAs are yet to offer. Of course, car owners who are contemplating getting a GPS unit and a PDA with wireless Internet browsing will have just found a perfect match in the rx5900.