HP iPAQ rx4240
- 802.11b/g WLAN and Bluetooth 2.0, SDIO slot, outstanding audio quality, compact
- Lack of multimedia playback buttons, no camera, only supports Windows Media Video files natively, only 64MB of storage
A PDA dressed in a portable media player's clothing, the rx4240 is an attractive device that is equally good for productivity and mobile entertainment, but the lack of internal memory is a downside.
Price$ 399.00 (AUD)
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Pitched as a 'Mobile Media Companion', the iPAQ rx4240 is HP's latest attempt at breathing new life into the increasingly flagging PDA market. With portable media player sales booming, it makes sense for HP to push the rx4240's multimedia capabilities over its productivity features.
Not that it's any less of a PDA. The rx4240 runs the Windows Mobile 5 operating system and as such features the full gamut of productivity applications, including Word Mobile, Excel Mobile, Messaging (for push and POP email) and Internet Explorer. For Internet access on the go it has built-in 802.11b/g WLAN and Bluetooth 2.0, the latter of which lets you jump online by connecting to a data-enabled mobile phone.
It's the funky styling of the rx4240 that gives away its 'lifestyle' angle. The lacquered silver body with metallic orange side panels is certainly a change from the standard fare, as is its landscape orientation. The front of the device is dominated by the 2.8in display - smaller than what you'd get on a traditional PDA, but still reasonably good for watching videos. A 320 x 240 pixel resolution and 65 thousand colour depth is nothing out of the ordinary, however great brightness and colour saturation - not to mention excellent viewing angles - make it one of the best handheld screens we've seen.
The smaller screen size also ensures the overall unit is smaller. Measuring 102mm x 63.5mm x 16.75mm and weighing 127g, the rx4240 is roughly the same size as an 80GB iPod. A button on the right-hand edge switches the display orientation between landscape and portrait and holding the rx4240 in either mode feels good in your hand thanks to the rounded edges and smooth finish.
Multimedia playback is accommodated by Photosmart Mobile and Windows Media Player 10 Mobile. The former is a basic image application that lets you view photos in a slideshow, send them via email or Bluetooth, or set them as a screensaver. It doesn't have any image editing features, but you can annotate photos with text or voice recordings.
Surprisingly the rx4240 lacks an integrated camera, an odd omission for a media orientated device. If you have a digital camera that uses SD cards however, you can pop the memory card into the SDIO slot to view pictures on the 2.8in screen. While many of the newer compact cameras have a larger 3in display, the ability to send photos from the rx4240 is a useful feature if you're on holiday and didn't bring a laptop.
The SD card slot also makes supplementing the iPAQ's memory far cheaper than on equivalently sized smart phones, which tend to use the smaller (and more expensive) microSD and miniSD formats. However, if you don't want to spend extra on a memory card, the rx4240 only includes 64 MB of user available memory - a paltry amount for a multimedia companion.
Video and music playback is taken care of with Windows Media Player 10 Mobile. You can use version 10 or 11 of Windows Media Player on your PC to synchronise content to the rx4240. While transferring multimedia is a lot faster using a memory card reader and Windows Explorer, going through Windows Media Player lets you set up smart playlists, automatic synchronising, smart shuffle and automatic conversion of formats not supported on the mobile client.
The latter feature is important for video playback. Music formats supported are the standard MP3 and WMA, however video is limited to WMV. The good news is that quality doesn't degrade noticeably in converted WMV files: there is minimal pixilation, smooth playback and audio syncronisation remains consistent with the video. Combined with the zippy 400MHz Samsung processor, watching everything from short music clips to full movies on the rx4240 is a pleasure.
Maximum volume on the external, rear-mounted speaker is low, but any misgivings we had about sound quality were quickly remedied when we plugged earphones into the 3.5mm audio jack. A mediocre set of ear-buds are included in the box, but even those couldn't disguise the rx4240's audio prowess. It sounds fantastic, furthering the already strong media capabilities of this unit. An iPAQ audio applet provides a customisable equaliser, six presets and a 3D Sound setting that does a remarkable job of mimicking a surround sound environment.
A removable lithium ion battery keeps the rx4240 ticking along - this can be topped up using the mini-USB cable or AC charger. HP doesn't provide specific battery-life figures, stating that it depends too much on the applications used. The included screen cover is appreciated, but as it doesn't flip open, you need to remove it completely to access the touch screen. This is where the lack of dedicated media playback buttons is missed the most, especially on a device that calls itself a Mobile Media Companion. You can, however, reassign the buttons on the right-hand edge to Windows Media Player controls. The lack of four-way directional pad also means that many action games designed for Windows Mobile 5 aren't playable on the rx4240 - disappointing, as its two-handed design makes it perfect for game play.
For those who want PDA functions but don't want to go down the converged smart phone route, the rx4240 is certainly small enough and capable enough to satisfy most needs. It doesn't have enough built-in memory to take on conventional portable media players, but for an extra $50 you can pick up the iPAQ rx4540, which offers 1GB of internal memory in exactly the same device.
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