Apart from containing all the usual productivity features to keep you organised, such as a calendar and contact lists, the iPaq also functions as an MP3 player, a dictation unit, an etch-a-sketch and a make-your-friends-drool tool. It comes pre-loaded with Windows CE version 3.0, which also gives you goodies such as Solitaire, Pocket Word, Pocket Excel, Calculator, Internet Explorer, Money, Picture Viewer, Windows Media Player and Microsoft Reader, which is a tool for reading electronic books. And in my book, the iPaq is a winner!

It's an extremely simple device to use as even I, a handheld PC novice, had it up and running within 32 seconds of opening the box. The touch-pen is the main navigational tool around the system and is highly accurate after you configure it - but the built in speaker unit can also be used as a navigator, or as a control pad for games. For more efficiency there are four buttons located near the speaker that aid in executing common applications such as the calendar, contact list and program and tools folders.

The iPaq has a stylish silver finish with rounded edges. The basic style pack that is part of the bundle serves to protect the iPaq from day to day bumps and gives the device a black frame. These style packs also provide expandability, and two other models are currently available: a CompactFlash pack for added storage and a PCMCIA pack for more connectivity. Compaq will be releasing a GSM pack in the near future.

For connectivity, iPaq has a built-in infrared port, and via its cradle it can connect to your PC or laptop through a USB port (a serial version is also available). Once connected to a PC, the included Microsoft ActiveSync 3.1 desktop manager software will help you keep all your contacts, favourites and calendar information neatly synchronised. The cradle also functions as a charger.

Apart from all the aforementioned tools, one feature that should not be overlooked is the written character recognition that can be accessed through Word. If you get tired of punching in individual letters or need to jot down a quick memo, you can simply use the pointing device to write normally in Word and then have the software recognise what you just wrote - although its accuracy wasn't too impressive with my writing style. If you don't even feel like writing, then you can use the iPaq's recorder function to dictate a message. All you need to do is hold down the record button located on the side of the unit and speak into the tiny microphone on the top bezel. You can later listen to this through either the built-in speaker or through headphones via the provided 3.5in jack. This feature also makes it a good spying tool.

For personal listening you can enjoy MP3s through the headphones, too, and with its 32MB memory capacity there is theoretically enough space for 30 minutes or more of your favourite tracks. Memory allocation can be adjusted in the system settings - but you will need to share this memory with your other data. The operating system sits on its own 16MB ROM and a whopping 206MHz Intel StrongARM processor is the muscle of the unit.

The iPaq's screen is a TFT LCD display with a resolution of 240x320 and viewing is superb, as the screen is very crisp and bright. A light sensor on the top bezel can automatically adjust the brightness of the display according to ambience levels. Short video clips can be watched on this screen via the Media Player.

The iPaq is perfect for the uninitiated handheld user because of its ease of use and abundance of features. It'll keep you organised, give you Internet access (via a network or modem connection) and also keep you entertained. It is expected to retail for around $1245 and a one-year warranty is part of the support plan.iPaqPrice: $1245Supplier: CompaqPhone: 13 2393URL: www.compaq.com.au

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Elias Plastiras
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