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HANDS ON: HP iPAQ 1945 Review
M. Nichols, Editor, Pocket PC Central
September 8, 2003
 

The iPAQ 1910 was like a sleek roadster that limped from zero to sixty in twenty seconds; it looked great, but lacked any kind of punch. Even if its lack of blazing performance wasn’t an issue, its expansion options – or lack thereof – might make one thoroughly question the wisdom of owning the 1910 over a more feature-rich Pocket PC.

But, even with its speed and expansion limitations, people were drawn to the look and feel of the iPAQ 1910. Many people were willing to endure its poor performance because of its style and svelte portability. Luckily, HP decided that sleekness and usability should coexist, and tweaked the design. The result, the iPAQ 1945, is the first of a small line of successors to the 1910. With the iPAQ 1945, HP has retained the cool, feather-light design of the 1910, but has given the device more power, more expansion options and onboard wireless communication. The result: a Pocket PC within reach of perfection.

 

Details, Details

iPAQ h1945 Pocket PC - Angle View

The iPAQ 1945 (also sold as the iPAQ 1940) has the same asking price of its predecessor, $299. It runs the new Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC, the latest edition of the Pocket PC operating system, and is the first Pocket PC to be powered by the ARM-based 2410 mobile processor from Samsung. Other features of the 1945 include 64MB of RAM, a 32MB ROM, a transflective color screen, a Secure Digital slot with SDIO support, and a removable Lithium-Ion battery. HP also managed to squeeze Bluetooth in the 1945’s slim form, which allows for wireless access to Bluetooth-enabled handhelds, cell phones, printers and GPS receivers. All of these features are contained within a shell that measures 4.46” x 2.75” x .5” and which weighs only 4.37 ounces.

The iPAQ 1945 ships with the following items: one USB sync cable with AC Adapter port, one AC Adapter, one 900mAh Lithium-Ion Battery, one metal stylus, one ActiveSync and Outlook disc, and one 2.5mm to 3.5mm headphone adapter.

 

First Impressions

There is virtually nothing to dislike about the iPAQ 1945’s style. It’s thin, light and beautifully designed. As is the case with so many “too cool” gadgets (see Apple’s iPod), the simplicity of its design defines its attraction.  Upon first examining the unit, it feels practically weightless – the addition of the small battery gives it a more usable, though still incredibly light, feel. The amount of casing bordering the screen on the left, right and top is significantly less than that of most other Pocket PCs, which makes the large majority of the face of the unit screen surface. The 1945 feels at home in the hand and, other than its lack of a scroll wheel, is very one-hand-use friendly. The navigation button is positioned close enough to the bottom edge of the face to be easily usable for menu scrolling or flipping though the virtual pages of eBooks.

Unlike the iPAQ 5400 Series, which has a removable battery that becomes part of the back of the Pocket PC when installed, the battery and the back piece are two different pieces on the 1900 series. The battery is easy to install, but the backpiece is a little awkward to seat correctly. After tweaking its placement for several minutes, I finally figured out that the backpiece isn’t quite flush with the rest of the back of the 1945 even when it’s correctly seated. This seems to be a headache at first, but after a short while I barely noticed it.

Setting up the 1945 was standard for Pocket PC 2002 and 2003 devices and I was done in a few moments.

 
Is that an Empty Pocket, or Do You Just Have a Thin Pocket PC?

Along with the ViewSonic V35 and V37 Pocket PCs, the iPAQ 1945 is the most pocketable Pocket PC available. At half an inch thick and just over four ounces, you can carry the 1945 in your shirt or coat pocket without notice. Its shape makes it a great fit for the pocket even with a case, assuming that the case isn’t of the bulky organizer variety. This makes the iPAQ perfect for listening to music or Audiobooks as you walk to work or in the park. Many otherwise great Pocket PCs lack true pocketability, like the Dell Axim X5, but if this is a concern, rest assured that the 1945 fails to disappoint.

 
Performance

The 1945 is powered by a mobile processor from Samsung, the ARM-based 2410. While this processor operates at 266MHz, only 66MHz faster than the iPAQ 1910’s 200MHz XScale, there is certainly more than a 33% increase in speed. Programs open quickly, often instantly, and browsing through files is a snap. Some applications like Microsoft Reader are a bit sluggish at startup while the program is loading, but I’ve yet to see such programs fly on even the fastest Pocket PCs (Toshiba e755, iPAQ 2215). For those looking to use the iPAQ to view pictures, the included iPAQ Image Viewer performed very well and saves you the expense of purchasing separate photo software. The 400MHz iPAQ 2215 does move a bit faster when performing certain tasks, but unless squeezing every drop of speed out of a device is a primary concern, go with whichever model you prefer.

With only 56MB of RAM accessible for file and program storage, you’ll need a Secure Digital storage card if you want to store large video or music files on the 1945; but unless you’re planning to spend several hundred dollars at PocketGear, it is more than enough space to install all the Pocket PC programs you'll need. About 13MB of space is also free in the iPAQ’s ROM. This space is called the iPAQ File Store, and can be used to store files or install programs. Since it is part of the 32MB ROM (where the factory installed software is stored) this space is protected from loss and will not be wiped clean in the event of a hard reset.

If you want to listen to music or watch videos on the iPAQ, you’re in luck. Videos play nicely thanks to the transflective screen and the Samsung processor – but the real treat is the 1945’s audio capabilities. The onboard speaker is located under the navigation button and is possibly the best speaker of any Pocket PC ever sold. While it’s not suitable for listening to music for extended periods or in loud environments, it’s more than loud and clear enough to get your attention with alerts or fill a dull moment with music. If you’re looking to use your iPAQ as a Digital Music Player, the sound delivered by headphones is incredible. With the right headphones, the 1945’s volume is remarkable, noticeably louder than our 3rd Generation iPod. The only drawback is that you must use an adapter to plug standard headphones into the 1945 as the headset jack on the unit is 2.5mm. Luckily, the 2.5mm-to-3.5mm converter is included in the box.

HP has wisely upgraded the Secure Digital slot on the 1945 to one that is SDIO compatible. This allows the 1945 to use SD peripherals, like the just released SanDisk Secure Digital 802.11b WLAN card, as well as SD Flash Memory cards. While there aren’t many SDIO peripherals available now (many are set to be released throughout the second half of 2003), this feature makes the 1945 much more reasonable when considering future expansion.

  
Software

The iPAQ 1945 was part of Microsoft’s launch of its new Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC operating system, also called Pocket PC 2003. Pocket PC 2003 is so much like Pocket PC 2002 from a visual perspective that most users won’t be able to tell them apart. However, Pocket PC 2003 does offer a few new features. For instance, PPC2003 has better connectivity options and menus which make getting online easier than with previous versions. It also comes with the new Windows Media Player 9 which offers MP3, WMA & WMV playback. Pocket Internet Explorer is a bit more user friendly and makes for a bit more viewable screen space. Solitaire is no longer alone; an incredibly addictive game called Jawbreaker, known to Pocket PC users for years as Bubblets, is also included.
Because the 1945 is a “budget” Pocket PC, it doesn’t ship with a lot of software extras, but it has most everything that you need for an organizer and multimedia handheld. Of course, the standard Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, E-Mail and other PIM applications are included as part of the OS, along with Pocket Word and Pocket Excel, but there are several other titles which come preinstalled. The most useful of these programs is the iPAQ Image Viewer, which is fast and simple to use. iPAQ Backup is great – it allows you to back up your iPAQ to a Secure Digital card, which is a great idea and is also much faster than backing up via ActiveSync.

On the included CD-ROM are copies of ActiveSync 3.7 and Outlook 2002 - both are required for useful synchronization between the iPAQ and your desktop or notebook PC. Other software titles include RealOne Player for Pocket PC, a Lotus Notes synchronization utility (trial), Adobe Acrobat Reader for Pocket PC, and two Resco Software applications, File Explorer 2003 and Picture Viewer.

 

Tilt Here for Yellow

One complaint that many are making concerns the iPAQ 1945's screen. The 1945 features a transflective screen with 16-bit color, which means it is capable of being front or back lit and of displaying over 65,000 colors. The screen itself, like all transflective screens, is far superior to previous types of handheld LCDs and is crisp and sharp. The issue is that the iPAQ 1945 screen tends to take on a yellowish hue when you tilt the top of the unit away from your view. This issue does not affect viewing from either side or with the bottom of the unit tilted away from you. I didn’t find this at all an issue, but some people are significantly bothered by it. If you think that this might be an issue for you, take a look at the iPAQ 2215, which does not have this problem. 

 
What’s Missing

The iPAQ 1945 ships with a USB Sync cable and an AC adapter. While there is a sync cradle that allows you to dock your iPAQ rather than just plugging it in, it is sold separately and is available for around $45. Some people actually prefer cables to cradles, but I like having a place to put my PDA at the end of the day. Another accessory that seems strangely absent is a protective case. Even the inexpensive Dell Axim X5 and Toshiba e3xx Series Pocket PCs ship with a cheap pleather sleeve; it’s nothing fancy, but works wonders against scuffs and scratches. It’s rather difficult to hold either of these AWOL accessories against HP considering the iPAQ 1945’s low price, but perhaps future shipments will surprise us.

The only feature that seems missing from the 1945 is some form of scroll wheel on the left side of the unit that allows for flipping through eBook pages or scrolling though websites. This, to me, seems more useful than a memo recorder hardware button, which the 1945 does have, but the missing wheel isn’t as big a complaint as it might otherwise be due to the design of the 1945; its slim form and front layout make using the navigation button easier to use with one hand than most.
  
Conclusion

The iPAQ 1945 is an amazing Pocket PC, and perhaps one of the top three I’ve used. Because HP fixed the speed and expandability issues that plagued the iPAQ 1910, the iPAQ 1945 is fast, expandable AND attention getting eye candy. Its few missing accessories and features are more than compensated for by what is present, and for $299 it seems snobbish to complain. Perfect for professionals, students and stay-at-home parents alike, the 1945 is as versatile as it is sharp. One final note: if you’re looking for an even cheaper version of the iPAQ 1945, take a look at the iPAQ 1935.

     
 
PROS  
  • Thin, Light Design
  • Bright, Clear Screen
  • Long Battery Life
  • Onboard Bluetooth
  • Speedy Samsung ARM Processor

CONS

 
  • No Included Cradle
     
 
           
           
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