Tools Of The Trade: The HP iPaq hw6510 Mobile Messenger

Cost is one reason: HP is aiming its hardware at the professional and corporate end of the market. In countries such as the UK, where mobile handsets - including mobile PDAs - are heavily subsidised by network operators, HP's approach of selling its hardware SIM free and without a contract makes its range appear expensive.

For corporate buyers, who can negotiate bulk discounts and want to be able to use their devices with more than one network operator, this might not be an issue. For smaller businesses, and the self-employed professional, the question is whether it is worth paying a premium for the iPaq brand.

The answer, in this case, is yes. The engineering quality of the iPaq stands out on opening the box. HP has managed to make the Messenger feel solid and robust, without compromising on weight or bulk.

The Messenger is one of the neatest PDA-smartphones on the market, and unlike the XDA series, fits into a jacket pocket without a problem. HP provides a flip-down plastic cover to protect the touch screen from knocks or scratches.

Below this is a Blackberry-style keyboard for typing. The screen is clear and bright, and the keyboard has just the right amount of spacing and key travel for quite quick typing. The fact that this is a PocketPC-based device means it comes with versions of Word and Excel, which does help make the device more versatile.

Battery life is reasonable for a PocketPC device: you can get away with charging the Messenger every couple of days, especially if Bluetooth is turned off. HP's proprietary software makes this easier: for example, it is just two taps on the screen to put the device into flight mode. Data access speeds, over the GPRS network (we tested the Messenger on Orange) were again reasonable, and certainly good enough for email and calendar access on the move.

The drawbacks to the Messenger are the omissions. Although it comes with Bluetooth, and connected well to Bluetooth-equipped computers and accessories, there is no WiFi. The latest HTC devices, as well as Nokia's 9500 Communicator, have WiFi, and it makes the devices that much more useable for data-intensive tasks.

The Messenger is also a 2.5G, not a 3G, device. The iPaq does support Edge but no UK networks currently operate this standard. With 3G coverage spreading in the UK, investing in a device with a GPRS (2.5G) only connection might not be the most future-proof option, especially given that PDAs with WiFi and Bluetooth but no phone cost significantly less.

THE VERDICT

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Pros: build quality, ease of use

Cons: expensive; no WiFi and not 3G ready

Price: £355 plus VAT

Contact: www.hp.co.uk

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