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Think a PDA will be too expensive to “waste” as a mere remote? The Pocket PC 2002-based iPAQ H3950 does ring in at a sticker-shock inducing $649 USD MSRP, but if you compare that to its closest hardware matched dedicated remote competition, the Philips ProntoPro at $999 MSRP, the iPAQ is actually 35% cheaper. Not only that, but it has far superior specifications: a 400MHz processor compared to 33MHz; 64MB memory with expansion compared to a fixed 8MB; 65,000-color active matrix LCD touchscreen compared to 256-color passive matrix – the list goes on.
From a merely specifications standpoint the iPAQ certainly wins out, but as the old saying goes, “it’s not what you have, but how you use it,” that counts. The Pronto has created a huge shadow over any potential competition for many years now and rightly so: its incredible customization capabilities combined with a loyal user following have made it the Goliath in the industry. Even with hardware and software designed by remote control leader Universal Electronics Inc., does the Nevo stand any chance at being a “David” in the $130 million (and growing) touchscreen remote control market? Keep reading!
A Pocket PC from a different perspective...
Unlike most PDA/HPC reviews that look at the product as, well, a complete computer system, here I’ll focus exclusively on the iPAQ’s capabilities as a remote control. So you won’t be reading about the iPAQ’s word processing, spreadsheet, internet access, scheduling, networking or any other such computer-related functions, unless they have some bearing on the remote control side.
As a PDA, the iPAQ has been designed to withstand the rigors of travelling every day in someone’s cramped pants pocket – a place in which your remote will rarely reside. Remote controls live a rough-and-tumble life of their own, what with the occasional drop, drink spill and sandwiching between sofa cushions, so the iPAQ’s sturdy construction will be well received by those who really “get into the game”.
The unit measures 3.4" wide, 5.3" long and 0.9" thick (9.7cm by 13.5cm by 2.3cm) – but that’s with its form-fitting protective slip-case on. Remove that and the unit slims down to 3.2" wide and 0.8" thick (8.2cm by 2.0cm), but once again that’s only at the two biggest points. The majority of the unit is only 3.0" wide and 0.6" thick (7.7cm by 1.5cm), making this one of the most svelte remotes I’ve ever used. Stylish, too!
Weight is not a factor, with the iPAQ tipping the scales at just 6.5oz (180 grams) without the protective case, or 8.1oz (230 grams) with. Remember, both of these measurements include the iPAQ’s non-removable rechargeable battery and stylus! The case is finished in a matte metallic silver, with a shiny black domed section at the top where the microphone, speaker, light sensor and infrared emitters reside. No tactile or grippy coatings have been used, but the unit is nevertheless very comfortable to hold. It’s almost as if it was designed that way...
The protective case mentioned above is a thick, hard plastic shell that surrounds the sides and back of the iPAQ. A semi-transparent, semi-flexible, full-sized hinged plastic cover locks securely over the front of the unit, protecting the LCD screen and lower hard buttons from wear and tear. Although the hinged front does provide ultimate shielding against screen scratches and spills, it’s a floppy annoyance on the unit if you want to use it solely as a remote. Fortunately, the cover can be easily removed without any damage if you prefer the hard plastic protection for the sides and back.