Like other entry-level PDAs, the HP iPaq rx1950 has a 3.5-inch-diagonal QVGA screen that shows a 240x320 resolution--which is the price you pay for its modest dimensions--rather than the more detailed 3.7-inch VGA display used on the Dell Axim X51v or the latest 4-inch screens. Still, it shows 65,536 colors, and it's rich and bright enough for most uses. One thing we did notice is that you need to press the stylus firmly on to the screen for it to work. Although we miss having a plastic screen cover to protect the display, we like that all it takes to go between portrait and landscape views is holding down the Calendar button for a couple of seconds. You'll find this button, as well as three other customizable shortcut keys--Contacts, Inbox, and Wireless, by default--and the navigation toggle just below the screen. Above the display, there is a power switch, which is flanked by two small LEDs that indicate alerts, battery status, and wireless status.
A quick study, the HP iPaq rx1950 has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack and a stylus slot at the top, as well as an SD expansion slot. The remainder of the design is standard PDA fare, with a voice-record button and a recessed reset button on the left side. Its infrared window is on the bottom near the synchronization port, but to our dismay, the system cuts a major corner by including only charging and synchronization cables and not a full docking cradle. HP sells a $50 desktop cradle, but it lacks the ability to charge a second battery, as is the case with Dell's Axim X51 series. Also included in the box is a soft protective case, a start-up CD, and a user guide.Running the latest Windows Mobile 5 operating system, the HP iPaq rx1950 has many of the features of bigger and more expensive PDAs, including updates to Microsoft's mobile versions of Word, Outlook, Excel, Internet Explorer, and PowerPoint. This means that the rx1950 can work with Word docs that have tables and images, and you can preview a presentation before the big show, although forget about editing the show or playing PowerPoint's embedded audio and video clips. With ActiveSync 4 and Windows Media Player 10 Mobile, the rx1950 is easier to synchronize with a PC and can play all the major audio and video file formats, including MP3, WMA, and WMV. On the downside, this PDA doesn't come with the extra games that Dell loads on its PDAs, but we love HP's Image Zone software, which not only displays images and sets up slide shows but also has a color histogram. HP includes a couple of extra utilities, such as a self-diagnostic test and Pocket Panel Lite, which allows you to check your PDA's battery life, available memory, and backlighting settings right from the Today screen.
Built around Samsung's new ARM-based SC32442 processor, the HP iPaq rx1950 may be slower on paper than just about any recent PDA, but its 300MHz clock speed is deceptive. The system is a strong performer that can compete with faster Intel-based PDAs, but we'll have more on that in the Performance section. Barely the size of a thumbnail, the CPU has hidden extras such as a flash-memory controller and has been designed to reduce lag time by packaging all essential equipment in one unit. There is 96MB of user-accessible memory onboard--64MB of ROM and 32MB of SDRAM--and 33MB of key data can be stashed in the persistent storage area that is immune to a dead battery. Overall, the internal memory is pretty small for such a device, so you'll definitely want to load up on some SD expansion cards.