iPaq rx5900 Travel Pal

There is a lot to like about The Travel Companion. It’s both a powerful Pocket PC and a wayfinder. It comes with award-winning Tom Tom navigation software pre-installed for the entire United States and Canada.

It caught my attention right away with its horizontal orientation and the snazzy copper-colored band around half the ferruled perimeter. It cuddles up in your hand just fine like a puppy crawling over the rest of the litter to come home with you.

For connectivity, this Windows Mobile 5 device features built-in WLAN (802.11.b/g), and Bluetooth 2.0, both of which I applaud for fast connectivity. It sports a Samsung SC32442 400 MHz processor with 64 MB SDRAM in the main memory with up to 2 GB flash ROM, and an SD expansion card slot. Measuring 4.74x3.0x6.5 inches, it weights 5.99 ounces with the 1700 mAh Lithium-ion rechargeable battery installed.

It has no camera, which surprises me, and no InfraRed port. Does anyone really use IR? I like the concept, but I don’t think it has really caught on yet among the masses.On the other hand, those 1.3 MPX cameras included with most devices are practically worthless anyway. You are far better off with a real camera with some hunk.

The 3.5 inch transmissive QVGA color screen with LED power saving-mode has protective antiglare coating, which is a real plus in the GPS mode.

Buttons on the front include a nine-way navigation switch, Start Menu, and an OK function. The nine-way button has different functions in Windows and navigation modes.

Moving up to the top, we find a recessed reset button, a record button, and the SD card slot. On the left side reside the mini-USB charging/synchronization port for which I am always grateful so that I don’t have to pack even more cables and chargers on a trip. In my opinion, every portable device should have a mini-USB connector and no excuses. Above that is a MMCX GPS antenna connector, but note that there is already a built-in antenna onboard that works fine for most purposes. Below the USB port is a 3.5 mm audio jack, which I also appreciate as opposed to those pesky 2.5 mm jacks that nothing fits and you already end up having to use an adapter. To the far right, you can see the top of the stylus nestled in its silo waiting for a red button launch.

On the right side, there is an useful collection of controls. Starting at the bottom is the power switch. Above that are four horizontal chrome bars. The first changes the orientation of the screen. The next invokes Window Media Player. The third puts you into navigation mode. The fourth takes you to a handy launcher screen for the following functions: Today screen, Travel Assistant, Entertainment, Internet, and Navigation. A more useful launcher would also have Programs and Settings.

The backside contains the battery door and speaker. There are no controls on the rolled bottom side of the unit.

In the box, we find the battery, an AC adapter, Mini-USB sync cable, car charger, car holder and windwhiled mount, a nice, padded, black leather slip case, printed manual, and CD with startup programs with as ActiveSync.

The suction cup window mount is industrial strength with handy adjusting knobs. I lament, however that the box does not contain a cradle for use on your desk.

Installed software includes: Word, Excel, Outlook, Calculator, File Explorer, Internet Explorer, Notes, PhotoSmart Mobile, Pocket MSN, PowerPoint Mobile, QuickLaunch, Tasks, WorldMate.

For a travel-oriented machine, WorldMate makes a nice companion because it is as if you had a travel agent in the palm of your hand. It’s a world time keeper, map, appointment reconciler, weather bureau, packing list, currency and everything else converter. It will even give you flight schedules and flight delays in the advanced edition, which includes a subscription to the OAG. The version that comes with the Travel Companion appears to be a light version that does not contain all the features of the full-fledged one.

Of course, the on-board navigation aspect of this device is its main attraction. Award winning Tom Tom software bundle enhances its desirability. It's too bad that this device is not also a phone because then you could monitor traffic conditions over the Internet and advice users and reroute accordingly. You would also have the possibility of allowing friends, family, and associates to track your progress on a trip over the Internet.

It is not the purpose of this article to review the Tom Tom software. Suffice it to say that it performs well and offers all the conventions expected of navigation software such as turn by turn routing with voice and graphic prompts. The voice, by the way, is one of the best I've and not a tinny, fake computer sounding rendering. It has a comprehesive database of POIs and allows you to pick waypoints in a variety of ways and specify routing preferences.

I've evaluated many navigation packages for handhelds, and it's such a relief to have a device with all the maps pre-installed, which eliminates the headache of having to create trip segments and port them over to the device continually because of memory constraints.

What a pleasure to plunk the Travel Companion in its mount on the dashboard, turn it on, and just start driving as the device quicky establishes a link with the satellites.

The Travel Companion is a productivity tool as well on the road with all the PIM and computing functionality. Combine it with HP's new portable folding Bluetooth keyboard and a Bluetooth mouse, and you can leave your laptop home.

It's also an awesome entertainment center. You can listen to your favorite MP3s and audiobooks. You can download and watch movies on it. Or install Slingbox and watch live or recorded TV from you home remotely anywhere in the world over the Internet.

Conclusion

If you want a nice Pocket PC with GPS and can live without phone functionality and a camera as part of the bundle, then this is definitely a device worthy of your serious consideration.

On the pricey side, the suggested retail price is $569 after a $30 rebate. Please visithttp://www.shopping.hp.com/webapp/shopping/store_access.do?template_type=product_detail&product_code=FA811AA%23ABA&aoid=32861&jumpid=reg_R1002_USEN.

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