Hewlett-Packard's GPS-enabled HP iPAQ rx5900 PDA has its strengths - but concise directions aren't among them.

Traditional PDAs are on the verge of extinction. They're being phased out in favor of smartphones, which combine PDA functions with mobile phones. But Hewlett-Packard is trying to give the PDA one last fighting chance with its HP iPAQ rx5900 Travel Companion.

The HP iPAQ rx5900 Travel Companion combines a GPS receiver with a traditional PDA. We've been testing the HP iPAQ rx5900 for several weeks. While we've found a great deal to admire, we've also been disappointed - if not downright confounded - by the navigation guidance we received.

HP iPAQ rx5900 specification

The HP iPAQ rx5900 Travel Companion includes a built-in GPS receiver and TomTom's Navigator software, which displays your current GPS position on a map, calculates routes, and provides voice-prompted, turn-by-turn directions. The TomTom software and maps are stored in the device's 2GB of flash ROM.

The HP iPAQ rx5900 uses the Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system and includes 64MB of SDRAM plus a Secure Digital card slot for added storage. Built-in Bluetooth lets you connect to your PC or other Bluetooth device, and you can access the internet via 802.11b/g Wi-Fi.

Like other Windows Mobile PDAs, the HP iPAQ rx5900 comes with built-in Microsoft Office-compatible programs, such as mobile versions of Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, PowerPoint, and Windows Media Player.

The HP iPAQ rx5900's price

The HP iPAQ rx5900 Travel Companion lists for £246 ex VAT - £289 inc VAT, but we've seen it online for less. While this is pricey for a PDA, it's comparable to, if not less than, some other portable GPS devices.

The HP iPAQ rx5900's good points

The TomTom software offers lots of routing options, including fastest, shortest, avoid motorways, walking route, bicycle route and limited speed. That's a few more than other portable GPS systems we've tested.

Our HP iPAQ rx5900 (sold in the US) lets you choose to have voice prompts in English, French or Spanish - which is fun to use when you know the route and want to brush up your French or Spanish. The software offers a ton of useful features, including an Advanced Planning mode that lets you input locations within a city you'll be traveling to.

Our favourite HP iPAQ rx5900 GPS feature is the Demo mode. After you've input your destination or itinerary of multiple destinations, the software lets you preview the entire route in an animation. You can even choose the speed at which the animation is played.


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