HP's new flagship business smartphone - the HP iPAQ 914 - is a me-too product in the world of all-singing smartphones.

The HP iPAQ 914 is a solid-feeling and very well finished mobile handset, and the back panel has a matte rubber coating which aids grip. Front and sides, meanwhile, are neatly trimmed in piano black plastic and polished metal.

On the left side lie two ports under rubber flap seals - a small USB connector for data or charging, and a microSD slot to expand the HP iPAQ 914's 128MB onboard memory. A centre-hinged switch at top left allows easy volume adjustment of both earpiece and ringer volume.

Inside the HP iPAQ 914 sits a huge lithium battery, almost the height and width of the handset, yet despite its size battery life is disappointing, at about three days of casual use. Unfortunately, this phone will not charge via USB from a computer so you need to carry the mains adaptor with you.

You can either use the qwerty keypad with the scrollwheel and difficult-to-press buttons on either side of the HP iPAQ 914; or you can use the touch sensitive screen with the supplied stylus. That's the idea anyway. In practice, you'll find yourself using a combination of both, since neither system is up to the job alone.

It gets even more difficult if you should decide to input some numbers, as these characters are printed in uncontrasting blue on a gloss black background.

Other front buttons are hard-wired for common tasks, such as bringing up the Windows Start Menu. The HP iPAQ 914's ok button is in the centre of a four-way rose, while the key marked ok serves as an escape key to take you back a screen at a time.

The HP iPAQ 914's 320x240 touch-sensitive screen is not especially sensitive, and for operations such as scrolling requires a fair degree of pressure from the stylus.

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HP's new flagship business smartphone - the HP iPAQ 914 - is a me-too product in the world of all-singing smartphones.

Some everyday tasks are not at all easy. For example, entering a password for a wireless network. You could go for the HP iPAQ 914's keypad - but to call up the relevant screens requires much work with the stylus first. So you keep the stylus out and tap your password in via on-screen qwerty.

Except, the HP iPAQ 914's keyboard now covers the text field where your password letters are appearing, entirely obscuring them from view unless you alternate between keyboard on, keyboard off, on, off... until you're satisfied that you typed it in correctly.

Once you've come to terms with the schizophrenic nature of the HP iPAQ 914's keypad/touchscreen human interface, you must accept that you'll also be squinting at small iconage and screen fonts. Casual reading of crucial data is tricky, as you try to focus intently on the screen.

When we used the HP iPAQ 914 Windows Mobile suffered from inexplicable crashes and errors - be prepared to see programs randomly crash and to reboot your phone regularly.

Speech qulity through the HP iPAQ 914 is acceptable, although you will need to practice placing the phone in the right place against your ear. Move it a few millimetres and you'll lose the voice of your caller.

We found Bluetooth to work satisfactorily, and could even enjoy its A2DP capability, to send compressed stereo audio to an external audio adaptor. Which is just as well, as the HP iPAQ 914 includes no headphone jack, so listening to music or hands-free calling is impossible from normal wired earphones.

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HP iPAQ 914: Specs

  • Quad band GSM/GPRS/EDGE phone and Tri band UMTS, HSDPA 3.6/7.2Mb/s
  • Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional
  • Marvell PXA270 416 MHz processor
  • 16-bit TFT display 2.46in, 320 x 240, 65k colours
  • alphanumeric keyboard, scroll wheel, 5-way navigation
  • 128MB SDRAM main memory, 256MB flash ROM
  • WLAN 802.11b/g, Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR
  • assisted GPS navigation
  • 3.0Mp autofocus camera, 4x digital zoom, 1280x1024 SXGA resolution
  • 1940 mAh Lithium-Ion (user changeable), quoted talk time: up to 4 hours, standby time: up to 10 days
  • 64x16x113mm
  • 154g
  • Quad band GSM/GPRS/EDGE phone and Tri band UMTS, HSDPA 3.6/7.2Mb/s
  • Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional
  • Marvell PXA270 416 MHz processor
  • 16-bit TFT display 2.46in, 320 x 240, 65k colours
  • alphanumeric keyboard, scroll wheel, 5-way navigation
  • 128MB SDRAM main memory, 256MB flash ROM
  • WLAN 802.11b/g, Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR
  • assisted GPS navigation
  • 3.0Mp autofocus camera, 4x digital zoom, 1280x1024 SXGA resolution
  • 1940 mAh Lithium-Ion (user changeable), quoted talk time: up to 4 hours, standby time: up to 10 days
  • 64x16x113mm
  • 154g

OUR VERDICT

The HP iPAQ 914 is a smart-looking and impressively specified handset, but its looks belie a phone beset with so many problems that we must suggest shopping elsewhere.

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