Review: HP iPaq 912c

Anthony Caruana
8 October, 2008
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Once upon a time there was a company called Palm, and they made the most popular handheld business devices in the world. Then came Compaq with their flashy colour screens, oodles of memory and Windows Mobile – although in those days it was called Windows CE. They knocked Palm off their perch after a time. Compaq’s iPaq product line was retained in the HP buyout and the iPaq brand persists today. The iPaq 912c Business Messenger is one of the latest products from this venerable product family.

With its shiny black casing, full QWERTY keyboard and 320 by 240 screen, the 912c could pass as a BlackBerry. It even has a jog dial on the left side so that you can scroll through messages and open them. The iPAq 912c had a very solid feel with the build quality excellent. All the buttons felt like they’d cope with plenty of use and casing was resistant to scratches when carried in a pocket with some coins.

The unit is comfortable to hold and sound quality, both when used as a conventional phone and in speakerphone mode, was good. Although the 912c runs Windows Mobile 6.1, most operations can be handled without resorting to a stylus. The weight and dimensions were similar to an iPhone 3G although the iPaq is about 3mm thicker.

Dialing numbers can be accomplished either by activating phone mode by pressing the dial button and then using the number keys on the keyboard or by tapping on the touchscreen. The numbers on the 6.4cm screen were large enough to hit with a fingertip. The keyboard, like all small keyboards, took some getting used to. The keys are rounded so that it was difficult to accidentally hit adjacent keys simultaneously.

Comms are covered off with 3G, WiFi and Bluetooth. We connected the 912c to the Internet over both 3G and WiFi connections and it worked without any messing about. This is a significant improvement over previous Windows Mobile devices we’d tested that required some very fiddly set-up before working well. Turning the various wireless radios on and off was a simple, stylus-free affair through the Wireless Manager, which is accessible from the Today screen. Rounding out the complement of wireless radios is GPS.

Where the 912c falls down in memory. It comes with an anaemic 128MB of storage and 112MB of program RAM. There’s a microSD slot on the side that’s easily accessible but it’s hard to understand how HP couldn’t squeeze more storage into the 912c. While the amount of memory is enough for some email and calendar data, there’s no room for music. Even shooting a few snaps with the 3MP auto-focusing camera will eat that memory away at a rate of 550K per image.

Performance was not a strong suit. While reading email and accessing calendar data was OK, more complex operations, such as rotating a photo we’d just shot, took several seconds. With viewing Microsoft Office and PDF files, the iPaq 912c was able to deal with simple documents but more complex documents brought the spinning beach-ball to the fore more than we’d have liked. Frankly, the Marvell PXA270 processor, clocked at 416MHz, isn’t up to task of powering such a high-functioning device.

Australian Macworld’s buying advice. At $800 the HP iPaq 912c Business Messenger isn’t an entry level device. On top of that cost, Mac users will need to chip an extra $40USD for Missing Sync so that it can be connected and synchronised with your Mac. Two years ago, the iPaq 912c would have been a great device. However, today, it’s simply underpowered and short on memory.

HP iPaq 912c Business Messenger

SRP $799
Manufacturer HP
Cons Lack of onboard memory, sluggish performance
Pros Screen, keyboard
Rating 3
Type Smartphone
Distributor HP / 13 13 47

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