HP iPAQ hx4700 vs Fujitsu-Siemens Pocket Loox 720

Great news for FS PL 720 users: the iPAQ hx4700 uses exactly the same screen technology as the F-S Pocket Loox 720!

Author: Menneisyys@PDAMania.hu/Firstloox/PPCT/Brighthand/Geekzone etc. Last edited: 21.12.2004 16:56 EET.

Many (mostly European, because of the extremely high EU customs and the local markets' completely different preferences than in the States) people say that there are only two VGA devices worth buying: the Fujitsu-Siemens Pocket Loox 720 (PL720) and the HP iPAQ hx4700 (hx4700). Sure, there're other VGA models on the market too (Asus A730(W), Dell Axim X50v, Toshiba e830), but they either lack some functionality of the two PPC's or have some serious drawbacks, e.g. the outdors almost invisible Toshiba e830 screen, its size/weight and inability to communicate with the Stowaway BT keyboard; the very bad battery life of the Asus models; the (comparatively) bad x50v screen (see e.g. FirstLoox ) etc.

Therefore, a lot of people asked for a decent, comparative hx4700 vs. PL720 review, using the same test pictures as in the Dell x50v screen comparion above or my previous comparative review at FirstLoox. Reading the latter article first is highly recommended because

  • it contains most of the test pictures I also use in this review (here, I only supply the only original not present in the previous test)
  • I didn't include PPC's with worse display quality (2210, 3660) in this test to save time

    Screen quality

    Without question, the screen quality is by far the most important part of a VGA device. As it has turned out, both VGA devices have exactly the same screen, apart from the difference in resolution (dpi): the VGA 4" hx4700's being 200 dpi, while the 3.6" VGA PL720 a bit more.

    Now, for the screenshots. I've only included my Palm Zire 71 and Casio Cassiopeia E-125 because you can have an idea how they compare to usual QVGA devices (or the x50v) based on the above-linked PL720 to QVGA/Palm machine-comparisons, including the iPAQ 2210 and even the iPAQ 3660. As you can clearly see, the E-125 exhibited the same behaviour as in the previous test: non-unbalanced whites (the screen indeed has a yellow tint), pretty weak greens and pretty low visibility range (nevertheless, it still has one of the best QVGA screens; much better than most of iPAQ models, for example). The Palm Zire 71, again, was the best in the visibility area test (see the videos).

    We've switched off the automatic white balance of the camera so that the results are consistent (which wasn't really the case with the PL720 vs QVGA/Palm test see my comments in the previous article). Before starting to take the photos, we've used a white screen produced by the PL720 to set the white balance level. This white balance setting was used throughout the test meaning there were no automatic white balance level changes at all, unlike with the previous test.

    Warm Colors

    The ubiquotius warm-color test (click on the image to see the original version). Made several photos to give a picture of the screen visibility / basic screen cast (if any) / color reproduction from angles. Of course, static shots can't really show how the screen visibility gradually changes see the videos below. The last two pictures have been taken with long exposure + flashlight. Because we've only used the flashlight to cast some light on the machines themselves and still used long exposure, these pics are by no means a reproduction of how the PDA's would behave outdoors.

    Greens

    Color of the sky (blues), the ostrich egg (whites) and the hand (naturality of skin colors)

    Color bars

    Pay special attention to the yellowish borders of the E-125!

    Color of the snow (whites), the sky and the snowboard (reds)

    Original:

    Videos

    As has been already stated, only several tens or even hundreds of static photos can really show how a particular screen behave when watched from the side (from an angle). This is why we've taken some videos too. (Sorry for the bad quality my videocamera is still being repaired.)

    There're two things to notice:

  • The screen of the two VGA machines always behave the same way it's, for example, at a given angle that they gradually start to weaken, while, e.g. the Palm screen is still visible. This also emphasizes the screens' being produced with the same technology.
  • From the side, the color balance of both VGA screens remain pretty good. Not as good as the Palm, but still much better than most QVGA iPAQ 3.5" transflective screens (except for the 1910 screen), which become (with the 1930/1940 models extremely, with the 2210/4150/4350 and the 3.8" QVGA transflective models, the 5450 and 5550, moderately) yellowish when visited from below. This mean the new iPAQ screen is not plagued by the yellow cast older iPAQ screens exhibited.

    A left-right video with the original MJPEG codec, 1.8M

    An up-down video with the original MJPEG codec, 2.1M

    The above left-right video converted to DivX (sorry for the watermark!)

    The above up-down video in DivX

    Outdoor visibility

    We coulnd't test outdoor visibility as yet they must be the same (very good, actually; much better than previous-generation QVGA PPC's or transflective Palms).

    Other real-world benchmarks and measurements

    Please note that we just didn't have the time for thorough measurements. A more detailed review will follow some time.

    Warm-boot time after reset: 25 sec for the 4700, 21 sec for the PL720. The hx4700 only had the factory-default HP today plug-ins and no CF/SD peripherals, only an 1G SD. The PL720 had UpTimeMeter v3.4.2 as the only today plug-in; a 256 MByte SD and a 256 MByte CF. Without the memory cards (with them, of course, a bit more; with the two card above, some 7 sec), the PL720 needs another 4 sec for the Start menu to roll down (this that is, the REAL availability of the PPC, ot just the Today screen) wasn't tested with the hx4700. No overclocking took place, as with the SD copy tests. There was some 33 Mbytes free memory in the 4700 and some 40 Mbytes in the PL720.

    Clearly the PL720 is better. The hx4700 isn't as unbearably dog-slow at booting as the Toshiba e800 (more info here), however. The e830 boot-up speed, according to a poster at Firstloox, 21s with switched off Wi-Fi and 31s with Wi-Fi on. The PL720 switches off Wi-Fi upon rebooting.

    Copying large, 2.5Mbyte files to a SanDisk 1GB SD card from main memory, measured in Resco 5.0 and Total Commander (the two have exactly the same speed), with only the Today plug-ins and free memory above.
    PL720: 830kbytes/s
    hx4700: 640kbytes/s (incidentally, the hx copied the same stuff in the opposite direction at 533 kbytes/s. This hasn't been tested with the PL720.)

    Microphone sensibility and frequency response: almost the same. The PL720 was a bit more noisy than the 4700. This is not the standard "white noise" but discreet noise peaks, which can be quite annoying when listening to more silent sections. Linked are the original WAV files (44 kHz/16 bit/mono, recorded in the built-in Notes); the first half contains some music stuff to check the bass/tremble section (Apocalyptica), the second is a recording of some ambient TV program to find out low-voice sensibility. Note that I hadn't time for a really decent microphone test with real SNR and frequency response analysis and the loudspeakers we used for the test were quite bad-quality. We made sure that the microphones (on the lower edge of the PL720 and next to the cursorblock on the hx4700) headed right towards the loudspeakers so that the tremble section of the entire frequency range isn't distorted (high-frequency sounds can only be heard at focused positions, unlike low/middle-frequency sounds). This test will be repeated later with a much more decent speaker set.

    Wi-Fi sensibility: measured with WiFiFoFum, the 4700 has proved to be, in general, 5 dB more selective than the PL720. This doesn't mean much, however, because the absolute numbers don't tell much, for two reasons:

  • For example, the Asus CF Wi-Fi card consistently reports some 5-10 dB less signal strength than the PL720 and still, it even connects & talks to them even at -95 dB reported signal strength. This signal strength isn't even displayed by the PL720.
  • The hx4700 reportedly has a much worse and weaker transmitter than receiver unit.

    Unfortunately, we didn't have time for thorough Wi-Fi throughput & reliability tests either.

    Check out the following topics (somewhat) related to the subject (I also elaborate more on this stuff in those topics so you may find an answer to your questions there):
    PPCT, "Comparative (screen) tests of VGA PDA's"
    Brighthand, "The hx4700 uses exactly the same screen tech as the F-S Pocket Loox 720!" (beware, this is a hx4700 forum, and hx4700 users don't necessarily like seeing their beloved hx4700 be dethroned ;)
    Brighthand, "My New Asus A730"
    Brighthand, "e830 vs hx4700 display quality"
    Firstloox, "PL720 compared to Z|71, E-125, 2210 and 36xx "
    Firstloox, "GREAT NEWS: THE PL 720 HAS THE SAME SCREEN QUALITY AS THE iPAQ hx4700! "

    Special thanks to Hacsi@pdamania.hu for his hx4700.