HP’s Ipaq line of products (acquired when they bought Compaq) have always been of the PIM (Personal Information Manager) variety, always sporting some version of Windows Mobile, aimed squarely at the business user. The Ipaq 310 Travel Companion is a departure from this mold, venturing into territories and markets held by Garmin, Magellan and TomTom – portable GPS (Global Positioning System) devices.
The Global Positioning System (GPS) is the only fully functional Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS). Utilizing a constellation of at least 24 Medium Earth Orbit satellites that transmit precise microwave signals, the system enables a GPS receiver to determine its location, speed, direction, and time. Other similar systems are the Russian GLONASS (incomplete as of 2008), the upcoming European Galileo positioning system, the proposed COMPASS navigation system of China, and IRNSS of India.
Developed by the United States Department of Defense, GPS is officially named NAVSTAR GPS (Contrary to popular belief, NAVSTAR is not an acronym, but simply a name given by John Walsh, a key decision maker when it came to the budget for the GPS program). The satellite constellation is managed by the United States Air Force 50th Space Wing. The cost of maintaining the system is approximately US$750 million per year, including the replacement of aging satellites, and research and development.
Following the shooting down of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 in 1983, President Ronald Reagan issued a directive making the system available for free for civilian use as a common good. Since then, GPS has become a widely used aid to navigation worldwide, and a useful tool for map-making, land surveying, commerce, scientific uses, and hobbies such as geocaching. GPS also provides a precise time reference used in many applications including scientific study of earthquakes, and synchronization of telecommunications networks.
The Ipaq 310 Travel Companion is a stylish device sporting a 4.5″ LCD touchscreen display. This keeps the number of individual controls to a minimum (just the Power button on the top and a couple on the side) and allows for UI flexibility via online upgrades. I’m not too keen on the color of the unit, but in the larger scheme of things, that is a very tiny nit to pick.
The UI is a pretty standard bill of fare for GPS devices: touch screen orientation requires large easy-to-hit buttons and clear legible text (although the disclaimer you are forced to agree to every single time you turn the silly thing on is written in one of the tiniest fonts I have ever seen).
The 310 offers a 3D perspective view while driving which makes for easy viewing. However, if you are approaching a complex sequence of rapid turns, you may want to switch to top-down view to get a better idea of what you have to do.
Initially, the 310 comes with 4 different voices of varying gender, pitch and quality. The volume on the system wasn’t the greatest and in a noisy vehicle the audible instructions can be missed. After connecting it to the Internet via my wife’s PC, the 310 received some major updates and fixes. Several more voices were added including British, Austrailian, and Irish accented voices as well as foreign language voices. Also, the volume controls were reworked and a speed-sensitive volume control was added. Now, the faster you go, the louder it gets. Oddly, the female Austrailian voice is easier to understand than the default US female voice (which cannot translate the standard abbreviation “TPK” into “turnpike” and says “teepeekay”).
The maps are reasonably accurate, given GPS’s government enforced level of ambiguity. Out-of-the-box, the unit required that you enter the ZIP Code of the destination, which makes things difficult once you leave familiar territory. Heck, I didn’t have to go too far as Miami-Dade county has twice the area of Rhode Island. After updating, the entry of destinations became more user-friendly. Remember to connect your unit to your PC to get regular updates to all of the maps and new features.
In practical operation, the unit performed as expected. It was not perfect, however. On two occasions the GPS reported that destinations we had entered were not where they actually were. Still, a batting average like that will earn you an MVP. The mapping software uses a “shortest-route” method by default. “Shortest route” does not necessarily equal “straightest route”. Be prepared to take some interesting tours of where you live.
Other features include MP3 player, Bluetooth connectivity (allowing hands-free cell phone operation), an SD card slot, and a stylus for all you fat-fingered types. A set of games are included, in case your vehicle doesn’t have an onboard entertainment system for the kiddies.
|Wireless||Integrated Bluetooth® v2.0 with EDR|
|Operating system||Windows® CE 5.0 with custom HP user interface|
|Processor||Centrality Titan 600MHz|
|Display||4.3-inch transmissive TFT 16-bit RGB depth 65,000 color WVGA 800 x 480 pixel touch screen display, antiglare, landscape orientation|
|Memory||128MB SDRAM main memory for running applications (may vary by country) Up to 2 GB Flash ROM (depending on model/may vary by country) User available persistent storage varies by model|
|Dimensions||86.8mm x 110.2mm x 18.2mm (3.4 x 4.3 x 0.7 in)|
|Weight (with battery)||187 g (6.6 oz)|
|Power||1700 mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable, user changeable battery|
|Interfaces||Mini-USB connector for sync/data/charge|
|Storage||High-capacity SD card slot|
|Audio||Large speaker for navigation volume, integrated microphone with echo cancellation, 3.5mm 3 pin headphone jack|
|Hardware buttons||Power, scroll wheel, reset|
|HP exclusive applications||HP designed user interface, Bluetooth hands-free phone application, Bluetooth device pairing (phone, stereo headphones)|
|GPS software||Navigation engine, text to speech, and maps RDS/TMC traffic data support (EMEA)|
|Entertainment software||Digital music player (with Windows Media DRM), digital video player, photo viewer, and games|
|In the box||iPAQ Travel Companion 310 Series, windshield mount with device holder, dashboard mount disc, car charger, standard battery, AC charger, mini-USB cable, carrying case, documentation, HP iPAQ Companion CD.|
|Warranty||One-year parts and labor in most regions; 90 days technical support for software in most regions. Additional offers may vary by region.|
|HP Total Care Services||HP services for individual product owners and businesses include service, support and financing options. Visit www.hp.com/services.|
In conclusion, the Ipaq 310 offers a competent package with a decent set of added-on features. The unit performs as advertised. HP offers CarePack service for an additional charge. That alone makes this unit worth buying. The Ipaq 310 retails for $449.99 but can be gotten for as low as $227.00 (new). Competetively priced models include the Garmin nuvi 260W, the Magellan Maestro 4040 and the TomTom ONE XL-S.