With burnished silver and curves in all the right places, this sexy little machine fits perfectly into the hand. At just 1.5cm thick, 150g and with dimensions barely larger than a Palm V, this little marvel outclasses the opposition in terms of practicality and portability, and its striking looks say 'next generation machine' rather than Windows CE upgrade.
If its styling is impressive then the quality of its 2.2 inch by 3.0 inch TFT screen is absolutely stunning. Legibility is maintained in all conditions, even direct sunlight, thanks to automatic adjustment governed by an ambient light sensor. At 320 x 240, the screen gives you just about the most pleasurable web-browsing experience that you could expect from a handheld PC. However, forward thinkers who have an eye on streaming video applications should take note that the iPAQ can display only 4096 colours.
With a 206Mhz processor, 32Mb RAM, USB connection (via cradle), internal speaker and an impressive 12 hours continuous use from a single charge of its lithium battery, the H3630 is a capable performer. Couple these features to an extremely comprehensive and powerful suite of programs that includes Pocket Word, Excel, Outlook and Media Player, and it's obvious that Compaq's machine is well-equipped to tackle a very large range of tasks.
Connectivity is a major selling point of this innovative little machine, even though the iPAQ does not have a compactflash socket on the main unit. Instead, it is able to accept a range of expansion 'jackets' that increase its potential beyond other personal digital assistants - both PC Card and Compactflash expansion packs will be available as optional accessories and neither add much to the unit's bulk. Such an open path makes it hard to imagine that the Compaq machine could get left behind in such a fast moving sector of computer technology. Integration and synchronisation with a desktop PC is as seamless as one would expect.
Compaq's attention to detail is commendable. Even the stylus has a quality feel to it and the AC adaptor is as diminutive as I've seen. I would only grumble that for a right hander the voice memo button falls a little too perfectly under the left thumb, making the temptation to press it a little too great. But that's really splitting hairs.
At a recommended retail price of £430 this feature-laden model represents excellent value for money. You may well be reaching for your credit card with one hand, the moment you hold the Compaq H3630 in the other.