The HP iPAQ 310 tries to be fifteen different things in one, including a GPS receiver, PDA, MP3 player, video player, handheld gaming device, and more. Sadly, it’s a jack-of-all-trades device that is not very good at any of these things. We’d cut it some slack if just the GPS worked as expected, but sadly even that functionality is plagued with issues. The overall main issue with this product is that regardless of what feature you are trying to use, it is not user friendly, and in most cases reading the manual won’t help since it’s remarkably incomplete and lacking information on a wide array of topics.
Features and Design
The HP iPAQ 310 is a do-it-all “travel companion,” which means in addition to being a GPS device it can also play music, movies, pictures, hold Outlook contacts, and even has a few games. However, it’s obviously a GPS device first and foremost, and a Bluetooth phone manager second, and so forth. So therefore, we’ll focus mostly on its GPS performance, but will discuss the other features briefly as well.
The 310 can be mounted on a car dashboard or windshield, and includes GPS functionality that delivers turn-by-turn directions and voice commands. You can edit routes, save favorites, navigate to “points of interest,” and even create “trips” on your PC and send them to the 310.
You can add contacts to the 310, and then navigate to their location. If you have a Bluetooth phone, you can call them from the 310 and talk hands-free.
In addition to GPS, you can also play music, movies, and pictures on the 310 complete with playlists. There are also several pre-loaded games.
Display and processor
The 310 packs an impressive amount of power for such a small device, and has an incredibly high-resolution display as well. It is powered by a 600MHz dual-core processor, and its little screen runs at a 800×480 resolution including touch-and-drag capability.
Naturally, a CD comes with the iPaq, but it’s merely a “getting started CD.” Pop it into your optical drive and you arrive at a menu with three options: manage your device, product information and accessories, and web services. We clicked around for a bit and discovered that there is not any actual software on the disc, but rather links to download the software from the Internet. We checked the size of the CD and just 17MB of out 650MB were being used, so we’re not sure why HP didn’t just put the software on the CD.
The “manage your device” section gives you links to download the Outlook sync software and Windows Media Player. We’re not sure why we’d need to use Windows Media Player with the iPaq, but the link is there regardless.
The product information section is what you would expect — links to documentation and the site that sells iPAQ accessories.
Finally, the “web services” takes you to the online trip planner, discussed elsewhere in this review.
In the Box
The package includes the 310 unit, software, an AC adapter, a cigarette lighter adapter, USB cable, car mount and a small leather case.
Image Courtesy of HP
Use and Testing
We pulled the 310 out of the box and examined the contents. It includes a large plastic arm that mounts to the windshield of the car via a suction cup. We attached it to our windshield and it locked on very tight. There’s also the option to mount it on the dash, but after playing with the adhesive base we couldn’t figure out how to attach it to the mounting device. We looked at the manual and it only had directions for mounting it to the windshield, and was thus not helpful.
We mounted it to the windshield and turned it on, and were immediately impressed with the display. This is the brightest, sharpest display we’ve ever seen on a GPS and it looks gorgeous.
We turned it on and selected “navigation” and then clicked “map,” and after a few seconds it showed us our current location as we were driving down the street, which was great.
We then went to navigate to a destination, and ran into some issues with the 310’s design. To be blunt, the navigation click-throughs are fairly easy to use but HP has put in plenty of useless screens that need to be clicked on. For example, we told the device we were in Texas, so when we click “Go to” it gives us the option of TX, United States.
We wanted to navigate, so first we clicked TX, United States.
It then asked us if we were in USA or Canada, and if we select USA it then asks us what state we are in.
After clicking TX, United States it asks us if we are in Canada or the USA. It then asked us what state we were in. What??
Since that route wasn’t working, pun intended, we decided to just enter our zip code. Once we did that, it asked us for “name/zip code.” What is this supposed to mean? We tried typing in “Starbucks” but it wouldn’t let us complete the word. We were befuddled, but this is pretty much par for the course on this device. The interface is utterly baffling.
We also had an issue with not being able to cancel navigation. Typically when you are navigating to a destination, and you navigate away from the screen giving you directions it’ll ask you if you want to cancel the route planning, but that is not the case with the 310; it keeps navigating, no matter what. In fact, if you choose a route and then decided to just cancel, it won’t, even if you go back to the home page. From there, pressing the “map” button takes you back to the route you were previously navigating. One time we even turned it off because we were tired of hearing it tell us to turn here and go there, and it magically turned itself back on a few minutes later to tell us to make a turn. It’s literally like the Terminator as far as navigation goes.
One of the features that make this a “travel companion” is the ability to enter your Outlook contacts into the device, and then call them (if you have a Bluetooth phone) or navigate to their house using the 310. We do not use Outlook nor do we have a Bluetooth phone, so we couldn’t fully test these features. However, we played around with it and have a few complaints. The long story short is that we were never able to fully enter all the information we needed to navigate to our contact because the software only let us put in a street, city and zip code, but no actual address. Even worse, when we went to navigate to the contact we set up it was not listed for some reason. We tried to navigate to our contact’s address manually and it told us the address is not valid. Every GPS we’ve tested won’t even allow “invalid” addresses to be entered, but suffice to say the contacts functionality of the 310 has problems.
One of the more interesting features of the 310 is the ability to create trips on your PC and then import them into the 310. We tested this feature out and it does work as advertised, though you have to jump through a number of hoops to get it working, which makes it a bit of a pain to use.
First you have to go to this website and register. Registration requires name, email, and the serial number of the device, which is located on the box. Then you have to authenticate your account and log in. Next you give your trip a name, select the dates of it (it can’t be longer than seven days, for some reason), and you have to say where you are traveling from and where you’re going, but it only gave us a dozen or so locations to choose from as our destination. Whatever!
The online trip planner only lets you travel to and from a small number of locations, for some reason.
Once your trip is “created” you have to add destinations, which you do using a web interface, so you click ‘add” and then you can choose hotel, attraction, and such. Then, once you’ve finished making your “trip,” you have to download some software called the “content manager,” which installs on your machine. From there you then have to figure out how to import the trip, which involves downloading the file from the web and then manually loading it, and so forth. It seems like a lot of steps, right? It is, and it would be wonderful if this process was simplified.
You are supposed to be able to add music, movies and pictures to the 310, but we were unable to figure out how to do it. There’s nothing about importing content in the instructions, and when we connected the device to our PC we got a notice saying the drive in the 310 had to be formatted before it could be used.
We connected the 310 to our PC only to be told we had to format the onboard flash memory.
We opted to not format the drive, and then looked in Explorer and saw the device listed, but there were no folders named “music,” for example. We went back to the manual and looked again but were still unable to find any information whatsoever about how to import data to the device.
The games are pre-loaded, however, and are actually quite fun. They look great on the brilliant LCD too.
We had a lot of problems testing the 310 Travel Companion; more problems than we’ve had with any other device in recent memory. This product feels half-baked, is not user friendly, and is frustrating to use, to say the least. We constantly felt like we were fighting the device, rather than having it actually make our lives easier. We do not recommend this product, obviously. If you’re in the market for a full-featured GPS, check out our Garmin nuvi 350 review. It’s the same price and runs circles around the iPAQ in every way possible (except screen sexiness). As a first generation product the HP 310 Travel Companion shows a lot of promise, and we cannot wait for the next iteration once HP has polished the device more.
• Gorgeous display
• Games are fun
• Lots of features
• Navigation is non-intuitive
• Instructions are lacking
• Trip planner is just a novelty
• Loading media onto the device is confusing