Ultra portable devices were everywhere at CES 2008

Ultra portable devices were everywhere at CES 2008

Summary: I mentioned that there wasn't a lot of mobile phone news at CES, yet there was plenty of ultra portable news. There were UMPCs, Tablet PCs, Intel MIDs, Via-powered devices, and more. This is an area that interests me as I travel quite a bit and also have a 2 hour daily train commute so there are lots of opportunities for using a device that helps me get things done on the road. Check out my new image gallery showing several mobile devices from CES 2008. I also learned a few things this week that helped me optimize the HTC Advantage so that it can be used to fill the role of a portable computer that may make my quest for a UMPC device a moot point.

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I mentioned that there wasn't a lot of mobile phone news at CES, yet there was plenty of ultra portable news. There were UMPCs, Tablet PCs, Intel MIDs, Via-powered devices, and more. This is an area that interests me as I travel quite a bit and also have a 2 hour daily train commute so there are lots of opportunities for using a device that helps me get things done on the road. Check out my new image gallery showing several mobile devices from CES 2008. I also learned a few things this week that helped me optimize the HTC Advantage so that it can be used to fill the role of a portable computer that may make my quest for a UMPC device a moot point.


 Image Gallery: Lots of ultra portables were shown at CES 2008.  Image Gallery: MobileDemand xTablet Image Gallery: Raon Everun and WiBrain B1 

REDFLY Mobile Companion: The first mobile device I saw was on Sunday night as I went to one of the first booths on the right at the Digital Experience! event. The REDFLY Mobile Companion is a keyboard and 8 inch display designed to extend your Windows Mobile device. There is no operating system on the device since your Windows Mobile device functions as the engine for the device. The REDFLY adds the display, larger keyboard, VGA output, USB port for flash drives and ability to charge your Windows Mobile device with the REDFLY 4500 mAh battery. The device has a nice rubberized coating, is 1x6x9 inches, feels very solid in your hand, and seems like a nice solution for working on an airplane. If the device was available now for US$299 I would jump on it in a second. However, it is planned to be priced at US$499, which may be a bit difficult to convince people they need. I hope to play with one soon and write about my experiences here.

Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium UMPC: The next ultra portable I had the chance to use was the Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium UMPC, which was also shown at the Digital Experience! event. The Q1 Ultra Premium offers a few improvements over the Q1 Ultra, including a 1.33 GHz ULV Intel processor, 1GB RAM, and 6-cell battery (for reported 7.5 hour battery life). The Premium also has an updated keyboard design with rubberized keys and an angle arrangement for easier text entry. The Q1 seemed to really fly with Vista loaded on it and I understand there may even be versions with SSD drives coming in 2008. The Q1 Ultra Premium starts at US$1,399 and is a very compelling UMPC device, IMHO.

Via-powered portables: I spent a bit of time at Lunch @ Piero's checking out several ultra portables that are designed primarily to work "in the cloud". Some of the devices included the Everex CloudBook (US$399.99 mobile device running Linux with availability in January at Wal-Mart), MTube x86-based tiny PC, and TabletKiosk devices. I again saw the highly desirable OQO Model O2, but I just do not have the funds to buy this amazing portable device.

HP 2710p, tx2000, xTablet T8700, TabletKiosk: The next opportunity I had to play with several devices was at the excellent Tablet PC/UMPC Meetup event at Cheeseburger Las Vegas. I checked out the HP 2710p Tablet, HP tx2000 Tablet, Motion Computing slate Tablet, MobileDemand's xTablet T8700, and TabletKiosk's UMPC and Sahara slate Tablet PC devices. The event was a huge success with probably twice as many people this year as there were last year. There were some incredible giveaways too, but unfortunately I didn't win anything. I was hoping to get selected for the Fujitsu U810 UMPC (Darth Vader) as that looks like a very compelling UMPC to me and goes with my "palmsolo" online ID.

I spent some time with Gail Levy from TabletKiosk and thought their modular attachments for their UMPC was an innovative and unique design for the enterprise environment that may have changing requirements and needs. I also liked the ruggedness of their new /GETAC g840XT 8.4 inch Tablet PC. The representative from MobileDemand was also named Matthew Miller and we had a chance to chat a bit about their devices. They make a very rugged UMPC and Matt actually dropped the device on the concrete floor a couple of times and it continued to perform flawlessly. It was a bit scary to see and hear it hitting the ground and I am not sure I could do this myself, but it looks like a great solution for usage in the field.

Lenovo X61: I visited the Lenovo booth at the ShowStoppers event and finally had a chance to see why these Tablet PC and notebook devices are so popular with users. They are very well constructed, have powerful specs, and are actually more compact than I thought after just seeing photos online. HP also had a compact F11 laptop that had some unique design features that people may find desirable.

WiBrain B1 and Raon Everun: One of the highlights of CES for me the last couple of years has been meeting with Dynamism CEO Douglas Krone since he always brings an eclectic collection of mobile gear and toys for me to check out and get a bit of hands-on time with. This year, I was particularly interested in the WiBrain B1 ultra portable Windows XP device with split-QWERTY keyboard, 1024x600 resolution 4.8 inch touch screen, and specs that rival the OQO Model 02 at less than half the price. You can pick up a WiBrain B1 with a 1.2 GHz processor, 512MB RAM, 30GB HDD, integrated WiFi and Bluetooth for US$699. You can also double the RAM and HDD for an additional US$150, which still places it in a relatively low price range for an ultra portable.

The Raon Everun was another impressive device that is even more portable than the WiBrain. The keyboard is unique and I really like the accelerometer that auto-rotated the display in all 4 directions as you rotated the device. The Everun has a 4.8 inch 800x480 display that still looked great too. There are 4 different configurations for this device, ranging in price from US$799 to US$1,099, where you can get a HDD, SSD or a combination of them. Battery life is supposed to be quite long with a reported 7 hours on the standard battery and 12 hours with the extended battery. I found the cool navigation button to work very well and hope to try out both of these devices to see if they will fit in my mobile arsenal.

Dynamism also showed me the ultralight carbon fiber Sony Vaio G2 that I could have sworn was missing the battery it was so light. The rugged Panasonic R7 was also shown in a bright red color. Some of the other gear Douglas showed me was the 20-key HTC Touch Dual, Nokia N95 8GB, Sony Rolly (cool movements and outstanding quality), GP2X F-200 MAME game playing machine, and Puchi Puchi bubble wrap keychain adornment.

Intel MID display: My last stop on the ultra portable circuit was to swing by the blue highlighted Intel booth and check out some of the MIDs (Mobile Internet Devices). The MID devices will use Intel's Menlow processor and I have to admit that I look forward to seeing more ultra portable devices, I don't quite understand why people are so excited about them when there are already a few of these type of devices available now. I am primarily thinking about the Linux-based Nokia Internet Tablet N800 and N810 devices. These are very high quality devices that access the internet in a couple of ways and can be found for US$400 or less.

I saw devices from Lenovo, Aigo/Gigabyte, LG, ASUS, and others. There are some photos of these devices in my image gallery. Most of them were just prototypes and may not even be released later in 2008. There were some UMPC devices shown in the Intel booth as well.

So after seeing all of these devices, which one am I planning to purchase to fill my mobile computing needs? Actually, none right now as I am optimizing the HTC Advantage to function as my mobile computer. I found this post by Jenneth Orantia last week and it gave me some inspiration and ideas regarding this device. I loaded up RealVGA and now have a much more usable screen. I also loaded up some 3rd party applications (for example SoftMaker Office and Pocket Informant 8) and am happily using the device to get things done on the go. I did not reflash the ROM as this is an evaluation/loaner device and I didn't want to risk bricking the device. The HTC Advantage, while running Windows Mobile, has a ton of power and functionality that makes it quite a compelling alternative to the MID or UMPC devices for about the same price. The Internet Explorer Mobile browser is weak, but Opera Mobile helps out quite a bit and is loaded on the device ROM so that is my default browser.

Topics: Mobility, Emerging Tech, Hardware, Laptops, Tablets

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2 comments
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  • HTC Advantage?

    So the "real" question is..... will you be purchasing an HTC Advantage once the review model "has" to go back :)

    After seeing what CES 2008 had...and the shortcomings of the Shift.... I may be ordereing one :)
    gasuz07
    • Look for a CompUSA that is closing its doors

      I understand that CompUSA stores that are closing may have HTC Advantage devices for as low as US$550 so if there are any around you then look there for the device. All the stores in my area already closed :( or else I would have been there to pick one up in a second.

      At this time, I would purchase an Advantage as soon as this review unit is returned. The other MID/UMPC devices look good, but for on-the-go work I don't really see what they can do that the Advantage cannot at a lower cost and with 3G integrated wireless data.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)