CES devices that help you work where you want to be
The OQO Model O2, the Medion UMPC, and the S-XGEN device were all announced at CES in Vegas. Although Samsung was the first to launch a UMPC device with the Samsung Q1 they never made any official statements regarding a Vista device. They showed off existing models like the Q1P, Q1B and Q1 SSD and also a new Q1P SSD model. Toshiba introduced a new Tablet with a docking system using Ultra-Wide Band technology to help free you from cables that could make your transition from work to home a bit easier. The FlyBook V5i also provides a small form factor Tablet with 3G connectivity.
OQO model O2: While there didn't seem to be any major breakthrough announcement at CES, there were several devices that had upgrades made and a couple specific new devices in the mobile PC category. The company that I saw just about everywhere was OQO who was showing off their new OQO model 02. This latest model has a similar form factor to the previous two models, but is Vista capable (and after seeing it in action I see it runs very well), has a VIA C7M ULV 1.5GHz (or 1.2GHz) processor, up to 60GB hard drive, up to 1GB RAM, integrated Bluetooth and WiFi, as well as an option for WWAN with Sprint's EV-DO data service. I was happy to see the Sprint integration since their data plans are reasonably priced in comparison with Verizon.
Other improvements over previous OQO models include a backlit keyboard, capacitive TouchScrollers™ embedded in the lower right corner of the screen frame that allow you to scroll right and left easily when surfing or reading documents and HDMI and VGA-out connectors. The new docking station is also well designed and is not much larger than an external DVD/CD drive. The station transforms into a cradle to mount the OQO model 02 in vertical modes and has VGA and HDMI video out, ethernet, 3.5mm audio, and 3 USB ports along with the power connector. The bottom of the docking station can be ordered with a dual layer DVD±RW/RAM or CD±RW/DVD-ROM and retails for US$299 and US$399. If you order during the initial pre-order period you can get US$50 off the station.
I tried out the OQO model 01+ for a short period and two major issues I had with it were the slow processor and the very high heat levels generated by the unit. It would get so hot that you just could not hold it in your bare hands. I never felt any hot devices, and there were a lot of them around the show, so it looks like OQO has addressed this issue. According to their specs, the model 02 uses an advanced thermal management system that provides greater than 2 times improvement in cooling effectiveness over the model 01. This system includes a heat pipe, a cooling fan, and multiple air vents.
The OQO basic model starts at US$1,499 and a model fully maxed out, with no software or additional accessories, retails for US$2,098. Adding the cradle and other accessories can easily take you over US$2,500. After seeing the OQO model 02 more than 5 times at the show I was ready to lay down my card and get into debt. Luckily, my senses came back and I'll just wait until I have funds available and real need for the device.
Medion MD RIM 1000: There was some new UMPC news though that first appeared in the Bill Gates keynote. The Medion MD RIM 1000 will be released at the end of January in Europe and from what I was told will retail under US$1,000. I had a chance to hold one of these, with a dead battery of course, at the Tablet PC meetup and my Samsung Q1 may have a short time left in my possession. The device felt good in my hands and the split design of the thumb keyboard actually allows you to type with your thumbs quite well. Specs of the Medion UMPC include a VIA ULV C7-M 1GHz processor, 512MB RAM, 20, 30, or 40 GB hard drive choices, integrated 802.11b/g, integrated Bluetooth 2.0, integrated GPS radio, PC card slot, DVB-T tuner, 6.5 inch TFT 800x480 resolution display, Secure Digital expansion card slot, VGA webcam, 2 USB ports, VGA output, and a 3900 mAh battery. The device appeared to have good navigation functionality and was geared towards the business user. This looks like just the device you need for working on the road and with the end of January release may even come preloaded with Windows Vista.
S-XGen Windows Mobile device: Another work focused mobile device that appeared on the show floor was the S-XGen Pocket PC Phone Edition device. Specs include 256MB RAM, 20GB hard drive, integrated WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, tri-band wireless cellular radio, miniUSB ports, VGA video camera, SD slot, ethernet jack, gaming buttons, and foldout keyboard that serves as protective case. The device is 6.5 inches long and 3.8 inches wide with a weight of 14 ounces. It has an extended battery for a reported 8 hours of use. They incorrectly label it as a UMPC, but it doesn't run Windows XP (it is a Windows Mobile device) so don't be confused by their labeling. It has a hefty price of US$1,395 and is scheduled to ship in the first quarter of this year. There may be some specialized field applications where a platform like this works well, but I don't see consumers spending this much money for a device that can't run Windows applications.
Samsung UMPC update: Samsung was the first company to launch a UMPC (ultra mobile portable computer), as defined by the Microsoft Origami minimum specifications, with their Samsung Q1. Since that time last year they have released their Q1P that uses an Intel Pentium processor, Samsung Q1B that uses a VIA processor for longer battery life, and the Q1 SSD that uses a 32GB flash hard drive (released in Korea a couple months ago). As a result, I was all geared up for something new from CES and went to the press release with high hopes that were dashed with no new announcements or even statements regarding Vista on any of the Q1 models. UPDATE: Although nothing was announced at the press conference, Samsung did announce the Samsung Q1P SSD that uses the same 32GB flash hard drive as the older model, but upgrades the processor to an Intel Pentium model. Check out David Berlind's video of the new model.
Toshiba: One place I stopped by in the main Central Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center was the huge Toshiba booth. In the Tablet PC area they were showing the new Toshiba Portege R400 that had some new innovations. The first is the Toshiba Edge Display that shows off Microsoft's Active Notifications technology and is mounted along the front of the device. This display is a small screen on the lower part of the device that shows you information such as unopened emails, calendar alerts, battery charge, signal strength, etc. so you can check this without opening up your convertible Tablet PC. Your email and calendar information is even synced while the device is closed so the notifications are real-time.
Another innovation is the use of a docking system that incorporates Ultra Wide Band (UWB) technology to wirelessly connect the R400 to peripherals. These peripherals include digital video output so you can dock the R400 and use a large external display. I look forward to eliminating cable clutter in my workspace in the future through the use of Bluetooth, UWB, and wireless charging technologies.
FlyBook V5i: I didn't get a chance to cover the whole show floor, but sites that focused on particular beats were able to grab some good, detailed information on some gear. GottaBeMobile.com checked out the DialogueFlyBook V5i Tablet PC. A feature that makes this a valuable road warrior piece of kit is the integrated 3G (HSDPA/UMTS) functionality. The V5i model has an interesting mouse button placement as shown in the GottaBeMobile photos. The distinguishing feature of the FlyBook models is the way the display can be pulled up and out away from the keyboard.
Did you see any other devices that may help you work where you want to be?