NEW YORK--Samsung debuted a new version of its Q1 minitablet on Monday with a distinct message: It's better than the last one.
In a press conference and reception at the Samsung Experience store at Manhattan's Time Warner Center, Samsung executives touted the device's physical and functional improvements over the original Q1, hoping that it will be able to capture markets that are looking for something more mobile than a typical laptop computer but more functional than an Internet-enabled handset.
Samsung has created four versions of the new Q1 Ultra. The Q1 Ultra-V, which launched Monday, will ship to retailers in approximately two weeks. That version of the device, equipped with Windows Vista Home Premium Edition and a 60GB hard drive, will cost $1,199. Later this month, it will be joined by a $799 lower-end version designed for consumers on a budget, called the Q1 Ultra-EL. That version comes with a 40GB hard drive and a lower-end processor and lacks the Q1 Ultra-V's camera and biometric fingerprint reader.
A business-oriented version, the Q1 Ultra-XP, configured for the older Windows XP Tablet Edition operating system, will ship next month.
"The Vista user experience definitely has been a great step forward," Bret Berg, senior product marketing manager of Samsung's mobile computing products division, said in an interview after the press conference. But an XP-equipped version was necessary, he said: "We knew that very few of our commercial customers would have migrated (to Vista) yet."
While not all of the Q1 Ultra's media features are available on the Ultra-XP, Berg stressed that the hardware is the same as the Ultra-V's.
The highest-end Q1 Ultra, the Q1 Ultra-CMV, will not make its debut until August. According to Samsung, this is because one of its premium features--an HSDPA cellular modem--is currently in the middle of a qualification process with cellular carrier Cingular. The Q1 Ultra-CMV also comes with an enhanced 80GB hard drive.
Samsung's original Q1 UMPC, powered by a low-end Intel Celeron processor, was released a year ago to disappointing reviews and sales and was plagued by complaints of battery life that lasted only an hour and a half to three hours, slow performance and no keyboard. The launch event for the Q1 Ultra, consequently, highlighted extensive improvements in the second-generation device that were largely shaped by customers' reactions to its predecessor.
One of those customer complaints was the battery life. "People really wanted to see it extended," Berg said. The Q1 Ultra comes with a battery that's supposed to last four and a half hours, and an extended-life battery can be purchased that lasts eight and a half hours. According to Berg, the inclusion of an embedded QWERTY keyboard--the original Q1 only had a touch screen--was also included as a result of customer feedback.
"At this point, we have implemented most of the customers' feedback into the system," H.S. Kim, executive vice president and general manager of Samsung's computer division, said in an interview. "This is the ultramobile PC."
All four versions of the Q1 Ultra also are now powered by faster Intel processors that were specifically designed for UMPCs and have brighter, improved LCD screens that offer a 1024-by-600 resolution, up from 800-by-400.
At the press conference, Samsung executives insisted that the Q1 Ultra is the top of the line, and that further improvements aren't yet technologically feasible. But they're already thinking ahead. "We definitely would love to be able to continue to push the envelope," Berg explained, citing a desire to further drive down the price of the Q1 Ultra and offer a full day's worth of battery life. "We're close," he said.
"If I could reduce the weight and size, I'd do that," Kim added. "It takes time."