UMPC: better, but the jury's still out

We've just reviewed our second Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC), the R2H from ASUS. In case you'd forgotten, the UMPC caused something of a stir back in February/March when Microsoft ran a teaser campaign for Origami (Redmond's codename for what turned out to be the UMPC) — a small slate-style Tablet PC running Windows XP.

We've just reviewed our second Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC), the R2H from ASUS. In case you'd forgotten, the UMPC caused something of a stir back in February/March when Microsoft ran a teaser campaign for Origami (Redmond's codename for what turned out to be the UMPC) — a small slate-style Tablet PC running Windows XP.

Optimists hoped that Origami/UMPC systems would be go-anywhere, do-anything wonder-gadgets, but the bubble of anticipation soon burst when Samsung unveiled the Q1 at CeBIT in Hannover. The Q1, although a neat enough piece of kit, was short on features, processing power and battery life, and long on price (£799 inc. VAT).

It's taken until now to get our hands on a second UMPC, and the ASUS R2H is a big improvement. It still costs £799 (inc. VAT), which will get you a very decent traditional notebook, but (in the UK at least) you get a great set of extras and add-ons, including a digital TV tuner, folding keyboard, external DVD rewriter and a mouse. That's on top of built-in features such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and a 1.3-megapixel digital camera. We certainly enjoyed setting up this little critter on the desk and keeping an eye on the TV news.

But that's the problem really: unless you have an absolute need for a small Tablet PC, a machine like this is only ever going to be an accessory. Few business people are going to want an R2H for their primary computer — especially with its pedestrian 900MHz Celeron M processor.

So until I or my employer have got a spare £800 lying around, I'm going to have to pass on the UMPC for the moment.