Photos: 2nd generation UMPCs at CeBIT
Samsung Q1 Ultra leads 2nd generation UMPC charge
Last year's CeBIT saw the introduction of the first Ultra Mobile PCs (UMPCs), which had been the subject of much pre-launch speculation thanks to a Microsoft teaser campaign based around the platform's 'Origami' codename.
The first UMPC was the Samsung Q1, which was criticised for being overpriced, underpowered, under-specificed and short on battery life. We did, however, appreciate ASUS's efforts to make the R2H appealing by bundling a excellent set of accessories including a digital TV card.
CeBIT 2007 sees a number of new '2nd generation' UMPCs, and Samsung is again leading the charge with its Windows Vista-based Q1 Ultra. We have details of this device, plus competitors from Amtek and Gigabyte. Will this new crop of devices deliver the 'go anywhere, do anything' promise of the UMPC platform?
Samsung Q1 Ultra
Samsung clearly took criticism of the Q1 to heart, as a display on its exhibition stand listed the main gripes, along with a summary of what the Q1 Ultra delivers in the way of redress. Here's our take on Samsung's list.
Too low resolution
Both the Q1 and the Q1 Ultra have 7-inch screens, but the Ultra boosts the resolution up to WSVGA (1,024 by 600) compared to the Q1's WVGA (800 by 480). The screen is a definite improvement.
Too short battery life
The Q1 Ultra's standard Li-ion battery delivers a claimed 3.5 hours of uptime, compared to the Q1's three hours — not a huge advance admittedly, but better than nothing. With the optional six-cell extended-life battery fitted, Samsung claims you'll get nearly seven hours, which is almost a full day's work.
Inconvenient input method
The most obvious addition to the Q1 Ultra is a Qwerty keypad, split between the two sides of the screen, towards the top. This makes typing much easier than it was with the Q1's pair of on-screen keyboards (regular Tablet PC and semicircular DialKeys). You can still get an optional USB keyboard if the Ultra's keypad doesn't come up to scratch.
The Q1's approximation of a mouse mode involved holding down the Menu key on the right-hand side with one thumb while manipulating the mini-joystick on the left-hand side with the other; mouse clicks required the use of a third AutoScaler button. The Ultra simplifies things by allowing you to switch the mini-joystick in and out of mouse mode and providing left and right mouse buttons. You can also, of course, use the stylus and touchscreen.
Short range wireless solutions only
As a mobile device, it was mystifying that the Q1 lacked a SIM card slot — something that the Ultra puts right with HSPDA and WiBro support (WiBro is a Korean version of WiMAX). As before, Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) and Bluetooth (2.0) are present.
The Q1 Ultra shaves 87g off its predecessor's 777g weight, which is noticeable. It's also a little slimmer (22.9-23.9mm compared to 24.5-26.5mm).
New factory install options available on the Q1 Ultra include a fingerprint reader and a dual-mode camera (1.3 megapixel for image capture plus a 0.3megapixel webcam for conferencing). Accessories include a navigation pack (car cradle, car adapter, GPS receiver, maps), an external optical drive and the aforementioned six-cell battery. The Ultra comes with 1GB of RAM, which is required to get reasonable performance from Vista, whereas its XP-based predecessor had 512MB on board as standard. There were no details on pricing or availability for the Q1 Ultra at the time of writing.
Taiwan-based Amtek has a new Vista-based UMPC at CeBIT, the T770. This is a bulkier and heavier beast than Samsung's Q1 Ultra, measuring 226mm wide by 146mm deep by 26.5mm high, and weighing 850g. The display is a 7-inch WVGA (800 by 480) touchscreen, the CPU is Via's C7M NaNo running at 1.2GHz supported by up to 1GB of RAM, while wireless connectivity comes in the shape of 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. There's no SIM card support, but you do get an SD card slot and a connector for the optional docking unit.
In the UK, PocketPC Solutions is taking orders for the T770, which will be available in April: the 1GB RAM, 40GB hard disk version costs £549.99 (inc VAT).
Gigabyte's U60, another Vista-based UMPC, takes a tip from handhelds such as HTC's TyTN by incorporating a slide-out keyboard. It's a compact system measuring 190mm wide by 121mm deep by 28.3mm high and weighing 720g — lighter than Amtek's T770 but a little heavier than the Samsung Q1 Ultra.
The U60 is powered by a 1GHz Via processor (ULVC-7M NanoBGA2) and comes with either 512MB or 768MB of RAM on-board. The touchscreen is a 6.5-inch unit with the standard UMPC resolution of 800 by 480 pixels. Hard disk sizes of 20, 30 and 40GB are available and an external USB optical drive can be added as an option. There are navigation and input options aplenty: as well as the touchscreen/stylus combo and the keyboard, there's a mini-touchpad beneath the screen on the right-hand side, and a four-way navigator with left and right mouse buttons on the left-hand side.
As far as connectivity is concerned, there's 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, with wired Ethernet on the optional docking station. There's no SIM card slot, but the U60 does include a 300Kpixel webcam for videoconferencing when you're connected via Wi-Fi or wired Ethernet.
Gigabyte claims four hours of life from the two-cell lithium polymer battery, so mobile workers needing the full eight hours will need to carry a spare. UK pricing and availability for the U60 has yet to be set, according to a Gigabyte spokesperson.