First Take: Flybook by Dialogue

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Flybook by Dialogue
The Flybook glides into Australia boasting good looks and much hype as the '"smallest ultra portable tablet PC in the world". Read our Australian First Take.

Upside: The Flybook certainly turned a lot of heads when it was officially unveiled at this year's CeBIT Australia, and with its petite size and good looks it easy to see why. The Flybook measures in at only 30mm thick, 235mm wide and 140mm long, and coupled with its 1.2kg weight it feels more like a toy notebook than the real thing. Fashionistas will find the Flybook the ultimate tech accessory thanks to its shiny metallic case which comes in five colours -- platinum, black, blue, red, yellow and white.

The Flybook sports a widescreen 8.9" WXGA screen that can be fully swiveled around to turn the notebook into a tablet PC. The screen is touch sensitive, and Dialogue boasts that the unit features full tablet functionality, including the ability to turn handwritten text into documents -- although it is a mystery why the Flybook is loaded with Windows XP Home edition as opposed to the XP Tablet PC OS.

Under the hood is a Transmeta Crusoe processor clocked at 1GHz, 512MB DDR-RAM, 16MB video memory and 40GB hard drive as standard (upgrades to the drive and RAM are possible). There's no built-in optical drive, but Dialogue sells optional USB attached combo drives and DVD writers. The Flybook has two USB 2.0 ports, two FireWire, an external VGA port, PCMCIA Type2 slot and a TV-out port. Connectivity is the Flybook's strong point, with the unit boasting a Wi-Fi 802.11b antenna built-in, Bluetooth and an internal GSM/GPRS slot. This last slot allows you to put in your phone SIM card and turn the Flybook into a virtual phone -- the unit comes with pre-loaded software for this phone functionality.

Downside: We've yet to give the Flybook an extended test run, but its specs look decidedly low-end, especially compared to the similarly sized Sony VAIO VGN-T27GP, which boasts a faster processor, bigger hard drive and a built-in optical drive -- and all for roughly the same price. Not having an optical drive also means buying an external one is a must, which effectively pushes the Flybook's price up by a few hundred dollars. Also, while the Flybook does have comprehensive wireless connectivity, it's only using Wi-Fi 802.11b. With 802.11g now the dominant standard (and 802.11n just around the corner), the Flybook's Wi-Fi is already behind step.

And as we mentioned earlier, not having XP Tablet PC as its operating system is a bit of a mystery - running XP Tablet would surely better incorporate the Flybook's tablet capabilities, but we'll wait until our full review to see how well Dialogue has coped.

Outlook: The Flybook has style and connectivity as its main drawcards, but we can't help but think its specs leave a lot to be desired. At roughly $4000, there are plenty of other ultra portable options out there for the same price (or lower) that can offer similar functionality, if not better. But if small and sexy is your thing, then it might be worthwhile giving the Flybook a spin.

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