07:32 PM

Review: Samsung Q1 Ultra Mobile PC

This all-in-one Ultra Mobile PC gadget is cool, but not quite ready for prime time.

Picture a device the size of a large paper back book that replaces your PDA, MP3 player, media player, portable game device, notebook computer and even your phone (if you use a VoIP service like Skype). This is what the designers at Samsung had in mind when they created the $1,099 Q1 Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC). While the device does all of these things in a portable package, it clearly does some tasks better than others, and after using the Q1 for a week, I couldn't help but feel that I would have been better off with either a cell phone-PDA or a sub-compact notebook (or both). Unfortunately, this device falls somewhere in between, and at a starting price of more than $1,000 (plus more for an external keyboard and DVD writer/player), and little software, it simply doesn't deliver enough to motivate me to toss these other devices and replace them with a Q1.

First Impressions

The marketing department went all out for the Q1 starting with elegant packaging. You slide off the outside cover and lift the jet black hinged box, not unlike a treasure chest, to reveal the sleek Q1 inside. In a box neatly packed underneath the Q1, you will find the battery pack, documentation, power cord and other materials. The Q1 has a nice feel with dimensions of 8.96" x 5 .49" x 0.97", and although it's only 1.7 pounds (without accessories), it felt heavier than I expected for a device this small.

The Q1 is by no means just a toy or merely a cool gadget, it's a fully loaded PC with a 915 GMS, Intel GMA 900 CPU, 512 GB of SODIMM DDR2 400 Mhz RAM and a generous 40 GB hard drive. It includes support for Ethernet, WiFi and Bluetooth, a 7-inch WVGA touch screen LCD screen with an auto-scale feature, two USB ports and much more. In addition, it comes with a regular PC-style version of Windows XP with some of the Tablet PC add-ons -- no Pocket Windows here.

Turning It On

The Q1 sports a dual boot button at the top of the unit, a rather unusual feature. Pushing the button to the right boots you into Windows, while pushing it to the left boots you into AVS Now, a multimedia front-end where you can display photos, play DVDs or CDs (if you have an external optical drive) or access your music files. You can play and display multimedia on either side, but this is a nod to the consumer audience that wants to use this as an (expensive) media player. Much like a PDA, it comes with a stylus, which stores in the top in its own slot. The unit also includes a built-in joy stick and four user-definable Quick-launch buttons, which you can customize to launch your most frequently-used programs.

When you first turn on the Windows side, you need to configure Windows just as you would on any PC. To facilitate this, Samsung forces a virtual keyboard onto the screen, which unfortunately covers most of the dialogs, forcing you to use the stylus to drag it out of the way. It made the configuration process painful, and that virtual keyboard never goes away after initial configuration. It's there during the boot up and shutdown process, a bizarre design flaw.

Once you get into Windows, you will find a familiar environment, although the icons on the Windows desktop looked somewhat squished with the default 800x600 resolution on a 7-inch screen. I also didn't realize you had to actually scroll to see the entire screen until I connected an external USB keyboard and used the eraser-style mouse. I did a lot of dialog box dragging until I discovered this.

I was also surprised by the dearth of productivity software that came with the unit. Unlike a Treo 700w Smart Phone I used a couple of months ago to test Glide Mobile, which includes Pocket Excel and Pocket Word, the Q1 does not come with any standard office productivity software, a glaring omission for a unit that costs this much and hopes to capture the business user market. It does, however, come with some Tablet PC software including Windows Journal note taking software and Sticky Notes. It also comes with a slew of games including Sudoku and Spider Solitaire, which my family enjoyed very much.

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