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6/5/2007
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Review: The FlipStart UMPC -- A Notebook In Miniature

The FlipStart provides all the functionality of a notebook computer in a highly portable form factor, although its small size makes some features awkward.

If you're one of the many toting around cell phones, notebook computers, media players, and (if you're a bit old-fashioned) PDAs, the choice seems to be to lighten the load or start seeing a chiropractor. Various vendors are doing their best to help (and, they hope, come up with the Next Big Thing in mobile personal tech); one of the more interesting entries is the FlipStart.



FlipStart
(Click image to enlarge.)


FlipStart, which has been a much-anticipated device in technophile blogs, is a small (5.9 x 4.5 x 1.6 inch) Ultra-Mobile PC (UMPC) that runs Windows (XP or Vista), has a full (if very small) keyboard and built-in navigation controls. It uses a 1.1GHz Intel Pentium M processor and comes with 512MB DDR2 RAM and a 30GB hard drive.

Unlike many of the UMPC's out there, the FlipStart boasts a traditional clam-shell design -- it looks like a rather thick notebook that was kept in the dryer too long. It's certainly lighter than your average notebook computer -- under 2 pounds at its heaviest (not counting the power cord). The exact weight of the unit depends on which of the two available batteries you decide to use: the optional $150 Slimline offers a meager 1-3 hours and brings the FlipStart down to a svelte 1.5 pounds, while the standard battery provides 3-6 hours, taking the device to 1.75 pounds.

Feature-Filled
Nobody could call the FlipStart uninteresting. Being mobile, it comes equipped with 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth; you can also subscribe to Sprint Mobile Broadband so that you can stay online whether or not you're within range of a Wi-Fi connection. I had no problem configuring the FlipStart for my home wireless network. However, new owners should be aware that, unless you set it otherwise, the FlipStart will want you to manually reconnect each time you open the lid (in order to save battery life).

Other features include a built-in VGA camera and dual built-in microphone (so you can use it for video conferencing) and a port replicator that adds a video port, a speaker port, an Ethernet port, and two USB ports (without the replicator, the back of the FlipStart allows for a single USB connection).

One of the FlipStart's selling points is the InfoPane, a small low-power display embedded into the cover which lets you view your e-mail, a contact list, and schedule without opening the device.

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