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Review: Samsung Q1 Ultra Mobile PC

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

You can interact with the Q1 using the virtual keyboard, by writing directly on the screen with the stylus or by connecting an external USB keyboard. It has been designed to be used as either a portrait or landscape device so you can hold like a paper notebook if that's more comfortable for what you are doing. If you haven't used a tablet PC, it takes a bit of training to understand how to use this with the stylus, but Microsoft provides a quick tutorial that got me acclimated in a few minutes (particularly how to simulate right-clicking, which I found to be frustrating until I learned how to do it).

With Bluetooth, WiFi and Ethernet, you can connect just about any way possible. When I tested the wireless capability on my home network, the unit had trouble finding my connection (my Sony Vaio VGN-S2070P finds it without difficulty), but I had no trouble connecting at a local coffee shop. When I connected to the Internet, I tested some of the video playback capability, and it worked fine on a site like MSNBC, which has a design well suited to the 7-inch screen size, but I couldn't display the video on Google Video on a single screen, due to its design, forcing me to scroll the entire screen (not just the window). Unlike Pocket Windows, where many sites resize automatically for the appropriate screen size, the UMPC OS does not have this capability, and this is an issue with the UMPC. It is probably too big for Pocket Windows, but the 7-inch LCD screen is too small for regular Windows.

After less than an hour of use, I noticed that the Q1 got extremely hot. There is an awful lot going on in that small, densly packed package and, as a result, there is a great deal of heat. It makes me wonder if this could lead to problems down the road with regular use. In addition, when the battery drained, it took more than two hours to recharge at the default battery settings. The small power supply also got very hot during recharge.

The unit includes stereo speakers and microphone. The former sound somewhat tinny, but when I connected my IPod headphones the sound was great. I also found the picture quality was excellent when displaying photos and playing DVDs, even on a 7-inch screen. When I tested the voice recorder, I found that I had to place the unit close to my mouth to be heard clearly, which makes me wonder if it would be effective for recording a lecture or presentation unless the speaker wore a microphone and used a sound system.

You can buy accessories for the device, including a nice external keyboard with built-in mouse and a very slim DVD writer/player. You can also get a case that holds and protects both the keyboard and Q1, which folds up portfolio-style in a neat little package. These add-ons are all nicely designed and worked well with the overall UMPC design, but they add significant cost to a unit that starts at over $1,000.

The Q1 UMPC will turn heads because it's a new device. But beyond the novelty, you would likely be better off combining your devices in a cell phone-PDA like the Treo 700w or an ultra portable notebook like the 2.2 pound Panasonic R5 or the 2.76 pound Sony Vaio VGN-TX750P. While the latter run close to $2,000, they are both lightweight and include the keyboard/mouse and DVD and a 12-inch screen in a single unit. Much like the Tablet PC, where a niche market developed, I believe the Q1 could appeal to certain business professionals who would benefit from such a portable device, but on the consumer side, there are far too many cheaper alternatives for the Q1 to succeed.