The Flybook is the first device which Italian-based Dialogue have launched into the UK market and from first appearances is set to cause something of a stir.
The adoption of Tablet PCs hasn’t been as rapid as either Microsoft or the hardware vendors had hoped but this year we’ve seen a few new devices hit the market that are starting to raise Tablet PCs’ profile.
The Flybook comes in a striking array of colours - the one we got to look at came in bright red but it’s also possible to opt for yellow or blue, as well as the more business-like black. The striking colour may be the first thing to hit you but its weight of 1.2kg will be the second. This is the lightest convertible Tablet PC currently on the market, making for an impressive start.
It manages this weight due to the use of a smaller screen and innovative and compact keyboard/mouse button arrangement. A trend that we are starting to see develop is the move away from TFT panels in favour of LCD widescreen displays on many small form factor devices. The 9-inch LCD screen is far more power efficient than TFT as it uses a low-powered LTPS (Low Temperature Poly Silicon) screen technology to promote a longer battery life. This resulted in a battery life of over two and half hours from the standard four-cell battery, which is longer than we initially expected.
Powered by a Transmeta 1GHz Crusoe TM-5800, this isn’t the fastest machine available but it does mean that heat is kept to a minimum. Transmeta chips lean to react to how you work, so will cache applications prior to use. So, you’ll find that the Flybook will speed up the more you use it. With 512MB of memory, there’s ample space to load and run Windows XP Tablet Edition. However, the 40GB hard drive feels a bit mean.
Wireless connectivity comes in the form of 802.11b Wi-Fi and Bluetooth . However, a neat little innovation with the Flybook is the ability to ad a SIM-card, so you can collect your email, SMS and contact colleagues on-the-fly. Whilst our review sample didn’t come fitted with the card, it’ll work in exactly the same way as the PC Card versions available from Orange, Vodafone et al.
We’ve been assured that 3G will be implemented into the Flybook as and when it becomes cost-effective. Where the Flybook stands out is in its choice of design and features. While the clamshell screen can be opened and used as a standard laptop, it can also be rotated 180-degrees and folded back down to be used as a tablet PC. An included stylus slots into the right side of the chassis for such use, and while it’s certainly not the best example we’ve seen of a tablet PC, it serves its purpose well.
It would be easy to dismiss the Dialogue Flybook as all style and no substance. After all, the brightly colouring casing and novel navigation system isn't exactly what we're used to.
The Flybook works well within its limited remit and the addition of the SIM-card is definitely a step in the right direction but at the heart of it, the machine is just too clunky and slow to really impress beyond its looks.