Origami, the art of folding paper to make something delicate and new. At least that’s what it meant until Microsoft turned it into their codename for the Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC), where they’ve created a specification that allows manufacturers to turn Windows XP into a full-fledged mobile platform.
First out of the gate is the Samsung Q1, which weighs in at 800g and looks a little like an overblown PSP. The concept is all based around the use of a 7-inch digitised screen, a smaller version than those found on Tablet PC devices.
The pen supplied is the same as you’ll find on a PDA, but in order to perform right-hand clicks, you simply hold this down on the screen and the relevant dialog box will appear.
It works fairly intuitively but we found the screen too small for most tasks. Luckily, you can resize on the fly, so you’ll find yourself switching screen resolutions quite often.
Samsung has done a reasonable job of putting together a machine for the fledgling OS. Powered by an Intel Celeron M 353 chip and shipped with 512MB of memory and 40GB hard drive, the specification is on par with a notebook costing around £400, so at twice the price you don’t see plenty of performance but it’s not about power it’s about flexibility. Sadly, this was hampered when we used it by a battery life a little over 2 hours – not exactly mobile freedom.
Rather than run Tablet PC Edition, you’ll find the standard Windows XP on top of which UMPC specific software has loaded TouchPack.
The main features of TouchPack are the Program Launcher, which is a central tool for quickly launching your handheld applications. Touch Improvements is a utility that makes Windows more useable on a small screen. So, you’ll find pop up menus for functions, such as battery and Wi-Fi as well as greater support for scrolling and zooming.
You’ll also find DialKeys, which is a software keyboard that splits the QWERTY functions into two halves and places them in the lower corners of the screen. The idea being you hold the device in two hands and use your thumbs to type. All of this sounds fine in theory but in use you find yourself frustrated as it’s just not easy to use.
Perhaps the usability will get better when Samsung bring out its accessories, as this device really needs a keyboard and an extra battery, oh, and an optical drive. But surely, that just makes it a notebook?
Therein lies the problem, Samsung has put together a machine that works reasonably, but not outstandingly.
You have to ask yourself do I really want to spend this kind of money on a machine that only lasts a little over 1 hour, takes ages to boot all for the sake of a touchscreen and thumb-pad keyboard when I can get a perfectly usable notebook for less?
We’re not convinced at this price anyone will seriously opt for it but, as they used to say on TV, the choice is yours.
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