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Ultra-mobile PC overview

I still have a Dell X51v pocket pc and still think it’s great. I use it for GPS navigation (world-wide), browse the internet wireless, reading e-books/comics, watching video in full DVD resolution and playing games (VCS, C64, Atari ST, GBA, you name it…). The battery lasts easily 4-6 hours.

So I wasn’t too happy when a few years ago the pocket pc market diminished due to the rise in smart phones. I’m not someone that uses cell phones a lot in the first place but more important it was a step back in CPU & screen resolution. There are nowadays comparable VGA pocket pc phones but if you use it a few hours you most likely have no battery left to make a phone call so I personally still prefer 2 devices.

However a few years ago a brand new type of device emerged that filled the gap and more: Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC). The main difference is that instead of a special light-weight OS they run regular PC windows. So in other words: a miniaturized PC. Downside with full OS is no ‘instant on’ anymore and early devices were actually bit slower having to run a full windows version. But more devices are now becoming available with decent CPU and battery life. Over the last year many variations have been released and new terminology like MID, Netbook has been introduced. Here’s a quick overview of types of devices available:

  • Slider UMPC: mini keyboard slides out (typically MID’s: smaller displays 4.8" – 7")
  • Tablet UMPC: mini tablet PC (displays 6-9")
  • Slate UMPC: similar to pocket pc. No keyboard but some have thumb-style keys on the side (4"-7")
  • Netbook / Tablet PC: mini notebook (7-12" but typically 8"-10"). Netbook has no touch screen

Note performance isn’t the same as a full size notebook but faster than a pocket pc. Here’s an explanation of Intel UMPC CPU’s: Deciphering Intel codewords for MIDs. Most interesting will be Menlow in combination with the Poulsbo graphics chip that will allow 720p/1080i HD playback. New devices are starting to come out now with these chips.

Regarding which model is best for you depends on your needs. They all differ in: mobility, weight, pricing, battery life, data entry speed, CPU/graphics performance, e-book reading (slate/tablet), internet browsing experience (pixels & display size), car navigation (slab/slider easier to mount/hold). Couple of sites with UMPC reviews and info: laptopmag, umpcportal and pocketables.

Selection of couple of popular various models ordered by size (click link for more info):

Style

Model

Display / CPU

Weight

Battery life

Comments

Slate UMPC

Viliv S5, $599

4.8”

1024×600

 

Intel Atom Silverthorne

1.33 GHz

395 g

6.5 hours

Available around May.

 

Includes built-in GPS, 60GB HDD

Slider UMPC

LG Xnote B831

4.8”

800×480

Intel Atom Silverthorne

? GHz

?

?

Announced (Aigo available now in Hong Kong).

Uses new faster Intel Menlow.

Tablet UMPC

Fujitsu U820 (U2010)

$1300 est.

5.6”

1280×800

 

Intel Atom Silverthorne 1.6 GHz

610 g

3-5 hours

6-8 hours (4 cell)

Announced (Sept). Uses new Menlow &Poulsbo chipset (plays HD smoothly with powerDVD).

US model: U820.

PDF Manual

Slider UMPC

Gigabyte M704

$750

7” LED b/l

1024×600

 

Via C7-M

1.2 GHz

 

780 g

2-4 hours (est)

New, available now in Europe
(US expected, check pre-order at expansys-usa). Also consider SC3.

Slate UMPC

Samsung Q1-UP-XP $1300

7”

1024×600

 

Core Solo U1500

1.33 GHz

855 g

5-7 hours

Pricey but great battery life & fairly compact. Could be bit faster. Good for retro gaming with left control pad

Tablet UMPC

Gigabyte M912M

$600 est.

8.9” LED

1024×600

 

Intel Atom

1.6 GHz

1350 g

4 hours (est)

Available September. Also consider SX3

Netbook

Acer Aspire one

$400 – 500

8.9”

1024×600

 

Intel Atom

1.6 GHz

990 g

1:30 – 2:30 hours

3 – 5 hours (6 cell)

Cheap, except for the 6 cell battery which seems a must.

Also consider the Dell Mini and MSI Wind 10” display and Eee series

Netbook

Sony TZ series

From $1500

11.1” LED

1366×768

 

Duo-core

1.0-1.33 GHz

900 g

5 – 8 hours

Pricey but great battery. Incl. webcam. Cons: Gets hot, no touch-screen, slow (but faster than Q1-UP). Also consider upcoming cheaper Lenovo IdeaPad

Tablet PC

Dell Latitude XT

$2000 ($900 outlet)

12” LED

1280×800

 

Core 2 Duo

1.2 GHz

U7600

1690 g

2140 g

1-3 hours

2-7 hours with optional slice battery

Not an UMPC really given the size. Expensive but great deal at outlet.dell.com from $899 (refurbished).

Great display & multi-touch technology. Battery life & perf mediocre.

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