I've been looking into ways of staying mobile with less the burdens of hercules upon my back, a.k.a. my ThinkPad. I use the laptop often enough that I carry two 9-cell batteries plus a drive bay battery which I can drain in a single day. I don't like carrying the power connector because that is rarely possible to use where I go.
So the search has been around a smaller or lighter form factor that can still do all my work. As with the dreams of any child, I want it all: powerful enough to run ten applications, high-speed network access, usable keyboard and mouse/trackpoint, a good docking solution at my desktop, long running and replaceable batteries, and decent graphics/video quality.
I've been looking at the new category of Ultra-Mobile PCs (UMPCs), a smaller form factor for PCs that still run a full desktop system. These tend to be be about the size of a thick paperback book and range around 2 pounds. The screens are small by even the ultralight laptop category, but the idea is not for many hours of laptop use. Most of my research was easily facilitated by Dynamism.com
, which sells any of these models and other mobile devices.
(Image: courtesy Sony.com)
The only one I have seen first hand is the Sony UX series
,which are quite decent with a good video screen, which, from this imagefrom the Sony site. is certainly bigger than their PSP (probably 50-75%more screen at 4.5inches) yet still usable in two hand mode. Thekeyboard is below the slide out screen, with chiclet-like keys. It onlyhas Wifi/WLAN, and no WWAN options, a 1.2GHz Centrino processor. Thelarge capacity battery claims up to 9.5 hrs of life. It even has not one but two video cameras (0.5MP and 1.3MP).
The first new one I've read about is the Samsung Q1
just recently released which is a tablet UMPC only and requires a separate USB keyboard. There's a virtual keyboard. The larger 7" screen belies the fact that there is only a 900MHz Celeron M or a 1 GHz Pentium M in it and the graphics rez is lower.
(Image: courtesy Dynamism.com)
The real winner in my book is the newly announced OQO 02
, from a relatively unknown company but a system that is relatively more powerful than the others. The 5" screen is partway between the two others, and while the screen rez is 800x480 (with zoom/pan up to 1200x720), what's really interesting is that it can output up to 1920x1200 over and external HDMI/DVI connection, even . This is awesome for a desktop replacement. The 1.5 GHz VIA C7M is a cpu I'm not familiar with but I'm guessing it is a variant on the Celeron. Like the others it can have 1GB of RAM but no separate video RAM. Max battery claim is 6hrs, which is good enough. Best of all it has an optional WWAN using Sprint's mobile broadband
EVDO Rev A service, meaning access anywhere on the Sprint EVDO network (with the right unlimited plan of course at around $60) at 400-700Kbps. Of course, there's still Wifi and Ethernet too.
(Image: courtesy Dynamism.com)
I think the OQO trumps the others, but they are all fairly good. I don't know how useful the small keypads but I have managed to write an entire article over my Treo before. The question is if it is still practical on more regular mobile use: lots of email, make powerpoints, lots of reading (on the small screen); or would I still need a full USB keyboard to go with it, just to make it less burdensome.
The price for any of these is not cheap: ranging around $2k. For that price, I could get a well set up lightweight convertible/tablet PC with a larger 12" screen. This makes me wonder if the form factor is really that much of a saver. I certainly can't put it in my pants pocket, although a larger jacket pocket may work. I don't fly significantly but when I do travel for work, I do tend to have the laptop out (2+ hr flights); which is a real pain. What is heavy these days is carrying about 12lbs of laptop gear (at minimum) plus additional dead-tree material of 1-5 lbs, almost every other day, and walking a lot. (The walking is good exercise but carrying a heavy laptop bag is not for me or my back.)
Sometimes I wish I'd stuck to my old job as an independent product reviewer and writer, with the bennys of getting to take one of these for a spin (and getting paid for it). Oh well...