In Spring 2006 we were all unhealthily keen on getting our hands on the first generation of Ultra Mobile PCs. The concept promised much: an ideal portable computer that bridges the gap between PDAs and laptops.

To double our excitement, two of the blighters came along at once – the black Samsung Q1 and the Asus R2H. The latter was initially christened ‘the one with GPS’, but was soon revealed to be a Windows tablet PC with a 7in screen.

Four hands required

It all sounds like it might just work, but you’ll be sorely disappointed. For a start, the lack of physical keys built into the device is a huge mistake, as you need to use both hands to hold it – holding the stylus separately to punch the virtual keys isn’t fun, and neither is stretching your thumbs to reach them.

The spec is also lacking in some of the most important departments, with a weedy processor, little RAM and no optical drive. And yet there’s a 1.3MP camera and GPS. The latter feature, though, is largely pointless: using the R2H as a sat-nav would mean finding acres of room on your dashboard or obscuring half your windscreen. And buying some sat-nav software, which isn’t included.

Scribble time

The screen also might be a decent size for web surfing, but it’s only 800x480pixels, which isn’t ideal for viewing big sites and isn’t even as capable as the tiny Sony UX1’s, never mind the Flybook’s.

On the plus side, the writing recognition works quite well for taking notes and control nub is one of the better ones we’ve tried. However, it’s not as comfortable as the Sony UX1’s, and nowhere near as intuitive as a trackpad.

Adding a separate fold-out keyboard and DVD writer to the package hasn’t really helped, either – this is supposed to be a carry-anywhere computer. It may be cheap, but it’s not ideal for surfing and you wouldn’t want to have to type anything on it. Back to the drawing board, we’re afraid, Asus.

Stuff says... 

Asus R2H review

Plenty of features at a low price, but it just feels like a clumsily designed laptop