It’s the future of mobile computing, says Microsoft and Intel.
What we says is simple: are Ultra Mobile PCs good enough to warrant us ditching our palmtops and laptops in favour of this new generation of tablet computers?
The answer’s currently sitting under our thumbs, which are typing this article using the Samsung Q1’s special on-screen Dial Keys feature. Here are our first impressions.
What’s it like to hold?
Heavy, although it does look suitably sleek. It’s also tricky to use when charging, as the power socket’s on the right-hand-side – exactly where your hand falls if you’re trying to type on the screen. In the PC’s favour, it is equipped with a sturdy, photo frame-style stand at the back.
And it’s blessed with tonnes of sockets, isn’t it?
Yep, the number of connections is impressive, with one USB either side, a full-size VGA output for a monitor on the right and a headphone jack on the left. On the top’s a CF slot and a standard ethernet socket, which is all useful stuff. We just took a photo on our Sony R1, whacked the CF card in the Samsung, annotated the shot using the stylus and emailed it to our Mum via the office’s Wi-Fi connection. Which, um, you could do on a laptop or a palmtop, too.
Tell me the touchscreen rocks.
How can we break this to you? While Windows Journal – the app where you scribble and it converts your handwriting to text – works superbly, there is one wee problem. Unlike the Tablet PCs of old, whose screens only worked with digitiser styli, this one works with your fingers and the stylus. So if you have a habit of resting your fist on a notepad while writing, you might find this as much fun as sucking pickled onions. The screen itself would be pretty good if it wasn’t so reflective.
Okay, what about the hyped Touch Pack software?
Dial Keys is the one you’ve seen in all the screenshots – a QWERTY keypad that appears overlaid on the screen for Word, emails and the like. It’s not a replacement keyboard. You’ll be lucky to get 20 words per minute out of it since some of the keys are hard to reach for even the most elongated thumbs. Still, it’s fine for tapping in a web address.
The very literally-named Programme Launcher, meanwhile, looks handsome but we can’t work out why you’d use it. In a similar fashion to Windows Media Center, it overlays a skin over the operating system, but instead of a remote control-friendly interface it offers finger-sized buttons you can prod to start everything from Internet Explorer to Windows Media Player. The problem: the second you’ve launched the app, you need to revert back to the stylus. Aside from Media Player, known of the software’s been ‘skinned’ to work with finger control.
Should I slap £800 on the counter for one?
Hold your gadget horses: we’ll have a long term test for you in the magazine soon, complete with loads more detail and our incisive verdict. At this money, we still haven’t worked out why you’d want one over a ultra-portable laptop.