May 3, 2007


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Mobile is nothing
Ultra mobile is the new hotness
By John “jaQ” Andrews

We all know the problems with laptops.

The cheap ones are huge and underpowered, and the ones that are truly portable come with mondo price tags. Take along a power cord and a mouse in a carrying case and you’ve probably doubled the weight of your supposed “ultraportable” notebook computer.

You could use a PDA, also known as a Pocket PC or Palm Pilot to those folks who call all tissues Kleenex, all soda Coke and all expanded polystyrene thermal insulation Styrofoam. But they’re very limited in functionality, often don’t have a usable keyboard and are pretty hard to squint at for more than a few minutes.

Enter the Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC). Smaller than a laptop but bigger than a PDA, it fills a vital market niche for people who are constantly scampering around but need to use a full-fledged computer once in a while.

The platform, spearheaded by — who else? — Intel, bills itself more as a companion to your laptop or desktop than a standalone solution. Accessing online media, playing video and audio and keeping connected with e-mail and Web browsing is supposed to be easier on a UMPC. And it certainly is easier than navigating big honkin’ Web sites with sprawling layouts on a PDA, and it’s easier than lugging around 10 pounds of laptop plus accessories.

But what about power? Surely, if something had come along that fits in your pocket and lets you play Oblivion while surfing YouTube, the ads for it would be inescapable. Needless to say, that isn’t quite the case.

How much can you really do with a UMPC? Let’s take a look at some specs.

The biggest name in the UMPC world right now is the Samsung Q1. It’s basically a 7-inch touchscreen with some navigation buttons on either side. No keyboard, but you can hook one up to its USB ports. The 40GB hard drive gives you plenty of room for file storage, and the 512MB of memory, while not awesome, is at least adequate for running the Windows XP Tablet Edition operating system that’s installed. You won’t be playing any intense games, though, with the 900MHz Celeron processor optimized for low power consumption. WiFi and Bluetooth really make this device a media and Web hub. There are more expensive versions with more memory, a slightly faster processor and GPS functionality, but this base model will already set you back about $900.

Sony’s UX series is more like a real PC in a tiny package, packing a 1.33GHz Intel Core Solo processor, 40GB hard drive and 1GB memory into a teensy device with a 4.5-inch screen and sliding keyboard. In addition to WiFi and Bluetooth, the UX can access Cingular’s EDGE network. It’s only 1.2 pounds, so you can take it pretty much anywhere. You might even be able to play some stripped-down games with the integrated graphics processor. The damage? Two grand.

Intel recently announced a new ultra mobile strategy that would target consumers as well, with what they’re calling Mobile Internet Devices based on dual-core processors. Rather than all running Windows, some might come with a version of Linux. That opens up a whole world of software for geeks, though less stuff available in the software aisle of your favorite superstore.

4/26/2007 Expand your wireless network

4/19/2007 Expand your wireless network
4/12/2007 Get a newer brain
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3/29/2007 Security can be free
3/22/2007 Paper that's not paper
3/8/2007 Use any file
3/1/2007 Audiobooks for free
2/22/2007 What's for sale today?
2/15/2007 Prints in your pocket
2/8/2007 Watch this
2/1/2007 How open is your source
1/25/2007 iPhone it now
1/18/2007 Simplify, simplify
1/11/2007 Vista time!
1/4/2007 Google killers?
12/28/2006 Tech that didn't happen
12/21/2006 Do not want
12/14/2006 Meet the new web
12/07/2006 Extreme price shopping
11/30/2006 They want what?
11/23/2006 Zat zany Zune
11/16/2006 Shop smart
11/9/2006 Your data's new home
11/2/2006 Hotkey heaven
10/26/2006 Computer to go
10/19/2006 Tech news roundup
10/12/2006 A different drummer
10/05/2006 Who needs TiVo?
09/28/2006 Disk drives without disks
09/21/2006 Movies, just click your mouse!
09/14/2006 Laptops for less
09/07/2006 GPS everywhere
08/31/2006 The printer dilemma
08/24/2006 A series of tubes
08/17/2006 More music, more places
08/10/2006 How big is your drive?
08/03/2006 It's a WiFi world
07/27/2006 Fancy a spot of memory?
07/20/2006 Under the sea
07/06/2006 eBaysic training
06/29/2006 You paid money for that?
06/22/2006 Processing ... processing ...
06/15/2006 C:\Run for the border
06/01/2006 The keyboard is mightier
05/25/2006 Geek phone home
05/18/2006 Super highway information
05/11/2006 How to host a site
05/04/2006 If they mated
04/27/2006 Apples to apples
04/20/2006 Flash uber-drives
04/13/2006 Web site, by you
04/06/2006 Ayyy, jaQ's right!
03/30/2006 Choose wirelessly
03/23/2006 Tax programs cometh
03/16/2006 And the Spammie goes to...
03/09/2006 Take in the Vista
03/02/2006 Cheap moviemaking
02/23/2006 Go directly to iJail
02/16/2006 Will you stamp your e-mail?
02/09/2006 War of the machines
02/02/2006 Faster than a speeding packet

01/26/2006 Free software made simple
01/19/2006 The Worst of CES
01/12/2006 Radio you
01/05/2006 Making Movies
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