When we saw the first Australian sample of the Q1 Ultra earlier in the year, we were by turns both pleased and disappointed. The evolution of the hardware interface together with Vista’s greater touch-friendliness was encouraging, but simply not enough to convince us that the Origami project was ready for the big time. While the shift into production hasn’t brought about any revolutionary changes, it has clarified how the Q1 Ultra will ship, as well as some of Samsung’s future plans for it.
There have been some minor tweaks: the fingerprint reader is gone and Vista Home Premium appears. Samsung claims this should give around four hours of life – a reasonable claim given that the Q1 returned light-use times of 3hrs 8mins for the three-cell battery. Intense use reduced this to 1hr 40mins. The optional ($120) six-cell battery lasted 6hrs 44mins and 3hrs 50mins respectively.
The “mouse” button on the left now switches the centre-mounted joystick between a trackpoint and a cursor-style selector (to skip through desktop objects sequentially). You can also use your finger or the stylus, with Vista’s software graphical “mouse” appearing under the pointer, complete with a left and right button. You can also touch-and-hold to simulate a right-click. To the right of the screen, the directional keypad can launch applications of your choice, and left and right mouse buttons sit below.
There’s a hardware key to toggle the DialKeys software keyboard on and off, which is a huge time-saver. This brings up a QWERTY keyboard, split into two opaque arcs at the lower corners of the screen. While it’s one of the best touchscreen keyboards we’ve used, it certainly isn’t perfect. That’s tacitly acknowledged by the inclusion of a hardware keyboard split across the top – not quite a BlackBerry when it comes to speed (many will also find it rather small), but reasonably usable. Then there’s Vista’s fantastic handwriting recognition but, again, it isn’t without compromises: you’ll need both hands to use the stylus, and the input box often obscures the already crowded screen.
The 7in LCD itself remains a highlight: bright and clear, if a touch grainy. 1024 x 600 pixels is fine for most applications, and the stylus slides across it smoothly and accurately – it’s even pretty resilient to the inevitable fingerprints.
It’s based around the dourly named Intel Ultra Mobile Platform 2007, with an A110 processor running at 800MHz and an Intel 945 chipset. There’s 1GB of RAM, and enough power in the GMA 950 graphics to run Aero. Performance is modest, managing an overall score of 0.22 in our benchmarks, but given the applications suited to that small screen, we’ve no complaints.
There are less successful elements: a desk-bound Q1 quickly becomes a tangle of cables and, although you can rest the unit jauntily on its stand, it’s disappointing there’s no actual docking option. The lack of an optical drive is less of an issue, though, with Samsung bundling a USB transfer cable and software to remotely install apps. Bluetooth and 802.11b/g are also included.
To be fair to Samsung, the whole Origami concept is currently undermined by outside factors: the ridiculous data charges of many mobile operators; battery limitations compromising gaming potential; and the sheer cost of hardware required to run Windows. And that won’t go away anytime soon, no matter how much the idea may appeal.
It leaves a well-executed UMPC that’s fun to use, and easily betters all that has come before it. But it still has to make apologies and, like its tablet PC forebears, it’s yet to really find its calling in either consumer or business contexts. Unless you can make a case for its sheer portability or tablet features – or the price halves – the majority of buyers will for now be better off spending the cash on a more traditional notebook.
This Review appeared in the December, 2007 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine
Source: Copyright © PC Pro, Dennis Publishing
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