Smart Q7 Review. A Touch of Web, Kindle and Crunch

Posted on 27 May 2009 by



The Q7 may not be a UMPC but there’s a lot to like and a lot to learn from the device.  It highlights the difference between professional and consumer devices very well so in this article I’ve mixed a review of the Q7 with some thoughts about consumer web tablets.

q7crunchkindle

The Smart Devices Q7 has a slow, incomplete web experience, no Flash or AIR, poor video quality, very restrictive ARM11 core, runs a partially re-translated Chinese version of a year-old Ubuntu ARM port, doesn’t have a keyboard, is not good for outdoor use, needs a dongle to get Bluetooth working and has some twitchy touchscreen characteristics. Despite all these scary issues, i’m still using the device many times a day.

Full Q7 specifications available here.

For me, the Q7 and the way I feel about it is reminiscent of the netbook phenomenon where low-quality devices based on old architectures suddenly find a place because of their price. It has elements of  iPoditis where although a device may be slow and incomplete, if it’s by your side, it’s an easier option that getting up to fetch the laptop or use the desktop.  The Q7 highlights how instant-on gives the user confidence despite only having advantages for sub 5-minute usage patterns and how long battery life plays an important psychological role. It also highlights that handheld tablets under 500gm/1lb and with a screen size of 7″ make a great weight/size for casual handheld use.

Lets draw comparisons with the Techcrunch Crunchpad Tablet. Mike Arrington, in his first post entitled “We want a dead simple web tablet…” said:

Here’s the basic idea: The machine is as thin as possible, runs low end hardware and has a single button for powering it on and off, headphone jacks, a built in camera for video, low end speakers, and a microphone. It will have Wifi, maybe one USB port, a built in battery, half a Gigabyte of RAM, a 4-Gigabyte solid state hard drive. Data input is primarily through an iPhone-like touch screen keyboard. It runs on linux and Firefox. It would be great to have it be built entirely on open source hardware, but including Skype for VOIP and video calls may be a nice touch, too. If all you are doing is running Firefox and Skype, you don’t need a lot of hardware horsepower, which will keep the cost way down.

Sounds very familiar to the Q7. My immediate response to that paragraph was “If your primary focus is Internet, you’ll be looking at nothing less than a Firefox/Mozilla core and you’ll want to achieve the FIE which means page loads in under ten seconds. In addition to that, you have to consider plugins. The benchmark for plugins is YouTube on Flash which requires Ghz-class X86 CPUs. Unless you’re looking at Multi-core ARM11 or Cortex A8 which is going to push up your s/w dev costs, you need to be looking at Intel Atom which is certainly not cheap enough to bring you a sub $200 device.”

And in the end, it looks like Mike Arrington did indeed go for Atom. He also sacrificed the $200 price point and I suspect, a whole lot of battery life by switching to Atom and a 700gm target weight but I think he’s done the right thing, for business. He’s focused on productivity and something that is probably targeted at the office or home office. But what about the consumer market? Is that what they want? From my experience with various consumer devices, listening to what iPod Touch owners have to say and based on a lot of home tablet, netbook and UMPC usage experience, no. The average consumer isn’t as demanding as the business user.

I have one more reference point on this topic too. When I gave up (very quickly) on trying to use an Archos 605 Wifi as a mobile web tablet I bought a TV dock and put the 605 where it was meant to be.  And I used it a lot. With the remote keyboard I sat back for hours reading websites and watching online media. It wasn’t slow and unreliable anymore….in this scenario. The lesson learnt is that for mobile productivity you need reliability, speed, quality and availability but if time is on your side, you’ll accept a whole lot of compromises and time doesn’t really come into the equation, especially if the price is good.

Continued on page 2…

Pages: 1 2 3

50 Comments For This Post

  1. Steve 'Chippy' Paine says:

    Found: Review: Smart Q7 http://twurl.nl/hdbbqn

  2. ColdSun says:

    Fantastic review. Thanks Chippy!

  3. Ken E Kaplan says:

    RT @chippy: Found: Review: Smart Q7 http://twurl.nl/hdbbqn.

  4. Gibbo says:

    Yes, I agree great review,now where is the karma button…. ;)

  5. Steve 'Chippy' Paine says:

    @arrington Some thoughts on consumer web pads. Might be interesting for #crunchpad team http://bit.ly/PrxFn

  6. TuxMeister says:

    Thanks a lot for this, Chippy. Brillian roundup!

  7. celtica96 says:

    Excellent review, Chippy.

    One small correction. When you wrote on page 2: “Google reader to go through feeds and good docs to view and edit all sorts of things.”, did you mean “Google docs” instead of “good docs”?

    The folks at smartdevices.com.cn and electroworld.cn should be very pleased with all the time you’ve put in with the Q7. Your hard work is selling a lot of them. I would never have placed my order otherwise.

    Thank you!

    Chippy Reply:

    Thanks. As always, much of my proof reading process relies on readers ;-)

  8. Gio says:

    Hi guys!! This is the first time I post here. I check your site every day and download the podcasts. I also refer your web site to everyone who ask me about Netbooks, MIDs or UMPCs and let me tell you that you are doing a very good job.
    Thank’s Gio

    Chippy Reply:

    Its always great to hear from a first-time-poster. Welcome. Hope to hear more from you. How do you like the Q7?

    Gio Reply:

    I think for the price you can’t get better this days, taking in consideration that most of PMP (no WIFI-browser) with that screen size cost more and get less functionality.

    Chippy Reply:

    Portable, quality browsing has never been so cheap, I agree.

  9. Stasys says:

    If only they have used transreflective screen for outdoor use.. What the point in keeping portable device at home?

  10. wonky73 says:

    Hey Chippy.. the pictures on page 2 aren’t showing up for me. The code looks a little wonky.

    Chippy Reply:

    Thanks Wonky73. Now fixed.

  11. luc says:

    Hello, I was waiting for this review:-).
    My only question is if this baby can boot from usb, and if it can you could install ubuntu 9.04 wich was released by canonical and can be downloaded here http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/ports/releases/jaunty/release/ (you need the babage board version).
    Also as a suggestion, if you want flash you can install swfdec, it should be in the the mojo.handhelds.org repositories: deb http://repository.handhelds.org/hasty-armv5el/ hasty main universe multiverse.

    TuxMeister Reply:

    Hey luc, thanks a lot for the repository link! I’m also interested in the USB booting option, would be great to be able to update the device’s OS as I heard the version it comes with is about a year old. I’ve also heard Win7 might be coming up with some ARM support for MID’s so that would be extremely cool (though not sure up to what extent would the Q7 hand such an OS).

    Thanks again Chippy for the review.

    Chippy Reply:

    Hi Luc, TuxMeister.

    It boots from SD apparently. I might try Ubuntu 9.04 as currently it’s running a port of 8.04 I think.

    Thanks

  12. Nate the great says:

    Chippy, the link at “Continued on page 3…” doesn’t work right. It’s pointing to this page.

    Chippy Reply:

    again, thanks readers for your eagle eyes. It’s been a busy busy day trying to prepare for Computex.

  13. @EtlamRetep says:

    Nice review!

    I believe that this device has some more potential, the SoC isn´t supported perfectly yet in Linux and I believe that a software specifically compiled for the instruction sets of the SoC could make it faster. Of course we shouldn´t forget the ‘dirty’ tricks the Linux smartphone world users use (fast SDHC with swap space..).

    I hope that these devices will be sold often enough (Smart Q5 and Q7) to grow a community with alternative distributions (Mer, Android and something like the original stuff, but improved (think of gnash/SWFdec for flash, and a better virtual keyboard that´s easier to call up (e.g. key triggered) and use)), using a soft synth like PDa on this device could let you have lots of fun and and and…

    Chears,
    Peter

    Chippy Reply:

    I definitely think there’s room for improvement in terms of performance. The question is should people put effort into ARMv6 distros or effort into something like Maemo 5 on ARMV7 so that the next-gen tablets have an even better OS?

    S.

  14. vlad says:

    Is Nokia 800/810 faster wih video playback?

    Chippy Reply:

    I would say at this stage, yes. The Nokia provides a smoother Divx experience.
    The Q7 is more capable though so if someone optimises Mer/Android/Ubuntu, this should be better. I wouldn’t consider this a PMP at this stage though.

  15. ReviewsGoldmine says:

    Smart Q7 Review. A Touch of Web, Kindle and Crunch | UMPCPortal … http://bit.ly/k2QDr

  16. Mike says:

    Hi,

    well the OS is really not the most mature I have seen. In other words it is crap compared to maemo. However that was somehow to be expected. I personally don’t think the browser (you can install on ubuntu as well) is yet ready for productional use.

    What I really would like to see is Mer (http://wiki.maemo.org/Mer) on it.
    Check it’s current release out on http://wiki.maemo.org/Mer/Releases/0.13

    I however don’t know how much proprietary drivers and stuff is in there one would need to make it run Mer or Maemo Fremantle for that matter, but it would surely be a nice experiment.

    Chippy – do you think you could do it?

  17. Al Johar says:

    Smart Q7 Review. A Touch of Web, Kindle and Crunch | UMPCPortal …: From my experience with various consumer de.. http://cli.gs/T7AuP3

  18. Pamela Baldwin says:

    Smart Q7 Review. A Touch of Web, Kindle and Crunch | UMPCPortal …: From my experience with various consumer de.. http://bit.ly/b0kgm

  19. tmfh says:

    Smart Q7 Review. A Touch of Web, Kindle and Crunch (Chippy/UMPCPortal) http://bit.ly/KQl4f

  20. Live Technology News says:

    Smart Q7 Review. A Touch of Web, Kindle and Crunch – http://tinyurl.com/pbvk67

  21. Steve says:

    Nothing mind-shattering to add; just “Great review, Chippy.”
    Thanks.

  22. Stanul says:

    Great review Chippy,
    Have you tried to install the FireFox Flash addon?
    I hope this maybe a solution for running Flash….

    Thanks.

  23. Kola says:

    Thanks for review, Chippy. What do you think can ARM-platform really attempt on netbooks and small desktops sector?

  24. serwei says:

    Reason why I’m keen on this is because I can read some Chinese, and there are happy hackers. I’m also looking for a Kindle killer, esp since I can’t buy from Amazon (not from USA).

    At $200, this can be the teaching aid for reading, writing, vs a laptop wannabe that lets your kid get distracted ;p Was thinking of using it to read score sheets too.

    The guys talk about Mer 0.13 working on it (with happy Mer devs).

    the OS is on the “arm-linux” branch, so not X86 compatible, but arm-linux is/was spearheaded by Maemo :) :)

    And also the CPU specs says h264, VC1 support for > 30fps on SD content. Just that the SmartQ people did not give optimised drivers, not sure why. (eg IntelGMA on Ubuntu)

  25. Web Based Apps says:

    Smart Q7 Review. A Touch of Web, Kindle and Crunch | UMPCPortal … http://bit.ly/k2QDr

  26. NobbyNobbs says:

    Thanks for the review. I`m really thinking about getting one.

    One question though:
    “The lack of built-in Bluetooth isn’t a problem”
    But the device is listed as having BT 2.0? Without bluetooth (as means of connecting to a mobile phone) this device wouldn`t make sense.

    Chippy Reply:

    There is a mini BT USB dongle included. I’ve tested it with a Nokia phone for internet access ok.

  27. Zavandor says:

    Pay attention!
    I have ordered one unit one week ago from electoworld and they have not shipped it yet. Do other people have ordered and succesfully received it?

    Chippy Reply:

    Do you have tracking info?

    Chippy Reply:

    I checked on stock status with Electro world. It seems we generated quite some business for them. They are ‘stepping up’ the delivery process.

    Zavandor Reply:

    I have no tracking yet. I have mailed them:
    – two days ago they said that it would be shipped yesterday, but I didn’t receive the tracking info
    – yesterday night I’ve written them again and today they answered that yesterday was a busy day and it will be shipped today

    I’ve my fingers crossed.

    Zavandor Reply:

    I’ve received my tracking info. I’ll keep you informed as soon as it will arrive.

  28. Andhika says:

    This device would be great if combined (and also supported) by Hantech Siso Tablo… will create a perfect e-paper like gadget… :)

  29. corticalsam says:

    And again a brilliant review Chippy. Thanks.
    Anyone received his/her device from electworld? I was going to order one. Then what Zavandor said made me stop. Please give me name of some reliable source/shop.
    Thanks

  30. Stanul says:

    CorticalSam:
    Yesterday I have e-mailed the guys and received answer in 15 mins.
    They said will take them 7 days from payment to postage + 5 days transit to Australia.
    They seemed OK….
    By the way, they accept now PayPal as well….
    Good Luck!

    corticalsam Reply:

    Thanks for the reply. It’s okay. Will contact them and order one this week.

  31. Stanul says:

    Chippy,
    Did you have the chanse to try the Flash Addon?
    Thank you.

  32. Stanul says:

    Chippy,
    Another question.
    Is it possible to use the normal Ubuntu repository to install new software, or you have to jump thru hoops to make it happen?
    Thank you.

  33. stanx says:

    UMPC portal’s Chippy write a long review for SmartQ 7 http://tinyurl.com/pbvk67

  34. David Gawlowski says:

    @TechCrunch, are you listening? We want a #CrunchPad!>> Smart Q7 Review. A Touch of Web, Kindle and Crunch http://ow.ly/9Upl

  35. Zavandor says:

    I have received a tracking code two days ago, but on the site it gives me always the same result:

    No information for this tracking

    I’m starting to worry. I suggest everyone to not order from them, I’ll post here again when (if) I’ll receive the unit.

    ColdSun Reply:

    I heard that this whole week until Saturday is a Chinese holiday, and the tracking won’t start to show until Monday if you received a tracking number this week.

    I’m having the same result for my tracking number.

    Zavandor Reply:

    Today something changed:

    Your item was collected(SANSHUI) at 2009-05-30 14:11:00

    Ray Reply:

    Did you recieve the unit? Also, how long did it take for you to get tracking info. I made a payment (western union) three days ago and I havent heard a thing from electrworld

    brian f Reply:

    If it makes you feel any better I have ordered from these guys on several occasions and never been burned.

    Good Luck

  36. laforge says:

    I’ve found my way to your site by following your experiences with the smartq7 unit, cheers for the detailed review! All I want is something simple and inexpensive that can sit on the coffee table and be reached for when I’m looking for a little extra information on something i saw on the news, the sports broadcast etc etc…just a little casual browsing and maybe some ssh into the box that streams media to my tv. The price makes this thing hard to ignore.

  37. datadog says:

    Hello Chippy,

    I see you have tested fbreader and mobipocket reader. Could you please test ubook reading software on the Q7. Not sure if there is a linux port for it but you should be able to remote into a windows box that runs it.

  38. Babak says:

    Hi,Chippy:
    Thank you very much for your excellent review and superb website.
    please let me know your point of view about handwriting recognition on SmartQ 7?

  39. Ehab says:

    Hello Chippy,

    Which instant messaging software does this come with?

    Thanks

  40. brian f says:

    I live in China and purchased the Q7 to use in sales presentations, I save my PPT’s as PDF’s and then use the ‘page down’ button on the Q to advance the PDF pages. It looks cool and adds to the presentation. I like it because I am selling an online product and this gives my clients the feel that they are online and I do not have to go through the laptop-projector-ethernet cable route to presentation hell and client dis-engagement.

    I like the little thing and I am going to pick up a keyboard at a local market and use it at home. FYI they are running Android on them on the EletroWorld site but I think I will leave it be for now.

    My only gripe is the onscreen keyboard, it is underwhelming and I would like another one. I would also like a pony but for $189.00 I will get neither.

    I look forward to using as a book reader and am glad for the suggestion.

    Great review – great site.

    Brian

    Gemmer Reply:

    Looking into this device to tide me over untill fast color E paper becomes readily available (I use allot of PDFs).

    I found your post (brian) informative. Also thanks for the review chippy.

  41. harry says:

    相比q7,我更喜爱q5.

  42. Ray says:

    Can anyone confirm receipt of the Q7 delivery? I see orders were placed bot no comments on actually receiving it. If so, any feedback would be appreciated

    Knut Reply:

    @Ray:

    Check out the thread at http://www.mobileread.com. (http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=47223). Several people (myself included) have got a tracking number for the dispatched package from http://www.eletroworld.cn. Not sure if anyone have received it yet.

    Knut Reply:

    Btw: anyone insterested should check out these links as well:
    http://www.jiongtang.com/blog/html/category/smartq5 (news on sowftware for the q5 and q7)
    http://talk.maemo.org/showthread.php?t=27433 (Mer on the q5 and q7)

  43. Gibbo says:

    Received my Q7 today and I love it couldn’t experiment with it for to long cos it only had 25% power and I need a universal converter :(.

    Chippy Reply:

    Congratulations! Let us know how you get on. (An article in the forums might be best at this stage)

  44. Zavandor says:

    I have received my unit from Eletroworld. It took “only” 5 days to clear italian custom :)

    corticalsam Reply:

    Great. Congratulations! Thanks for the update. I personally appreciate it that you spent the time to send it and let us feel better and order the device.

  45. BritAbroad says:

    Chippy,

    Thank you for this, I’m very close to buying one on the strength of your review alone.

    Two things that I hope you might be able to help me with; how easy is it to transfer and view .cbr/.cbz files on this and are there any issues with using it in conjunction with a MacBook, rather than a PC?

  46. the padio says:

    Smart Q7 Review: A Touch of Web, Kindle and #CrunchPad http://ow.ly/g3bg RT @thepadio

  47. David Gawlowski says:

    Smart Q7 Review: A Touch of Web, Kindle and #CrunchPad http://ow.ly/g3bg RT @thepadio

  48. kee vaa says:

    now craving over a china gadget, MUST HAVE IT !! :D http://bit.ly/ixJbt

  49. David Gross says:

    What do you think of this? http://bit.ly/ixJbt
    is there a point to this in the age of smartphones?

  50. NuNu says:

    …well. Could someone suggest me device based on Intel chip capable of running Google Earth with GooPs GPS tracker? Ability to capture live video using EXTERNAL USB video captre device will be a bonus. Tablets are OK, laptops are not welcome.