Tag Archive | "eking"

Outlook – Handheld Computing Products August – Sept 2010.

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interpad I’ve just posted a two-part article over at UMPCPortal that looks at some recent news, looks forward to some expected products, highlights some events in September and provides a general update of where we are today in the mobile handheld world. Much of it focuses on consumer products that you readers of Carrypad are interested in.

In the article I talk about the Huawei S7, RIMs Blackpad, Samsungs tablet, the Smartbook Surfer, Interpad (new in the database,) Eking, the Huawei E583C hotspot, ICD, Notion Ink and a bunch of devices that are on our ‘watchlist.’ We’re also going to IDF and IFA events in September so you’ll see some information about that too.

Check out Part 1 here.

…and Part 2 here.

Summer Breaks, Products Wait. Round-Up and Outlook Q3/Q4 2010. (Pt. 2 of 2)

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smartbook surfer Yesterday, in Part 1, I talked about 3 tablet products. Today, there’s more and the first one is something that shouldn’t be a surprise because Smartbook AG have released a ‘Smartbook.’ The only problem is that I don’t see this as a smartbook. A smartbook to me would be in the laptop/netbook form factor and have an advanced CPU that brings enough power for a quality web, gaming and application experience along with an application store. Smartbook’s Smartbook Surfer runs an ARM11 based Telechips CPU and has a basic Android 2.1 install with, as far as I know, no Gmail, maps or marketplace. That’s not to say it’s a bad product because at 170 euro with GPS (possibly not in the 170 Euro version) HDMI-out, stereo speakers and a case, it’s worth considering for basic coffee-table and holiday duties. If you’ve looked at the Archos 7 Home Tablet.

The final 7” tablet to talk about is the Viewsonic which is in a different league to the Smartbook Surfer. It’s a rumor but looks likely to me considering the Viewsonic branding we’ve seem on prototypes around the trade shows this year. Stuff.TV indicates that it will be running Android 2.2 and have 3G, hi-res cam and GPS options making it a competitor to the Samsung and Huawei slates. They say that is will launch in the UK in about 2 month. Again, this is a rumor, but it seems likely.

Before I move on to the other news items I want to talk briefly about smart books. I’ve been very positive about the possibility of ARM and Android bringing an always-on, social, fun and lightweight netbook alternative to the market but as yet we haven’t seen anything that really hits the mark. The hardware is there in my opinion but it was always the Android build that fell short. Both the Compaq Airlife 100 and Toshiba AC100 were build on open-source Android and included none of the important, even critical elements of sync, Gmail, maps, marketplace and other Google software. For a category that would benefit from software re-writes, not having a software delivery channel means no developer is going to bother with the opportunity. I’m 100% sure that Google and ARM know about this and the stars seem to be pointing towards Android 3.0 (codename Gingerbread) as the solution. It will finally branch Android out to non Smartphone devices. Why the delay? I suspect Google is re-writing some of its apps to suit WVGA and higher resolutions just like Apple did with their apps on the iPad. As for timescales, I suspect we won’t see anything until the last weeks of 2010 which is just about when MeeGo/Moorestown based tablets will hit the scene. The differences between the two hard/soft platforms will be clear at that point.

Did you see the new renderings of the Eking slider UMPC? It looks similar to the design we saw in plastic form with Wibrain (sold to Eking) in Sept 2009.

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It also looks a lot like the Mui HDPC. I remember using the Amtek U650 in 2007 and liking it a lot. If Eking can bring this to market on Oaktrail with some quality engineering and better aesthetics, it has a chance in the UMPC market but maybe it would be more successful as a ‘smart’ product on a Cortex A9 core with Android 3.0? Slimmer, always-on, great for Android gaming? Just a thought.

Here’s something about MiFi-a-likes. I’ve been using the MiFi for over a year and it’s been a great product but I’m disappointed that there haven’t been any upgrades since launch. The GPS remains unusable, I get the occasional lock-up, it gets very warm, it’s impossible to remember to indicator meanings and the battery life needs to be more than 4 hours. Novatel will fall behind if they don’t watch out because the new Huawei E583C looks to match the MiFi’s current capability and offer an OLED display panel on top. The idea of an on-board application processor sounds attractive with the MiFi but there’s no software for it yet so why bother? I’d rather save 40 or 50 Euros and take the E583C to be honest.

Other news I’ve ‘starred’ over the last few days of catch-up time…

Clearwires Apple-centric 4G hotspot.

Motorola-Verizon Tablet with FIOS TV.

Nokia’s take on the MeeGo handset UI.

Android 2.1 on the Dell Streak

ExoPC slate update.

‘Watchlist’ and ‘Events on the next page…

Live Today, Live Tomorrow with the Archos 9.

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In a few hours, I’ll be down in the studio playing around with the Archos 9 that is on it’s way from the DHL depot. I won’t be too interactive as I want to record an unboxing video

Unboxing video now available

Update: Live session finished.

Live Review Session available here.

…and some testing in preparation for the real live session with JKK (one of our Friday night, bring-your-own-bottle sessions) on Friday evening starting at 2130 CET. (Check your time here)

Live sessions take place in the LIVE page which is always available (and open for chat via IRC)

In the live session we’ll be talking about the Archos 9, the Archos 5, the Motorola Droid/Milestone and the Eking S515 (also known as the Psixpda)

We look forward to seeing you.

Thanks for Mobilx.eu for sending the Archos 9 over for testing.

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Eking S515 Detailed Testing Notes.

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The Eking S515 has been with me for about a week now. It was sent over by Mobilx who wanted some feedback on the product. Fine, we said. As long as we can make all feedback public, we’re happy to help. Here’s what we’ve got so far.

Specifications, links, videos, gallery available in the Eking S515 information page.

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Introduction.

The EkS515 reminds us of the Wibrain i1 we had about a year ago. [Article] No, we don’t mean to say that it’s an ugly brickling but in terms of usability and ergonomics for productive UMPCs, it’s up there with the best. The Eking S515 even looks good.

The trick (as we’ve found with multiple Windows-based devices) is to get some form of mouse control under the thumb. The U820, Everun, OQO 02, M704, HTC Shift (information) and even the original Wibrain all had a mouse pad of some sort and it makes a huge difference. Fine control of the mouse for selecting icons, window elements and links becomes much easier. Double-tap to click helps too and if you’ve got the mouse buttons available on the opposite side, it helps with right-click operations.

In terms of getting things done, the S515 is one of the best slider UMPC designs we’ve tested and if you look at any other slider device between 5 and 7” out there you’ll find that it does pretty well on battery life / weight ratio too. 2.5hrs for 450gm is slightly less than the Compal/Agio slider MID offers but remember that this is a 1.2Ghz device with hyperthreading. Noticeably more powerful than the Compal slider.

Build quality is reasonable although we would have problems recommending this for industrial use as screen hinges are always going to be a weak point. Plastics are good and we like the rubberised finish that increases friction on the keys and underside of the device. The Mouse pad area on the right of the screen frame is a shiny low-friction finish.

When closed and held in the hand, the device feels relatively dense although when used with two hands in typical thumb-typing mode, 450gms is an easy weight to use for 30-60 minutes at a time. Strangely, the device feels and looks smaller when in the neoprene case. Magic!

In terms of design then, we’re happy with the Eking. It feels good, works well and looks OK. This isn’t eye candy but it’s a very good productivity design.

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Full gallery available.

Performance.

The Eking S515 uses the new 1.2Ghz hyperthreading Z515 Atom CPU which produces some really good results. Boot-up is relatively quick and navigating around the OS is easy with the mouse system outlined above. Web-sites load quickly and  standard def YouTube works fluidly in both embedded and full-screen mode but we’ve got three big problems to consider.

First, there’s the 800×480 screen. While WVGA on an 4.8” screen isn’t a problem in itself, implementing Microsoft Windows on that resolution is. A default installation with a default Firefox set-up will net you about 50% of the area for web browsing and many programs won’t even install if they check for a minimum resolution. Some notification windows won’t even show the ‘accept’ ‘cancel’ buttons causing a huge roadblock. Tweetdeck is one of those apps. With some tweaking, you can work round these issues. (Here’s one nice tweak that removes annoying notification balloons.)

The second issue is more significant. Slow SSD write speeds (on small block sizes.) This might sound a bit technical so I’ll put it another way. Constant short-term freezes or ‘stuttering.’

The effect was seen on a previous UMPC, the Raon Digital Everun Note, and I’ve heard of the same problem on some netbooks too. The problem occurs when the SSD and SSD-controller combination can’t write multiple small chunks to memory quickly enough. Buffers fill and any program wanting to read/write from the disk simply has to wait. It’s not a problem you see on hard disks and fast SSD’s but when you experience it, you’ll know about it. It reduces performance to frustratingly low levels and limits multi-tasking capabilities drastically.  On the Everun Note it was possible to swap out the SSD but on the Eking there’s no such option.

We’ve been testing an application that might help with the slow flash write problem. FlashFire is a program that promises to speed up low-end SSDs. After installing we have seen a reduction in freezing and can measure improvement using CrystalDiskMark. Longer term testing is needed on this but we’re hoping it reduces the stutter and freezing issues to an acceptable levels. Buffering of data can have disadvantages though so use this at your own risk.

The third major issue to report on is battery life. The slider form-factor is a notoriously difficult design to use if you want to keep battery capacity high so as with all sliders out there, you can’t expect to have a huge battery pack included. Take the original Raon Digital Everun for example. It’s the same size as the Eking S515 and because it doesn’t have a slider keyboard, it has a battery that is over twice the size of the battery in the Eking. The Eking has a 13wh battery and users will struggle to manage with 2.5hrs connected battery life. The device has class-leading efficiency and to put that into perspective, it could run for well over 10 hours if it was connected to a 6-cell battery pack from a netbook but carrying 200gm of battery pack is not the idea here. We just hope that spare batteries are cheap and that the docking station also includes a battery charger. [Note: In a short, uncontrolled standby battery drain test we saw the battery drop by 1% every 5 minutes indicating that even standby mode will leave you with an empty battery if you don't turn it fully off before going to bed.]

Finally on the list of minus-points is the fan. We’ve seen a few Intel Menlow-based devices without fans this year and we’re starting to see high-power ARM solutions that are also fanless so when the fan starts up on the EKing S515 it’s a little surprising. The noise isn’t too bad and the exhaust is tucked nicely away at the rear/top of the device.

Other notes

Keyboard – Focused on thumb typing. The membrane-layer keyboard is not for touch typing but works extremely well for thumb typing. Well-spaced keys with a thumb-focused width work well. We found the space key had a hard spot on the right (exactly where we want to use it) but apart from that the keyboard is good. Missing F11 key (fullscreen) and right Shift key are somewhat annoying but +/- keys are well placed together (for zoom in/out on Firefox) A dedicated Internet Explorer startup button went unused. We hope this is programmable but can’t find the information in the Chinese-language manual.

BT/Wifi – The 3DSP BT/Wifi solution was fast to connect and had very good Wifi reception. We haven’t tested it for efficiency but it’s a USB-connected module so we’re not expecting it to be the most efficient implementation.

Audio speaker – Mono. Loud. Acceptable. Positioned (as is the mic) for phone capability. (If that’s your bag!)

3G module – We installed a Huawei 550 3G (UMTS) card and were able to get up and running with no problems. Our test device had pre-installed antennas.

Camera – The Camera is only VGA resolution but to be honest, higher resolutions rarely result in better quality for video calling. I had some fun today and recorded this video demo. As you can see, Skype video works.

Live Skype Video Test. This is not how you should use it!

Notes. (Continued)

  • Docking station port untested.
  • USB client capability. Untested.
  • Battery life: About 2.5hrs Wifi on. 50% backlight. No remaining battery life indicator in Windows 7 or XP.
  • HID drivers for Tablet PC software. Untested
  • Stylus. Tiny. Akward.
  • Neoprene case. Tight but good.
  • Screen. Matt. Good brightness.
  • Touch. Light-touch.
  • 4-hour standy test saw battery drain drop by 1% every 5 minutes. (50% in 4 hours) which is very poor.

That’s about all we have now. Our overall opinion so far is that while the design is good and productive, there are too many issues for the pro-mobile user to have to deal with and work-round on this device. For the hobbyist and researcher though, the EKing S515 offers a lot of interesting and productive features at an interesting price point.

80 Images of the Eking S515 (AKA PsiXPDA, Z8)

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EkinG S515 Slider UMPC-460pxI’ve just uploaded a bunch of images of the Eking S515 including some comparison shots with other UMPCs and slider devices. It’s interesting to see that the original Everun is exactly that same size as the Eking S515 but provides about double the battery life. The Eking S515 is slightly faster and has a better keyboard but try using it in portrait mode!

I’ve included some screenshot images so that you can see how much information you can get on a 4.8” screen. Remember, higher resolution doesn’t mean more space. The physical size of a font has to be the same on every resolution in order to be readable.

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And here’s my favorite image.

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Full photo set available in the Gallery.

Full information and links for the Eking S515 available in our database.

Thanks to Mobilx for the loan of the review device.

PsiXPDA UMPC Launches in UK, US, Europe.

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Spot the difference. On the top, the Eking S515 available in China and through Mobilx in Europe. On the bottom, the Psixpda (that’s Sye-Ex P-D-A) which has just been launched by Psixpda in England.

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Yup, they’re the same device which is excellent news. Why? It means activity, availability and competition which is great for everyone. Lord knows we need some movement in this market.

Psixpda has been set-up to bring mobile computing to high end users according to Ewan Spence, a partner in the company. We did some work with Ewan on MIDMoves last year where he tested out a number of mobile devices in his ‘elements’ tour. He’s also involved with writing content for All About Symbian and a number of other websites.  One could say that he’s a blogger that has brought a mobile device to the market where others have failed!

I spoke to Ewan earlier about the project and asked him about target markets, numbers, prices and the future and he was very clear to point out that this device isn’t intended to be a huge mass market product. “10′s of thousands” is the target here which, across a market of over 1 billion people, shouldn’t be too hard. It’s not going to be the only PsiXPDA product either. There’s room for more although Ewan wouldn’t comment on anything particular. We guess that they’ll be spending quite a lot of time going round CES and, hopefully, keeping track of UMPCPortal.

The PsiXPDA will be available from next week in Europe with the same specs as we’ve got for the Eking S515. The operating system will be Windows XP (sensible move in our opinion) and there will be an unlocked 3G modem pre-installed. Pricing is set at the 500 UK pounds mark which includes UK taxes. For a device with 3G included, that’s not bad at all. US pricing is not yet set although if you drop the 15% tax off the UK price and convert to dollars, you probably won’t be far off. PsiXPDA are also looking at Linux options.

On the question of categorization, Ewan held back from using the UMPC term preferring to call the device a ‘Pocket computer.’

One other snippet of information we managed to get out of Ewan was that there’s a docking station coming. We were wondering what that port was for on the bottom! They are expecting it soon and apparently it’s a fairly simple affair with 2xUSB and a VGA output. That’s all that’s needed so if it’s well priced it’s a must-have.

Our unboxing of the EKing branded version of the device is here. Full specifications and information on the PsiXPDA website as is the contact point for orders.

Live Podcast and E-King S515 Videocast Today. 2130 CET.

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Sorry about the late notice on this one but we’ve found a slot and we need to jump on it.

At 2100 (CES) tonight (about 4hrs from this posting) we’ll be sitting down to prepare for a Meet:Mobility podcast (broadcast live) followed by (at approx 2230) a live videocast of the E-King S515.

JKKMobile and Sascha will be joining and we’d love you to join too.

See you on the live page later:

View the broadcast time in your location

EKing S515 Tilt/Slider UMPC. Unboxing and Overview.

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If you’re relatively new to the UMPC scene, the name ‘EKing’ probably doesn’t mean much to you. They arrived on the scene to rescue the failing Wibrain brand and took on production of the i1; an ugly but very productive UMPC. In the last year they’ve also been working on new devices and the S515 [specifications] is one of them. We’re not sure who’s manufacturing this as it’s also been spotted as the Digicube Z8. There’s also a hint of Viliv in the packaging and marketing but at the end of the day, it’s a new UMPC and it needs checking out.

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The S515 surprised me when I first unboxed it. The black and rubberised finish, keyboard and build quality are way better than on the silver one I saw at IDF and I was very pleased to to confirm that there is a good quality mouse pad integrated into the frame. Performance with the Windows 7 build was quite impressive too. On the negative side, this is an 800×480 screen (not WSVGA as indicated on the box) which, while near perfect for web browsing and mobile video, becomes a problem when you try to run desktop operating systems on it. A 1024×600 screen would have been better. Lets hope that we can find a nice Linux-based small-screen optimised distribution that works on this Menlow platform because at 50-100 Euros, a Windows XP/7 license is going to be a significant portion of the overall cost of the S515.

[Note: EKing S515 supplied by Mobilx. Check out their web page for latest pricing]

As always, there’s a potential show-stopper. In this case, as with many other device we’ve reviewed, it’s the battery life. Is there still no global agreement that anything under 3 hours is a problem? The 2.5 working battery life of this (as I’m seeing right now) is a figure that many will balk at.

The PC-based architecture of the E-King brings the usual advantages of browser quality/choice, USB support, Windows application compatibility and processing power and for some, this is right at the top of their list. For those people, the Eking is worth looking at.

More information, specifications, gallery and links here. Stay tuned for first impressions and a review.

Eking S515 UMPC available soon / unboxing soon.

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Mobilx have been working hard. Not only have they picked up the UMID and Viliv devices but they’ve just sealed the deal on the E-King S515 tilt/slider UMPC.

It’s the mini tilt/slider form factor that many of us wanted to see when the HTC Shift was around and it’s beaten the similar KAX-15 to the market.

With a similar weight to the UMID M1, one of the lightest UMPCs around, the Eking S515 is one that I really would like to check out further. I’ve had some fingers-on at IDF where it was labeled up as the Digicube Z8. [Hands-on Pics of the Digicube Z8 here] I wasn’t overly thrilled by the build quality and sizing but you’re looking at something that’s powerful and flexible. The 1.2Ghz Atom Z515 CPU will blast through javascript-heavy web-apps like you’ve never seen on your smartphone!

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Mobilx are listing the base (non-3G) version with a 16GB SSD for 478 Euros and with an additional 3G module for 536 Euros. These prices are without operating system. From previous dealings with this device we think it has 512MB RAM which means that you’re limited to XP Home or a special Linux build. It’s such a shame that Moblin 2.1 for handhelds isn’t ready yet as a tailored build of that with support for the touchscreen would have been really interesting. I wonder if someone can slip us a copy of the version we saw running on the Aigo at IDF?

Specifications are a bit sketchy at the moment as we’re seeing sizings of 4.3” and 5.0” and resolutions of WVGA and SWVGA but those specifications will be ironed out in just a few days when Mobilx receive their first sample device. Lucky for us, that sample device will be heading to UMPCPortal where the obligatory live session will be held! Expected early next week.

Thanks to Mobilx for the information. (Now on their website)

UMID Live Q&A. Viliv, Aigo comparison. 2.5hr video.

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img_8803Firstly, let me thank the 380 people that passed through the live session last night. Your interaction and feedback during these live Q&A sessions is invaluable to us and the other listeners so please make sure you drop in on the next one. It wouldn’t be half as much fun without you.

For those that didn’t get to drop in or only had a chance to see a small part of the session, there are two videos available. The first is the full UMID Mbook M1 overview and Q&A and you’ll need a whopping 1.5hrs to watch it through. Still, if the UMID up there at the top of your list and you want to be 100% sure, we cover absolutely everything from creaking plastic to one of the fastest UMPC web experiences ever. The second video goes briefly over the Viliv S5 (The full, 3-hour-long, S5 Q&A session is here) and then JKK and I make comparisons with the Aigio, UMID and EKing UMPCs. All the devices have their merits so it just depends on what you personally want from a UMPC. By the way, it really was a UMPC fest. None of the devices we talked about were Linux based. An interesting point to note.

Also, credit to Ustream.tv We had some problems at the 2000hr start time but once we’d got through an obvious rush on Ustream services, everything went very smoothly. If you have a minute (haha!) pop over and rate the show in the Ustream channel.

Eking i1 (Was Wibrain i1) UMPC Available from Mobilx. Price.

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We mentioned a few weeks ago that the Wibrain i1 was being re-born as the EKing i1 and that some people had ordered via Ebay. [Their first impressions and discussion here.] We also managed to collect comments from a number of people that wanted to order the Eking i1 through a group order. Based on that (we like to think!) Mobilx, the ever UMPC-loving resellers from Hungary have negotiated a shipment and price.

513 Euros (including EU taxes, about 430 Euro for exports) will buy you the i1 with the 1.33Ghz CPU, 1GB RAM, 60Gb drive and the big 5hr+ battery life. Unfortunately the device is without 3G.
Update: Note that the price is excluding Windows XP.

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Having done a lot of testing with the Wibrain prototype version of this I can tell you that not only is the battery life huge but the usability is fantastic. The mouse pad is superb and the keys are slightly improved over the B1 version that Wibrain sold in 2007/8. You’ll have to put up with 500gms of weight, a non-pocketable form factor and, lets be honest, not the most stylish of designs but its excellent value.

Timescales should be 2-4 weeks but keep an eye on the Mobilx info page for more details on that.



Top 10 Ultra Mobile PCs