2009 was, again, a tough year for designing, building and selling UMPCs. Windows Vista continued to drag down performance and the economic situation meant that many UMPCs didn’t reach the market. Despite that, the advances we’ve seen in 2009 have been some of the best ever. Performance was boosted with the availability of high-speed SSD drives. Battery life was improved through the use of the Intel Menlow platform and market pressure meant that the price/performance ratio took a huge step forward. In one of our videos this year I talked about ‘double the battery life, for half the price.’ That’s how far we’ve come since 2006 but into that equation go more features like GPS, 3G, haptic feedback, better designs, silent operation and lighter weight. Only last week, Fujitsu launched the UH900 which makes it, if our database serves us correctly, the first 5.6” UMPC to break the 500gm barrier. Amazing.
In this article we would like to highlight four products that we think deserve ‘Best of 2009’ status.
Best UMPC of 2009.
Viliv X70 EX, SSD.
We’ve chosen the Viliv X70 EX SSD because of it’s focus on quality and it’s flexible form factor. Battery life, build quality and disk speed help to make this a solid and reliable device and a good part of an ultra mobile setup that can go from sofa to car to desktop. The SSD helps to make the X70 EX rugged too which is very important. 3G, Car mount, quality casing solution and even voice capability are options if you want them.
Viliv have proven that many of the most important elements for quality ultra-mobile computing can be put into a device at a very reasonable price. A huge step forward.
We also considered.
- Viliv S7. Another very solid and reliable device with amazing battery life. The S7 is focused on ultra-portability though and is best used on a table-top.
- Fujitsu U820/U2010/Loox U. A device from 2008 that is still able to offer excellent all-round UMPC qualities.
Best Mobile Accessory of 2009
This was an easy one. First tipped as accessory of the year in March, it proved itself during the rest of the year. The Novatel Mifi 2352 (GSM/UMTS) version is simple, reliable and performs very well as a bridge between a single 3G data connection and a WifI hotspot that up to 5 devices can ride on. With a built-in web server and router firmware it’s exciting to imagine how this access box could turn into a content delivery platform. We predict many variants and versions of this popping up in 2010.
We also considered:
Stay tuned here and at Carrypad.com for details about how you can WIN A MIFI 2352 over the next week.
Best Mobile Software of 2009
We also considered.
- Amazon Kindle for PC
- PDF Annotator
- Favorite applications from the Wakoopa UMPC team
2009 ‘Showcase’ award.
We simply have to give an award to the Archos 5 Internet Tablet. This isn’t a UMPC, isn’t a 3G-capable mobile internet device and is still in need of a lot of firmware work but the technology, operating system and price are a huge step forward for ARM-based devices. The web experience is good (although far from perfect) and the battery life puts all UMPCs to shame. As for sizing, we’ve never seen so much internet-connected capability is such a small device. The Archos 5 Internet Tablet shows us what could be possible in 2010. Full review here.
Biggest Disappointment of 2009
While deciding this award, the team discussed the Crunchpad/JooJoo. We also wanted to list the ASUS R50A too but the first hasn’t been launched yet and the latter was a 2008 device.
In the end we settled on the Always Innovating Touchbook as the biggest disappointment of 2009.
We first reported about it in May and were excited to see what Linux and an ARM cortex processing engine could bring to the sector. The design, a modular Slate/netbook design was interesting too. We were so excited, we ordered one. Fortunately for us we weren’t part of the early set of customers and after we read the early reports, we withdrew our order. Users reported stability issues in the software and even stability issues in the device itself; it had a tendency to tip. Battery life was unimpressive, the firmware poor and all-in-all, it looked like customers were being asked to pay to join a beta-testing program. The story hasn’t changed much since then. Always Innovating have released a ‘fix’ for the early balance problems; “a small plastic part that customers can glue at the back of the keyboard part” and there have been a number of firmware updates but core hardware updates need to be done before this is a real product that can serve duty in the ‘pro-mobile’ sector.
It highlights a very important point because the Archos 5 and Always Innovating Touchbook are based on similar hardware and software platforms. Specifications are only half the story.
Top Articles of the year.
Here are the most popular articles of the year. Thanks to Ben for two articles that went viral and crashed the server!
Top searches of the year. (from search engines)
- Viliv S5
- Viliv S7
- Asus T101H
- UMID M1
- vgn-p limited edition
Also see the keyword analysis article here.
Predictions for 2010
We’ll be posting a UMPC predictions article very shortly so stay with us.