What a pleasure it was to have a few minutes (well it seemed like a few minutes) to take a look back at UMPCs from 2006-2010 at the Techlounge last week. If you want to know where the roots of the consumer-focused tablet are look no further than the Origami project. Others had done tablets before but Microsoft, Intel, VIA and a few manufacturers and brands did research from 2004 that resulted in the consumer-focused UMPC. While the research was correct (hat tip to Otto Berkes, wherever he is) the results, as products, were too big and lacked adequate software. Hey, It wasn’t until 3 versions of Windows later that it gained an internet-focused ‘share’ option! Perhaps the initial buzz was too much but there was certainly a craving for something out there. Origamiportal, the former name of this site, rose to 1.4 million page views per month until 2010 when Apple launched the iPad and took over the market. Intel never gave up and today we’ve got UMPCs costing just $99.
Sascha and Chippy look back at the UMPCs
Take a look at the video for a fun look back at 2006-2010 and some inside stories.
I’ve just ordered the HP Stream 8 5900ng 8-inch Windows tablet because of an amazing European 3G deal. The HP Stream 8 5900ng includes an unlocked 3G module and comes with 200MB of Europe-roaming data per month for 2 years. You can top-up on a regular or one-off basis. According to information on the HP Germany website, USA is included from the 1st Feb 2015. Is this the ultra-mobile PC deal of the year? My company just paid €149 after entering an offer code and taking into account the sales-tax rebate. Office 365 is also included in the deal. Even without Office 365 this the best 3G-enabled ultra-mobile PC deal I’ve ever seen in Europe.
Anton_nym [url=http://www.computeractive.co.uk/personal-computer-world/news/2157050/via-hold-buying-origami-pc]posted a link[/url] in our [url=http://www.origamiportal.com/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?topic_id=422]forums[/url] to a story on Computeractive.co.uk that is claiming VIA is saying that consumers should hold off on getting a ultra mobile PC becasue the systems were rushed to market.
Colin Brix, the chipset platform group international marketing specialist was quoted as saying, ‘Some of the first models we are seeing are not at their optimum,’ he said.’The technology is there, but for early devices they are really rushed.’
He also claimed that the manufactuers are the ones driving up the cost on the PaceBlade and the TabletKiosk eo, ‘We sell the chips cheaper [than Intel]. Whether [manufacturers] want to save that cost and pass it on to customers â€“ that’s their choice.’
This is a strange comment from the chip manufacturer of the devices, since it seems that it could stop people from buying the VIA based devices. Though I suppose trying to save face when a system makes your chip look bad may also be a good way to play it. (If you don’t want them to use your chip any longer)
Forum member Dmcll just let us know that Best Buy is currently listing the Samsung Q1 as sold out again.
So for those that missed the second batch of Q1s available from the site more will be available soon.
However, all is not lost,
[url=http://www.cdw.com/shop/products/default.aspx?edc=972816]CDW still has them in stock[/url] so you can order it from there instead of waiting for Bestbuy to get them replenished. Read the full story
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Tnnm just [url=http://www.origamiportal.com/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?topic_id=416&forum=1&post_id=2173]posted a link on our forums[/url] about a Samsung Q1 review on [url=http://www.trustedreviews.com/article.aspx?page=6843&head=0]TrustedReviews.com[/url] that had the following quote:
“The ultra mobile PC is being marketed as an alternative to a full size notebook, but when it comes to text entry it’s a far from convenient tool. In fact you’ve probably already read reviews criticising the Q1 for this very point, but I’m not going to do that. You see after meeting with Samsung last week, I walked away in the knowledge that the USB keyboard travel pack will now be bundled with the Q1 at no extra cost.”
That is great if it is real. The added functionality of being able to have a keyboard if you want it without spending the $99 that it is currently being sold for is a welcome improvement. I am hoping the keyboard travel pack includes the carrying case. With both items it would be perfect.
The reviewer also gave the device a nice 7 out of 10 so people definitely are liking this device. Read the full story
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Thank goodness for fathers day! I was able to push everyone aside today and test the Paceblade Easybook P7 out to my hearts content. Which was fortunate because a (very) little package turned up the day before and distracted me somewhat.
More about that next week.
Yesterday I spent a lot of time chatting to various people about the battery life issues. We’ve pretty much exhausted the possibilities of further testing now. I did think about taking the Paceblade apart and doing some infra-red photography but thats going too far! Although there’s the possibility of a firmware issues, I personally think its a hardware problem with the Tablet Kiosk Eo’s. We’ve provided them with a lot of information both through the journals and via direct email contact with people in TK so it’s in their hands now. I look forward to TK’s response on this.
I got a chance to test out DVB-T TV again (it is fathers day!) and unfortunately I found out that the software provided with the MSI Mega Sky USB receiver doesnt take advantage of the VIA MPEG-2 hardware. The DVB-T streams are high-bandwidth MPEG-2 streams (depending on setup, the streams are commonly between 2 and 8Mbps.) and without any hardware decoding support, the CPU has to work very hard to decode them. I’d be interested to hear if anyone has found DVB-T software that can use the VIA Unichrome capabilities because it has the potential to save over 20% of battery power. VIA hardware support is becoming a recurring topic and if it doesnt improve, customers are going to be buying hardware that just doesnt perform as expected.
I was chatting to ‘JKK’, the Finlander that shocked us all with his good Eo battery life on the Origamiproject forums, and we were talking about the design of the Amtek 700 variants. I mentioned the ‘nice’ yellow protective bag that is rather embarassing to use and he told me about his home-made ultra mobile PC case. He’s using a 2-high CD case. What a great idea. I reached over and picked up a CD case I had, pulled the inside out of it and hey-presto! What a fantastic idea. There’s even space left over for your mobile phone. Try it out yourself!
As I reported before, UMPC’s aren’t that thrilling. There’s no new software and certainly no new hardware to impress. It just ‘works’ and after a few days it was working in more places than I had imagined. Families might need two of these!
Barbie.com was the big hit this morning. I had a lovely hour of peace. I guess my daughter enjoyed the flash-loaded experience too! Need for Speed Road Challenge was fun (fathers day again) although it needed the CDROM to be attached while it went through the startup sequence. Its an oldie but a goodie! Linking up the mobile phone and the GPS receiver via bluetooth and running MeHere to show google maps in the car was a good technology test. Loading up Cubase VST was easy and very useable. As I mentioned before, I think musicians are going to love UMPC’s
The sports training software that I wanted to try didn’t load becuase it checks for a 1024×768 screen before installing. I found some other sports software though and had to wear a data recorder on my arm for the afternoon to test it out. It worked and its clear that health studios and personal trainers could gain a big advantage with this computing mobility. (Its also now clear from the data recorder that I need to get even more mobile myself!)
The rest of the time was spent on photography and I’ve got a lot of great photos for the full review coming up over the weekend (if that Sharp Zaurus doesn’t distract me again!) I’ve taken a few videos too and will find somewhere to put those too. Anyone got any tips for video hosting? If not I guess i’ll put them on YouTube.
The 2nd day of testing the Easybook ended with a nice suprise but first let me give my Day 2 opinion.
It started with the realisation that UMPC’s with Windows XP arent anything new in the software department. I think I was expecting some kind of ‘upgrade’ from XP but of course its just like logging into a normal windows PC. Quite boring really. I woke up and read my emails as I usually do. At breakfast I was able to check some RSS feeds which I also usually do with the Pocket PC.
I don’t know why I expected to get more out of a UMPC. I have done enough of research on UMPC’s to know what they are good for and I can tell you exactly why you might need one. Rich browsing, videos, photos, better input capabilities, and all the things that are on my favorite diagram. (below) I’d obviously assumed that having a new form factor would bring something very exciting. What it brings though is not so much excitement but useability and eficiency. Zero learning-curve for user interface and applications. The ability to do desk-based tasks in other places (traffic jams could become productive!) and portability of information, presentations and videos. Peace in the car for the kids (entertainment) and the married couple (navigation.) Commuters are going to finally be able to play games, watch videos and then switch to Outlook when their boss walks into the same carriage. All standing up!
After an hour or two taking photos and videos, I concentrated a bit more on ‘the diagram‘ and tried DVB-T with the MSI mega-sky card. (see pic below) which worked very well. Quite impressive actually. TV and videos are perfect on a 7″ screen. Especially Waynes World which messed up my testing schedule! I tried out some MPEG-4 videos and one of the better quality ones, at 2Mbps, was no problem for the Easybook. Shame there’s no video outputs on board.
Music creators are going to love UMPC’s. Band-in-a-box music software worked well and was a lot of fun playing drums on the screen. The internal midi device is good enough to do composition on and I can imagine Cubase and a few VST software instruments working well. Winamp worked of course and using the Slimserver MP3 streaming software I was easily able to choose and stream tracks from my server into the Easybook.
I’m not that impressed with the looks of the device. It’s a little industrial for my liking. It needs to have some flair if it wants to compete with the Samsung. Pulling a white book out of a yellow protective bag is not want I want to be doing in public either! I’d have to go for the black version. The build quality seems very good and I love the button layout. It works really well. The mouse stick with push-click is a real advantage. The stand, just like the Q1 stand, is low-quality and is not easily collapsable.
‘Ink’ is not my strong point but I gave it a good try. After 30 minutes trying to write, I gave up and went back to the on-screen keyboard which was fine until I wanted to write an email. At that point I plugged a USB keyboard in. This point has been brought up time and time again and I really understand why the mainstream reviewers keep mentioning it. They are mainstream people and representative of the mainstream target market that these devices are being pushed into. Live messaging, detailed emails, quality blogging and document creation are all going to be a problem for most people without the keyboard. Its an engineering challenge to include a keyboard and could push development costs up but I personally think it will be worth it to embrace keyboard users and open up the possibilities for the devices and bringing more justification to the current pricing.
Finally I sat down and started some battery tests. And this is where the suprise came in. The Easybook P7 doesn’t seem to suffer from the same battery problems as the Eo. 2 hours seems to be no problem for the Easybook P7. 3 hours low-screen useage (wifi off) seems highly possible which makes the Easybook a pretty good contender now against the Q1. The VIA chipset can process MPEG-2 in hardware which means you could potentially stream an MPEG-2 film over wifi (try VLC software for that) and get well over 2 hours. Thay will also apply for DVB-T which is streamed in MPEG-2.
In summary then, the Easybook P7 software is XP and you need not worry about compatibility or having to waste time learning a new system. Screen resolution toggling is painless with the hardware button. The hardware itself seems solid and well built. Switchgear is very good especially the mouse button. It gets very warm on charging but not so bad under battery power. Wifi works well. It passed my ‘2-wall test’ but its not in the upper class of Wifi power. Bluetooth with my 3G Nokia 6280 worked very well. The sound quality of the built-in speaker and headphones is pretty bad. Normal headphones work with the device though and that, or external speakers, will be the answer if you need good sound quality.
The device has very clear advantages for people who’s time is money. Its easily worth the money if you want to grab another 10 minutes productivity a day. It has advantages for the family too. As a second PC its perfect for use around the house, car and on holiday. Its not, however going to wow! the twentysomething consumer sector. Style is lacking. Whether Paceblade needs to attend to that at the moment is another matter. ultra mobile PC manufacturers will want to sweep up the early adopters, some high-margin niche markets, wait for better core hardware, and stimulate the aftermarket product manufactureres before it’s re-positioned into mass-markets.
Today i’ll be trying out a few games (an old version of Need for Speed will be first up.) and also trying out some health testing software and hardware. More photos, some MPEG-2 streaming and some more general useage scenarios. Maybe coffee and an Easybook too!
There are times when I start journal entries only for my own benefit. That is, to force my train-of-thought into a slower, more logical process in order to work something out clearly in my head. This is one of those times and it concerns tablet ‘ink.’ Read the full story
For the past couple weeks we have had an IRc channel running at:
the channel name is #origamiportal
Now to make it easier for people to get to the chat room we have added a Java IRC Applet that is accessible by clicking here.
We are currently using the [url=http://www.pjirc.com/main.php]PJirc[/url] client and after clicking on the link it will ask you if you trust the certificate because the application needs to access a network connection to access IRC. If you check the box that says “always trust this cert” the box will stop popping when accessing the page at a later date.
Let us know if there are any issues with the IRC client or if there any suggestions to make it better. Read the full story
According to [url=http://www.forbes.com/markets/feeds/afx/2006/05/22/afx2765176.html]Forbes[/url] Samsung is going to be releasing the first NAND flash-based solid state disk computers in June.
Both the Samsung Q1 and the Q30, a 12.1-inch screen notebook PC systems wil be released with this new type of storage.
The article also states the Samsung Q1 will be released with a DMB TV receiver when it gets the new upgrade.
Samsung says the flash-based solid state disk allows faster booting, greater durability, quieter operation, and increased battery life and read data three times faster and write data 1.5 times quicker. This speed allows Windows XP to boot 25%-50% faster than on a normal hard drive.
Of coure all of this new functionality and quiet data accessing looks to come at a price because the article claims the Q1 is going to now have a price tag of $2,430 which quite a bit higher than it currently is.
So this likely higher higher price will probably drive people from buying this souped up model if the original cheaper model is available for purchase at the same time. (unless they can’t get the cheaper version in Korea)
After a long wait for the Origmi UMPC’s to go on sale in Europe its finally happened. Today I recieved an Easybook P7 from Paceblade for review and testing over the next 3-4 days. Its the first ultra mobile PC to be released in Europe.
The Paceblade P7 (click for specs.) is a version of the Amtek 700 which is also being branded by Tablet Kiosk in the U.S. and UK.
Ignoring the battery issues that we know are being investigated, it impressive! I’m also quite suprised at how small it really is. We’ve seen a lot of pictures but it still feels smaller than I imagined. Its responsive too although somehow, fresh windows installs always seem quick until you’ve installed all the extra software you need.
Screen definition is excelent and i’m impressed at how good the non-native resolutions are (800×600, 1024×600.)
Paceblade have added a full-screen keyboard to the software bundle and this should enable more reliable on-screen typing. The touch screen is ‘palm resistant’ which also means you need to touch it with fingernails or the pen. We’ll be ‘living’ with all the input methods over the next three days to see what the advantages of each are.
The orange mouse pointer is nice to use and as a left-handed writer it works out extremely well to have the mouse going in one hand and writing or pointing in the other.
First reaction from my wife was ‘its not that pretty is it.’ which was followed shortly by ‘wow, its a full PC!” My daughter was rather excited too when I showed her Barbie.com in all its flash-enhanced glory!
Over the next few days I’ll be using it in as many situations as possible from the early morning bedside email check to watching digital TV in the garden via a USB stick. I’ll try it out in the car, boot linux, stream music and videos and take a lot of pictures! I’ll also try and work out what it means to the home user and the business user.