When the X70 was available for hands-on in CeBIT this year, I wasn’t that interested in checking it out. The UMID, Lluon and S5, S7 were far more interesting for me due to their size and form factor. I also didn’t believe too strongly that the device would get to market. It wasn’t until last week that we entered the X70 EX into the database which shows how far down the list it was. I should have paid more attention because the X70 EX is now available for pre-order and it’s a peach of a ultra mobile PC that highlights how far the segment has come since the Celeron-based UMPCs of 2006.
Fast SSD, GPS, Web cam, sub 700gm weight, great styling, hi-res LED backlit screen, good accessories and a capable platform that’s giving ‘I don’t really bother to measure it’ battery life. And how much is this going to cost? $599. That’s half the price for way, way more features than even the best devices were offering in 2007 or 2008. I’m looking at a price comparison site right now and the (hard drive equipped) Q1 Ultra (3G) is still selling in Germany for the equivalent of about $1400. Forget the Q1 Ultra folks. It’s time to move on.
We met with Viliv in Computex and talked about their roadmap for 2009, the S5, the S7 (still on the roadmap) and they kindly handed over an X70 EX Premium Air (the 32GB SSD and 3G version) for long term testing. This one is ‘98%’ ready so we’ve effectively got a release candidate in our hands here. All the packaging is final and we’ve also got the car kit and the leather case.
Unboxing was a rather careless affair as I stripped the packaging down for the journey home from Taiwan but it’s all good quality and much the same as with the S5. My first five minutes with the device were spent at altitude while others slept around me but again, there were no show stoppers. I was immediately happy with the speed of the device. Fast boot and fast access to apps without any stalling is a good indication of a fast SSD.
If you’ve followed reports of the Viliv S5 you’ll know that everyone is happy with the build quality. They use strong but stylish plastics, good design and have a high production quality. The same is true of the X70 which is slim and robust. From me it also gets the award for the best ever backside!
Ergonomics and balance are good although I do have to highlight that it suffers a little from Kindle disease. The buttons on the left and right parts of the frame are all too easy to press when you’re holding the device in one hand. Fortunately there’s enough unused frame space to get round the problem but it takes a few days use before you adjust your the holding position.
Viliv have recessed the ports into the side of the device which creates a nice lip for holding it. You’ll find a single USB 2.0 port (that could be an issue for some,) a video breakout port (the same as found on the S5. VGA, component and S-Video out) an SD card slot, reset button, power port and a mini USB port. On the top you’ve got a headphone output, power and lock slider, indicators for Wi-Fi, disk and power, an antenna (connected to the 3G antenna on the 3G versions) and a an extending stylus.
Across the front fascia (clockwise from top-left) you have a cursor joystick, webcam (1.3mp) A, B and C buttons, on the bottom left there’s an external mic (many people missed this from the S5) the on-screen keyboard button, FN button and Menu button.
The cursor joystick is probably the only thing I would highlight on the X70 as a let-down. It’s tough to move and has a smooth surface making it even more difficult. We hope that this is the last 2% that needs to be fixed on the X70 and we’ve already given Viliv feedback on it. Ideally it needs to be a mouse pointer but if it remains a cursor control, it needs to be easier to use. The A button is mapped to left-mouse button, the B button is mapped to right mouse button, the C button is mapped to the ‘Copyright’ symbol (which initially brought up the Viliv video player software but doesn’t do so anymore) The FN button changes the A and B button into a volume control and the Menu button converts the A and B button into a backlight brightness control.
Moving on to the insides of the device before we get into performance testing then, I’m happy to report that it’s another good, efficient Menlow build. There’s no noticeable performance difference between this and the S5 that we tested. Windows XP Home with 1GB of RAM on the 1.33Ghz Z520 CPU with a fast SSD is almost the perfect combination for a mobile computer. Here are the full specifications:
Model name: X70 EX Premium Air
- CPU type: Intel Atom (Silverthorne)
- CPU speed: Z520, 1.33Ghz
- Graphics: Intel GMA 500
- OS: Windows XP Home
- Display Size: 7″ 1024 X 600
- Display Type: Soft (Finger) Touch
- RAM: 1024 MB
- Storage: 32GB SSD
- Battery capacity: 29 (Wh)
- Weight: 660g
- Size (w/h/d mm): 210/117/23 mm
Ports and features:
- Video-out (analogue, component, S-Video, VGA, requires adaptor cables sold seperately)
- SD card slot
- Mini USB 2.0 (for data transfer)
- Internal 3G (Huawei EM770, HSPA/UMTS 850/1900/2100MHz, HSUPA: 5.76Mbps (UL) / HSDPA: 7.2Mbps (DL))
- 3G and SMS software
- Additional Specs and Accessories (can vary)
- WebCam 1.3mp
- GPS (Sirf III)
- Stereo speakers
- Built in Microphone
The Premium Air model is the top of the range of three versions that start with the ‘Express’ model that has a 16GB SSD and doesnt include the 3G module. The mid-range ‘Premium’ version increases the SSD size to 32GB. More details on the different specifications are available here.
Introduction Video from JKKMobile.
JKKMobile is also testing the Viliv X70 Premium Air. We’re going to be running a live session with Q&A on the 11th June at 2100 CEST but here’s his introduction video. We recommend viewing it.
The screen is a light-touch screen with a glossy finish which provides the best characteristics for scrolling around Firefox with the must-have ‘grab and drag’ plugin but it’s not optimal for handwriting or annotations and the glossy screen isn’t the best for outdoor use. Brightness isn’t as high as on the Kohjinsha SC3 (which I regard as one of the brightest screens on any UMPC) but it’s good. About the same as the Viliv S5. Note that the brightness and glossiness aren’t perfect for outdoor or in-car use and running the 7 inch screen at full brightness will drain the battery quicker than on the 4.8 inch Viliv S5. It is possible to use the X70 in a car and the advantages of the large screen should outweigh the disadvantages of the glossy finish. Anti-glare screen protectors and high-contrast colour schemes can also help along with careful positioning of the unit inside a car. Viliv provide a screen filter as an optional accessory.
Viewing angle in the horizontal plane is good from both sides. It’s viewable from below too but there’s some drop-off in clarity and brightness when viewed from above and below.
On screen keyboard and haptics.
The on screen keyboard is well thought out. It’s activated using the dedicated button (bottom left on the frame) and also uses haptic feedback. As with the S5, there’s no word completion though and numerics are hidden under a ‘Mode’ button. Function keys are missing too. The X70 also has the same focus issue as the S5. Some applications push themselves (and their notifications) in front of the keyboard. You can see that in the video below.
CubeUI (as per Viliv S5)
The CubeUI software is an interesting application. At first it felt like a fun addition to the package but after a while we found ourselves turning it off in favour of the standard, and often quicker, XP desktop. We see where it could be useful though. It can house over 100 applications, shortcuts or bookmarks, includes an easy way to control BT and Wifi, a nice calendar and weather application and is easy to push into the background if you need to access raw XP.
FastWeb Browser (not included in our version but likely to be in the final software build)
FastWeb is a touch-friendly browser which we believe is based on uZard by Logicplant. The UI is simple and easy to use but the browser itself is slow. The reason is that Viliv have implemented a proxy server, in Korea (fastweb.myviliv.com port 7999.) For users in Korea this is obviously going to be a fast and efficient solution but outside Korea, its not. From our location in Germany, traffic was router over Amsterdam, New York, San Francisco and out through a series of routers in Asia resulting in 0.5 second round trip times. Apart from the potential privacy issues, its slow. Not recommended.
- I-Viliv update manager: No updates were found through this but we assume it will provide easy access to Viliv software updates.
- Viliv Manager: A simple application for controlling Wifi, Bluetooth, 3G, screen brightness, vibration and enabling CubeUI to start on Windows boot. Most of these options are duplicated in CubeUI itself.
- Music studio: A simple music player. Some controls appear in Korean and the application doesn’t run in full screen. A basic application.
- Viliv Player: Plays back video and, where possible, enables hardware decoding. See below.
We’ve tested the Menlow platform extensively on 4 different PCs now and we’re extremely happy with it’s balance of performance and efficiency for mobile usage. We pages load promptly and media playback works well. As a synthetic test, we ran CrystalMark:
CrystalMark test results
CPU, GPU and Memory scores are all on par with other 1.3Ghz devices we’ve tested but you can see the exceptional SSD speed results in the second set of results. (right hand side.) The lowest line of results, a 4KB read and write test, is important. The 1.192 figure is slightly lower than expected but certainly not critically bad.
The Viliv X70 includes the Intel US15W chipset which uses the GMA500 GPU and video decoding hardware for H.264, WMV, MPEG4 and MPEG2. Out of the box, Windows XP isn’t set up to use this hardware so video decoding results with Windows Media Player aren’t as good as they could be. Viliv have worked round this problem and enhanced the video playback performance by including a video playback application called Viliv Player. It’s a simple video player but a useful one as it enables some high performance playback using the build in hardware decoding. Not only does this improve the performance, it saves battery life by keeping the CPU usage down. Results were the same as we’ve tested on the Viliv S5. For example, when playing a 4mbps 720Ã—400 DivX, the CPU level was at about 30%. A 1280Ã—720 H.264 file (at 3.5Mbps with AC3 audio and subtitles in a Matroska envelope) played perfectly with just 25% CPU utilisation. There appears to be some acceleration of WMV files too but this doesn’t seem to be as good. A 6.5Mbps file we played started stuttering after about 20 seconds. In general though, the media player performance is very good and the colours, sharpness and contrast are exceptional and the experience on the 7 inch screen is one of the best we’ve seen.
[Note: Video playback results will vary with different files, filters, drivers and playback software]
As for inline flash video, the normal quality YouTube videos work well in both windowed and fullscreen modes. HQ videos are smooth in windowed mode but we’re seeing better results than on the S5 in full screen HQ mode. Certainly this XBox promo video plays smoothly and impressively. The 1.3Ghz CPU is not powerful enough to show HD quality YouTube videos despite these being in H.264. The flash player does not link with the Intel hardware to enable hardware decoding. [Tip: YouTube HD videos can be downloaded with the help of 3rd party software and then played offline from the disk outside the flash environment. ]
Audio quality from the Viliv X70 is excellent in comparison to other UMPCs. The speakers are loud and clear. Better than the S5 although some background hiss was present. The audio output is very clean though and easily usable as a HiFi source. The Bluetooth stack is capable of A2DP too so there are good options for listening to audio tracks.
Web Camera Performance
The WebCam is reasonable quality and is driven by the Cyberlink YouCam software (which provides a virtual webcam interface to other software and allows the user to insert overlays and effects and includes recording and snapshot capabilities) and works extremely well with Skype. In a test between the X70 and the Gigabyte Touchnote that I have, the quality, framerate and colour was very good. The Cyberlink live effects are fun to play with too. The offset webcam position is the only issue to note.
Heat and noise.
Viliv have designed the X70 without fan which results in silent operation. There is some warmth after prolonged use and the metal mount point can get very hot indeed. We’re surprised that the bigger form factor appears to generate more heat than the Viliv S5 under load. We would not recommend leaving this device in the case, in a bag while under any medium to high load. If you are going to leave it on in a bag or case, ensure that the screen is off and that the device is set to power-save mode.
We have seen two instances where the X70 has failed to go into standby. This might be related to 3G activity but we can not be sure. A forced power-off resulted in a (successful) disk check on reboot. In normal usage we haven’t seen any crashes or ‘blue screens.’
Boot-up, standby, hibernate speeds
Boot-up from cold is very quick at about 30 seconds from power-on to being able to use the Windows XP start menu. Standby (return) takes about 5 seconds. Viliv claim a standby time of 150hrs. We have not tested this.
Due to the small disk size, fast cold boot and long standby times, we recommend that hibernation is turned off to save disk space.
As with the S5, Viliv don’t seem to have completely implemented battery information status into XP. All you get is a battery % indicator without the estimated remaining battery time. Users are used to seeing estimated battery life on XP so this is a noticeable shortfall on the X70. [Update: We are in contact with Viliv on this issue and it may be resolved in the final build. We will update this report when we get info.]
We tested the X70 EX with Battery Eater and the X70 was able to run this test, a full-load GPU, CPU and disk test with Wifi on and a screen brightness of 50% for 5 hours. Based on this we expect the X70 EX to return around 6 hours of Wifi-on browsing, over 10 hours of MP3 playback and about 5-6 hours of video playback. The X70 EX is the most energy efficient 7 inch PC we’ve ever tested.
A SirfStarIII GPS chipset is included and as with the S5, we had some initial problems getting it to work. A ‘GPSSwitch’ application is included and this is supposed to toggle the baud rate of the COM2 port between 4800 and 9600 helping programs to attach to the GPS but the program failed with an error and our simple iPoki client couldn’t get any figures from the GPS. Once we had downloaded VisualGPS (recommended for testing GPS on windows) and monitored the port (COM 2 at 9600bps) until it had a lock, the ipoki client worked. Once a lock was established, the unit was able to retain a signal in the middle of a house on the first floor which is a good result.
- Firefox3, Tweetdeck and Twhirl all tested perfectly as expected.
- Skype V220.127.116.11 works well. Built in mic and camera are good. No echo issues. Sound quality good.
- YouTube – works well All normal quality YouTube videos tested well in windowed and full-screen mode. All HQ videos tested worked in windowed mode. Many worked perfectly in full-screen mode too.
- ITunes works smoothly. Including 3D cover flow effects.
- Other software tested: Ipoki plugin with built-in GPS.
In general we don’t expect any software compatibility issues. The CPU and GPU define the limits of this device. We don’t recommend it for heavy 3D work. (Gaming)
Firefox load times.
- Firefox application startup time: 3.5 seconds
Page load examples (full script and flash support over Wifi.)
- UMPCPortal: 10 seconds
- Google News: 2 seconds
- CNN.com 7 seconds
- Facebook 3 seconds to login screen
- uk.yahoo.com: 3 seconds
- Techmeme: 6 seconds
- Gmail (full version): 7 seconds
- Google Reader (1000+ items): 4 seconds
Overall, page loading times were extremely fast and in some cases, matched desktop speeds indicating that the X70 EX is capable of processing web data as fast as web servers can serve it.
We haven’t tested any games with the X70 and due to the relatively poor 3D performance figures, wouldn’t recommend this for modern gaming.
Bluetooth quality was not extensively tested. The system uses BlueSoleil version 5.4.256 which, in our opinion based on a number of devices running the same stack, is stable and easy to use.
We had no problems at all with Wifi configuration or reception. Reception appears to be slightly better than average for UMPCs. The Marvell sd8686 only supports B and G modes.
The HSPA modem provides support for the latest UMTS standards and we were able to get good results from a local cell with downloads of 1.5mbps and uploads to 800kbps (proving that it supports high-speed upload.) However, reception drops off fairly rapidly. In an underground cellar test, the X70 EX was unable to get any signal. Only a few devices that we’ve tested have passed this test though so it’s an extreme case. In normal use, the reception seemed perfectly acceptable.
According to Viliv, the extendable antenna helps with edge-of-cell use but we were unable to detect any change in reception quality of transfer speeds.
The pre-installed software, ‘Mobile Partner’ v 11.3 from Huawei is good and provides a nice set of usage statistics. SMS’s can be sent and received easily through this interface too.
USB transfer capability.
The mini-usb portcan be used for direct transfer of data to another Windows-based (or Apple-based, we understand) PC as it contains built in USB transfer hardware and memory that contains transfer software. The feature is the same as you get with USB transfer cables and provides a very fast way to transfer data. The video below demonstrates this feature.
The accessory pack provided was of very high quality. The leather case is well made with a plastic key that locates into a keyhole on the back of the X70. The mount is easy to use (see animation below) and seems very strong. A stylus is also included in the case.
The car mount better and stronger than the one we tested with the Viliv S5. Again, it uses the mount point on the rear of the X70 and provides a strong, tidy fitting.
Click to enlarge images. Full gallery available here.
The car kit comprises a two-part suction mount. It holds well and adjusted in two directions. Also included in the car kit is a 12V adaptor. Not shown in the photos
Who’s the target customer?
The X70 hits at the heart of the do-it-all ultra mobile PC territory. Here’s a selection of usage models.
- Table top use as a PC with a USB keyboard
- Sofa-surfing / Bed surfing
- Multi-format ebook reading (We estimate 6-7 hours at medium screen brightness. The screen is not for outdoor reading)
- Fast 3G Mobile internet access. (One of the best solutions we’ve tested.)
- Portable 3G/Wifi router (4-6 hours constant use)
- Stand-up use with the on-screen keyboard
- High-end personal media playback (and portable PVR â€“ just add a DVB-T stick in Europe. We are planning to test Windows 7 media center on the X70 in the near future)
- High quality in car navigation / Car PC / Car audio component. StreetDeck looks fantastic on this.
- Portable Skype video conferencing tool. The quality of the cam and audio are very good.
- Grab and go desktop device.
- Digital imaging preview and modification. (The CPU isn’t powerful enough for fast efficient viewing and editing of RAW images.)
- Professional mapping applications
- High-efficiency computing. This is one of the most efficient 7 inch screen PCs we’ve ever tested.
- High definition presentations to 720p/1080p displays via component outputs
- Secondary display / processing unit for the desktop. (See Synergy keyboard and mouse sharing application)
A hardware keyboard would increase the number of usage scenarios but it would increase the cost and decrease the mobility somewhat.
The Viliv X70 doesn’t work well as a traditional tabletPC. The resistive touchscreen is not palm resistant and you’ll have to find a copy of Windows XPTE (or maybe Windows 7, untested Testing notes here.) to load onto it to get a chance to use the tablet input panel. Even then, we’re not sure if the touch drivers are TabletPC compatible.
High quality. Great battery life. Excellent build. Class leading portability. Fast, high quality web browsing. High-end video quality and a good range of accessories is exactly what we said about the Viliv S5 but it applies to the X70 EX too. With the X70 you sacrifice some portability for an improved user experience, SD card slot, web cam and built-in mic and in our opinion the X70 EX is a better tablet-style solution than the S5 unless you need the smallest form factor possible. It covers more usage scenarios with an easier user experience.
It has to be said that, as with most UMPCs, the target market is scattered across a number of niche and early-adopter markets and doesn’t fit into the the traditional smartphone/laptop, 2-device combination but for pro-mobile users, people wanting the fastest and richest mobile internet experience in the smallest 7 inch screen package, there really is no comparison. The Q1 Ultra Premium or Q1 Ultra 3G is definitely a competitor but the Viliv X70 EX introduces great value for money on top of everything that the Q1 U series can do and in the case of the Premium Air model we have here, earns the title of the best 7 inch Tablet ultra mobile PC we’ve ever tested.
Pricing and availability
Entry-level (recommended) pricing for the Viliv X70 Express (16GB with 1.2Gh/800Mhz CPU) has been set at $599. For the Premium model with 32GB SSD and the 1.33Ghz processor Viliv are recommending a $729 price point and if you want to add 3G on top of those specs, the Premium Air version will cost $879. These are recommended prices. Update: Dynamism will be selling the X70 EX at the prices shown here.
Availability is initially through Dynamism.com and we are expecting their prices to be available soon after this review has been posted. Viliv expect the X70 EX to be available through other channels in other countries at a later date. The X70 EX is expected to officially launch within the next few weeks but we don’t know when the first shipment is expected. Again, keep an eye on Dynamism for that.
Many thanks to Viliv for the long-term loan of the X70EX and for being available for questions and feedback.