Long-Term Update and Review Round-up: UMID BZ UMPC

Updated on 10 June 2018 by

UMID and handLong story short, the UMID BZ [details and specifications] is a superb bit of kit and one of the best UMPCs that I have ever tested. Here’s the long story…

For those of you that aren’t familiar with UMID , the BZ is the updated version of the UMID MBook M1 which was, by most reports, the smallest laptop in the world. It’s actually more of a palmtop PC than laptop and at 363gm, the newer BZ is only a tiny bit heavier. This is a true pocketable PC. For the specifications and the links to previous news articles from around the ‘net, check out the UMID Bz information page where you’ll see that the UMID runs on an Intel Atom 1.2Ghz CPU and has a great set of specifications including touchscreen, full USB port, VGA out, MicroSD, WiFi, Bluetooth and more.

The UMID BZ first surfaced back in Sept 2009 where I had a great chance for hands on and a video or two but it wasn’t until CES that the final production samples were being shown around. I picked a sample up from UMID on the 5th of Jan and enjoyed it until the battery ran out. Two weeks later I finally got hold of a charger and full coverage commenced…

During the last 6 weeks the UMID has become a must-grab device for me and has displaced the Fujitsu U820 and Archos 5 for the most part. Those two devices still fit into a few scenarios but the way I’m using the UMID makes it clear to me that it’s a better fit overall. The BZ offers a really good balance between reliability, productivity, processing power, pocketablility and battery life.

UMID BZ details, pricing, specifications, gallery, videos and lots more….

I’ve highlighted most of the important issues, both positive and negative, in the video below but I just want to re-iterate the battery life issue. Not only does the UMID last between 4 and 5 hours when in use, it has great standby battery life,  negligible off and hibernation leakage, a standby and hibernation mode that you can trust but it’s able to serve very well as an always-connected device. The trick here is that UMID doesn’t just turn off the backlight when the device is closed, it actually disconnects the screen completely and in my tests I was seeing a drain of around 2.5W which means is will stay connected to WiFi running a few background apps (a twitter client and GTalk in this case) for well over 6 hours, maybe even 7. The UMID engineers deserve a pat on the back!

Update: In a test, I ran the UMID for 2 hours doing light Wifi Web work with a few apps in the background. It used 36% of the battery in 2 hours. I then turned off Wifi, closed the device and left it on until it ran out of battery. It took another 6 hours!

There are no showstoppers on the UMID at all but if you want to get picky, yes, there are things that could be improved. The plastics around the screen are cheap for example. The mouse buttons are not that easy to press and the optical mouse on this (production sample) seems to be more sensitive than it should be and there’s that occasional blocking as the SSD struggles to keep up in heavy multitasking scenarios. I’d also love to see 3G included but the UMID is working out well as a general substitute unless I need to go the whole day with 3G.

Threat from the Viliv N5?

This is the big question for anyone considering the UMID BZ. Will the Viliv N5 be a better UMPC? It certainly looks good, feels good, has a better keyboard and has that confidence-inspiring Viliv brand but it looks like there’s still a few months to go for the Viliv N5 yet and of course, we don’t know how much the N5 will cost. All I can say is that whatever Viliv do with the N5, there really can’t be much that separates it from the UMID BZ. The UMID BZ will remain a great choice whatever happens.

Feel free to ask questions in the comments below. I promise to answer any questions posted in the next 7 days. You might want to check out the UMID forum too where there are a few UMID owners hanging around that can also answer questions.

UMID BZ supplied on long-term loan by UMID. Many thanks for their support.

59 Comments For This Post

  1. UMPCPortal says:

    New article: Long-Term Update and Review Round-up: UMID BZ UMPC http://bit.ly/9cRqbD

  2. Gadgets Informatory says:

    Long-Term Update and Review Round-up: UMID BZ UMPC http://goo.gl/fb/u6yX http://j.mp/findmore

  3. Steve 'Chippy' Paine says:

    RT @umpcportal: Long-Term Update and Review Round-up: UMID BZ UMPC http://bit.ly/9cRqbD < Me Likey!

  4. Alessandro Tucci says:

    RT @umpcportal: New article: Long-Term Update and Review Round-up: UMID BZ UMPC http://bit.ly/9cRqbD

  5. Another guy says:

    Why dont we have a 3G version on the UMID BZ? It makes no sense to me to release a FANTASTIC UMPC without sporting 3G connectivity :(

  6. Chippy says:

    The design includes 3G capability but this model doesnt have it.

    I think, like many, they design with carriers in mind. If there’s a big order for 3G, they’ll put it through production. If not, we’re stuck with basic version.

  7. tmarks11 says:

    Wasn’t there talk of a model above the “entry level” version, which has more memory and a faster CPU? 512 MB of memory seems a little lightweight.

  8. Chippy says:

    Yes. They were talking about it. I’m trying to get an update on it but as yet, no further info.

  9. Timmy says:

    Whichever company comes out with a hand held PC with a CPU greater than 1.33 GHz and more than 512 MB RAM first will be the one I’ll buy.

  10. tal says:

    GPS?

  11. Chippy says:

    No GPS. Sorry

  12. Tal says:

    So probably the plus in waiting for the N5.

  13. Casper says:

    @Chippy
    Does the BZ come with the function to dis-connect the screen when closing the lid as standard, or is it something you have changed with the settings of the device?

  14. Chippy says:

    This is standard with the UMID BZ

  15. Ragnorok says:

    – I had to change the power profile on mind, out of the box, to get it to auto-Standby when the screen is closed. Works fine once that is done, but perhaps they’re shipping them differently now. I ordered mine during CES when Dynamism ran a $50 off pre-order sale.

  16. Robert says:

    How does video viewing look at 720p or higher.

    Can the BZ stream HD video without loosing frame rate?

    Regards Robert

  17. Comilita says:

    I was looking for a portable multimedia device. I tried the PSP 3000 and then the Nokia N810. Both were nice, but each had drawbacks. I decided the look for a device that does it all- mp3, video (in many formats), video streaming, ereader- everything I could need.

    I bought the UMID mbook BZ and put it through my own test. I tried all of the video formats that I use (downloaded KMPlayer) and it works very nicely. The streaming on Netflix is about 90% of what I get on my laptop in terms of losing frame rate. A bit less on Amazon video steaming. The picture quality is excellent. Youtube works great. The earbuds that the BZ came with are not that good. But, you can easily replace them with a good pair. For listening to lectures, or music in mp3, again very nice device.

    Also a plus for me is that it uses XP- I am familiar with it and comfortable enough with modifying it to make icons, and text larger, for example.

    Hope this helps,
    Comilita

  18. alkarl says:

    i am impressed with battery capcity.
    imo 512 Mb in RAM, aside from heavy multitasking, is enough.
    i recall using for long period a celeron 465mhz with 192 ram running XP and i can tell you that with specific cpu friendly applications you can do wathever you want.
    talking about the bottleneck effect i don’t think that GMA500 would be the culprit but instead it would be the CPU.

    what brand and model is the SSD (firmware)?
    would it be possible to manually change the SSD for something bigger??
    what about latest flash update for gma500 ?
    would a usb 3g drain more energy than a built in 3G ?
    is the touchpad recognised as standard HID device?
    is the the z515 using the ondemand overclocking?
    dual boot possible?
    no stylus?

    Thanks.

  19. Toby says:

    Looking forward to Viliv sending you the N5 to review when it’s finally ready!

  20. Joshua says:

    The main things more appealing about the N5 are really form factor issues. The N5 is uniformly under an inch thick, whereas the BZ tapers to almost 2 in. at the thick end. N5 is much more pocketable. Plus Win7, plus more configuration options make it with waiting for for me. The placement of the optical mouse and buttons is also much less awkward. I think a $100 price premium for the N5 would be well worth it. Any more than that, I’d reconsider the BZ.

    Still curious to see a video of Skype video calling on the HZ. Curiously, no one has made on yet.

  21. tmarks11 says:

    BZ is 2″ thick? Are you sure? Chippy’s spreadsheet gives it a 1.2″ thickness?

    Chippy?

    Can’t wait for a head-to-head comparison of N5 to BZ.

  22. Joshua says:

    Sorry. Dynamism did have it listed as tapering to 1.7″, but now it’s updated to 1.29″. Still, almost a third of an inch makes a difference, where the spec sheet given by Viliv for the N5 states a uniform .98″. My stance right now, if the Umid BZ is a great machine, which I don’t doubt it is, the N5 will be simply wonderful. I guess it all depends on pricing. Viliv let us down on that with the S10, but if the N5 has a premium over the S5 of less than $100 it’ll still be worth it in my opinion. But if the Viliv guys at CES say the lowest model pricing will be $399, then I can see decent models being in the ~$650 – $750 range, which is still not bad considering, IMHO.

  23. Chippy says:

    With rubber feet offset – 1.5″

  24. Jackynews says:

    Are you sure they have these difference?

    As I know, N5 may thicker than BZ, at least the same, but it seem thinker as you can see the battery at the bottom of N5. And N5 is 2cm longer than BZ, you can easily see it in the video. So N5 should be heavier than BZ.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsyfsHnfSrk&feature=related
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOtA2eN4le0

    H Chippy, you saw both of them, what do you think?

  25. tchernev says:

    Chippy,
    Do you have pagefile disabled on your BZ?
    Thanks!

  26. Timmy says:

    Hopefully he doesn’t because disabling the pagefile is one of those stupid recommendations self proclaimed Windows experts spouts off without fully understanding how virtual memory is handled in Windows.

  27. tchernev says:

    Timmy,
    I am definitely not an expert. I have read that for an SSD paging can lead to faster death, and on the BZ you can’t replace the SSD (at least that was my impression). In addition, I have read that the GMA500 driver alone takes almost 200MB of the 512MB memory. Am I to understand from your comment that under these conditions paging is not likely to occur to a degree that endangers the health of the SSD? Could you elaborate more on how XP would handle paging in these circumstances? This is information that will be very useful for me as I am considering whether I should buy the BZ. Thanks.

  28. Ragnorok says:

    – If the GMA driver is represented by “igfxsrvc.exe” then it’s only taking 2.7MBytes, according to Process Explorer. DLL list shows that service and a tray executable that belong to Intel, the rest look like normal OS system things. Tray takes 3.7Mbytes.

    – My pagefile is on, but I was thinking of making it smaller. The SSD is pretty slow so I’d almost rather learn where the memory runs out than have it use that with any frequency.

  29. Chippy says:

    No. Pagefile is on.

  30. Bluefin says:

    I’m using thepot player in my Mbook Bz. It’s kind of launcher with multimedia player. I think it’s optimized in UMPC. Quite nice. Trial version can be downloaded.
    have a look http://www.thepotplayer.com

  31. Atom Gadgets says:

    #IntelAtom based UMID BZ — review by @chippy http://bit.ly/bWmuYI

  32. jameskol says:

    umid bz sucks for playing videos unfortunately.

  33. Chippy says:

    It depends what you want! It suck for youtube higher than HQ but it’s possible to get this to play 720p in many formats from the disk.

  34. Jackynews says:

    for 1080p, try install pure codec, , it decode 1080p with 2X % CPU and go to “pure codec setting” set “decode mode:” to “play mode – hdtv power dxva

    In fact, don’t play the video on external output, just play the 1080p on the UMID screen, it is smooth…

  35. Duncken says:

    1.What do you think about the location of the optical mouse of BZ compared to N5?
    2.What do you think about the keyboard of BZ and N5 for thumbtyping, N5 wider but with right shift key. For me, the best thumbtyping keyboard is treo 650.

  36. Chippy says:

    N5 optical mouse location is better. The mouse button locations are better too.

    Neither the N5 or BZ is perfect for thumbing. N5 feels better but I need to test over long term as it’s wider.

  37. komoornik says:

    What are the actual SSD speeds?

  38. Chippy says:

    See here.
    http://www.umpcportal.com/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?topic_id=7071

  39. komoornik says:

    The problem is i’m asking about Umid mBook BZ, not the Viliv S10 :)

  40. Tal says:

    Do we even know the estimation for the release of the N5 at this point?
    Mid year – like July? or end of year – like holidays?

  41. Chippy says:

    Late May is my estimation but no word has been given.

  42. scoobie says:

    I thought the N5 was meant to be out in march wasn’t it?

  43. the guy says:

    I guess there were delays like always. It’s just how it is with design and production. No one can perfectly estimate timeframes. There are always unexpected things even decades of experience can’t predict.

  44. Ragnorok says:

    – This is why I got a BZ. Impatient! (grin)

  45. timelock says:

    hi, watched your test using the stuff for mobile video streaming. i`m working on a same solution with the U820 and can recommend two special software solutions.
    with “desktop lock pro” you can lock touch screen and keyboard function without freezing the screen via programm button. for me this is very important cause i will not stop my streamings by mistake.
    second software is “control runner” as one of the best programm launcher.
    not so sexy look like in other solutions but with real great features for devices with small touch screens(automatic hiding of the normal desktop, big scalable keys, drag and drop programming,auto minimize of the laucher and autostart with one key or a special mouse gesture…). both software have downloads for free testversions. check it out. if i finished my setup i will post a little video from it.

  46. Chippy says:

    Thanks so much for those tips. Will check out control runner for sure.

  47. Jose says:

    I bought the UMID BZ. My gripes:

    Weak WiFi adapter.
    Keyboard keys too sensitive.
    Deep mouse hole.
    Mouse buttons not spread enough.
    Included stylus useless and cannot pinpoint.
    Bad battery life for casual PC use.
    Cheap silver screen bezel.
    Mono speaker.
    You have to hold down Alt and Fn keys for a “?” mark each time.
    There could have been some gamepad style L and R shoulder buttons installed
    as programmable hot keys such as page up or down.
    Slow response time from flash heavy websites, limit yourself to just that one window open so you dont overload memory.

    That is all.

  48. komoornik says:

    so you basically put all disadvantages

    mbook bz doesn’t have any advantages ? :)

  49. Chippy says:

    Bad battery life? This has one of the best battery life’s of any sub 500gm UMPC.
    Haven’t noticed any weak Wifi issues. Reception may be ‘average’ but not weak IMO.
    There is no stylus (or did you get one in the box?)
    Mono speaker is mono, but good mono!
    Yes, you wil have to be careful with flash heavy web sites.
    Yes, there’s a learning curve for the keyboard. ? is difficult.

  50. Ragnorok says:

    – I’m with Chippy. Battery life is stellar considering what’s packed into this thing.

    Pros:
    1. Specs. The CPU is HT, even. The N5 may be better, but today, right now, the N5 is as good as vaporware. The BZ is in my hands. Computing is a moving target … if I waited for the N5 by then something better would be on the horizon to entice me. The present is all that matters, far as I’m concerned.

    2. It’s a real computer. Not a stripped down embedded-processor thing that requires ported software. If it runs on your laptop, or your desktop, it’ll run on the BZ. Slower, certainly, but that’s amazing.

    3. Full travel keyboard. I haven’t noticed them being “too sensitive” at all. When you press them, they register. And they *press*. I’ve missed that since I retired my Psion 5mx.

    4. Battery life. I didn’t plug it in correctly and did a backup and verify, which took hours and hour and hours. It didn’t die in the middle. (happy smile) Beautimous! Sure I plug it in every day, where I charged my old Zaurus once every three weeks, but look at the performance difference! My laptop won’t run as long on a charge as the BZ does.

    5. The “stylus” it comes with is not what you expect, it’s a flat plastic plate angled to a point on one end, but it works perfectly well, including pinpoint. I have *no* trouble with it in the slightest, and it’s very non-bulky. I was taken aback when I first saw it, but now I think it’s a stroke of genius.

    Cons:

    1. Mouse buttons are not only hard to hit, and the optical mouse more than a little sensative, but every time I switch users they stop working entirely. (pout) I have reboot to get it back.

    2. The included stylus goes on a lanyard. I wish it had a slot to hide it inside the BZ like about every other device does.

    3. 1024×800 at 4.8″ produces much tinier text than one might think. Most software can change the font size, but a lot of OSS doesn’t seem to be able to, so you’re stuck with miniscule words.

    4. I notice a *lot* of delays accessing the SSD. Last night I did my first full update and it took over two hours to *install* 70 updates. It would sit there for huge chunks of time apparently doing nothing, which I presumed was because it was hitting the page file and bringing to a crawl. I see this a lot during normal use as well, but if I’m not doing anything that hits the hard drive there’s generally very little delay.

    5. Every attempt to put Linux on it has ended in tears. (sniffle) I so want to ditch winbloze I can taste it, but alas, my experience is that Linux is not ready for prime time on this device. I expect it will be, though, and I will persist until I have my BZ and Linux, too.

  51. fab says:

    hi guys,
    has anybody tried a gnu/linux os on this device (e.g. ubuntu etc.)? does BIOS support USB booting?
    where did you guys get your BZ? i got a quote from dynamism incl. transport for approx. usd 600. i guess tax to switzerland will also cost a few cents ;-)
    cheers,

  52. chris says:

    i have tried and mostly failed. it is a sad story.

    all the basic functionality is there – even the graphics drier works niceley, but ll the devices that need to be turned on are turned off at bootup and can’t be enabled under linux. so there is no wifi, no bt, no webcam. also, the mouse does not work (which is very strange indeed) and hibernate and suspend are faulty.

    this is a rea letdown. could have been such a useful device …

  53. Ragnorok says:

    – The BZ does boot from USB just fine, but it doesn’t always recognize the boot device, and the default is the SSD. Hit “Del” when “UMID” appears on the screen to enter BIOS when you want to use an alternate boot device, then look at the boot order. If your device appears on the list, it’s recognized, make sure it’s before the hard drive and you’re golden. If your device does not appear, shut down, enter BIOS, and look for it again.

    – This would be a PITA for everyday boot from USB, but I only do it when I’m backing up from an Acronis CD, so it’s only inconvenient. However having a backup is significantly more convenient than not having one, so it’s a minor price to pay. On the positive side, once a device is recognized it tends to be recognized again later, so about 75% of the time the BIOS check isn’t necessary. It takes so long to load the OS, however, that the much smaller time spent doing the BIOS check seems worthwhile.

    – Speaking of backup, the FIRST thing I did with mine was back it up, so I have an image of what it looked like right out of the box, before I ever booted it up. I would recommend anyone do this.

    – I would also very highly recommend converting the SSD to NTFS. FAT is not journalled, and I lost the drive on my first unit because it would not enter Standby correctly, ever, and when it ran out of power in the middle of the night it utterly scrambled the file system. It also appears to have damaged the SSD, because I couldn’t even load the winbloze distro it comes with. Dynamism did me right and sent me another one, and the second thing I did was convert the file system to NTFS. I could care less if it wears out the SSD quicker, it survives catastrophic power loss, and with winbloze you WILL have a crash and do a cold boot at some point. It’s inevitable. When that happens, FAT is your *worst* enemy.
    – Also FAT does not support access controls. Third thing I did was set up a “limited” account I use for daily operations, and that account cannot corrupt the OS, because it doesn’t have write access. This device is too resource-limited to run anti-virus … when I did that it slowed to a pace that made snails look pretty quick. Winbloze is too susceptible to attack to connect it to the ‘net without *anything*, so my workaround until Linux is ready for prime time is to use it with an account that can’t corrupt the system, and that only works if NTFS is installed. Not perfect, certainly, but far cry better than nothing.

    Your mileage may vary…

  54. Tony says:

    Can the BZ screen resolution be brought to 800×480 or 800×600?

  55. Ken E Kaplan says:

    RT @AtomGadgets: #IntelAtom based UMID BZ — review by @chippy http://bit.ly/bWmuYI #IntelInsiders

  56. keaakre says:

    RT @kenekaplan: RT @AtomGadgets: #IntelAtom based UMID BZ — review by @chippy http://bit.ly/bWmuYI #IntelInsiders

  57. teh.sean says:

    I have a UMID M1 and news about the display disconnecting at close is nice to hear. SetFSB works on the original UMID M1 and makes the battery life even longer, underclocking the CPU to as low as 314 Mhz. Can anyone (especially you Chippy) confirm that SetFSB still works with the UMID BZ?

    If it does, I may have more incentive to upgrade.

  58. Alan says:

    I too am waiting for the N5 but may be tempted by the BZ if as I suspect there is no vga out on the viliv N5. I need to be able to give presentations. Anyone know if the N5 will come with any kind of external display connection?

  59. Yanovski says:

    Yes the resolution can be brought as low as that

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