For many, the Psion PDA will be remembered as a proper handheld mobile computing companion, because of its prominent focus on a QWERTY keyboard that had good key pitch and travel – almost as if a miniaturized regular keyboard was packed in. While there have been many other products before and after it, none quite resembled the way the Psion PDA looks, feels and functions – until now.
Meet the Gemini from Planet Computers that embodies this design by combining the best of a smartphone and a QWERTY keyboard into one clamshell device. Powered by a MediaTek Helio X27 (MT6797X) deca-core processor (2 x Cortex A72 @ 2.6GHz + 4 x Cortex A53 @ 2.0 GHz + 4 x Cortex A53 @ 1.6GHz), 4GB RAM and 64GB internal storage (with microSD expansion capability), another unique trait is its support for both Android and Linux OS via a dual-boot system.
To keep it powered, the Gemini has a 4,220mAH battery to help it through a day’s usage comfortably. It’s rated for 12 hours of talk time and up to two weeks of standby time.
For communications and connectivity, the Gemini has Bluetooth 4.1, AGPS, Wireless-AC, twin USB Type-C ports, GSM/CDMA/LTE – almost just like any other smartphone. The twin USB ports are ideal for charging the device and still be able to connect to other supporting peripherals such as input devices and external displays.
In terms of design, the Gemini is compact for what it offers with dimensions of 171 x 79 x 15mm and weighs only 310 grams. When opened, you’re greeted with a 5.99-inch FHD scratch resistant multi-touch screen that helps prop up the full QWERTY tactile keyboard for good handling anywhere. In fact, it handles much better than some large phablets and makes for a great companion for anyone who needs to be able to touch-type on the go with a proper keyboard.
We liked what we saw with the Gemini, but it has three key concerns. Firstly, it’s an Indiegogo backed project from early 2017 that’s only going to be ship to its backers later in January 2018. For everyone else who’s interested, you’re going to have to wait much longer.
Secondly, it’s priced at US$599 (Wi-Fi + 4G edition), which is a bit too expensive considering the somewhat old MediaTek processing subsystem. While we don’t deny that in actual trial we did not really feel anything is amiss, perhaps putting it under strain will show its limitation (and benchmarks will readily reveal that too). The project backers managed to get the same product for just US$399, which is still a big sum, but not as bad as its current official retail price. In case you’re interested, there’s also a Wi-Fi only version for US$499.
Last but not least, it’s probably a bit too late for the Gemini to make a notable impact as there are numerous options for cheap notebooks, convertible notebooks, Chromebooks and even tablets where mobile productivity is concerned. Still, as a smartphone clamshell with a proper QWERTY keyboard for touch typing, the Gemini is the only such product we’re aware of. Heck, there might even be keyboard add-on options for your existing smartphones, but they are not as polished as Gemini.
All in all, this is a targeted product for those who really don’t wish to lug around notebooks, tablets and any other companion devices and would rather have just one pocket-able device that can do it all. If you fit this niche group of users, know your limitations and expectations of such a compact device, then the Gemini might just be a nice go-between device.