When Microsoft unveiled the "Origami" (now called UMPC for Utra Portable PC), the response was only lukewarm, as it was merely a smaller version of Tablet PCs introduced some two years back. To a certain extent, the UMPC is vastly similar to current Tablet PCs using Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. What it is not however is to replace the former that are either too big (with 12-inch LCDs) or thick for true mobility. The UMPC is catered to a special group of users who want the ultimate portable PC for simple applications like an office suite, emailing, using the Internet and streaming videos wirelessly. For the sole purpose of exploring the unique proposition of UMPC, we have with us the first UMPC released in the market, the Samsung Q1.
Wireless network connections are now available at offices, restaurants and homes; essentially anywhere where there's a concentration of people. This is exactly where a UMPC, like the Samsung Q1, comes in handy as compared to bigger notebooks. With built-in Wi-Fi (and wired LAN), the Q1 is so light that you can now roam freely from say the kitchen to the bedroom while being connected to the Internet at all times conveniently. Compared with PDA phones and bigger notebooks, the Q1 UMPC is perhaps the only practical platform that gives you the freedom to serve the Internet, chat with your friends over IM (Internet messaging), make a Skype phone call (or any other VOIP applications) or watch streaming videos (e.g. YouTube) anywhere with just the right size and weight ratio. On the function of VoIP, the Q1 is more than capable of making a VOIP call and recording voice via its integrated twin array microphones that ensure voice clarity.
Obviously, the Q1 is designed to be small and portable, hence it doesn't have any built-in keyboard. There are however, three different input methods: onscreen keyboard, Tablet PC Input Panel (ala PPC's Transcriber) and Dialkeys. New on the UMPC is the Dialkeys touchscreen input, which is essentially two halved "QWERTY" keyboards designed for easy thumb operation while you are holding the Q1.
Another cool feature of the Q1 UMPC is its entertainment quality. The Q1 comes with a "Program Launcher" that boots up a Media Center-like interface for browsing of photos, videos, music, and is even capable of launching MSN, Outlook Express and Internet explorer. Even though the UMPC is small, its built-in stereo speakers were surprisingly loud and blew us away during DVD playback (via an optional external DVD-ROM) and DivX videos. Powered by SRS technology, the audio playback was clear, crisp and surpassed our expectations where depth of audio was concerned.
Overall, we would say the Samsung Q1 is attractively designed and well built. After weeks of meddling, we soon grew fond of it and would highly recommend it to executives, journalists, road warriors and the likes desiring a small but immensely robust PC alternative with portable computing qualities not available in tablet and ultra-portable notebooks.
For its impressive multimedia and portable computing qualities, the Q1 gets our major approval as a handy travel companion on long-distance flights, daily commuting trips and the likes. And because it packs a CF card reader, the Q1 also presents itself as a valuable tool for photographers as well. The bundled Microsoft's Journal allows one convert the Q1 into a 'real notebook' to take down notes quickly by scribing directly on the screen by means of the stylus input. In the hands of the adventurous and creative sorts, the functional possibilities of Q1 UMPC are almost limitless – despite its inconspicuous dimensions. The only drawback we encountered of the Q1 was its narrow viewing angle of the otherwise sharp LCD screen.
The Samsung Q1 is currently available at selected retail outlets in the USA but will only be available in Singapore and other regions later. The recommended retail price of the Q1 is about US$1,100 and we strongly recommend that you also consider opting for the optional external DVD-ROM, keyboard, power bank (extra batteries) and sleeve, all of which will set you back at just under US$2,000 (with the Q1 of course).