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Samsung Q1 Ultra

Asus T83 -- image courtesy Engadget
Microsoft's UMPC platform is a year old, but how far has it come?

Just over a year ago, Microsoft hailed its UMPC platform as the next step in mobile computing. The premise was sound: provide a full Windows-based operating system in a hand-held form-factor that would slot in between a traditional PDA and a notebook computer.

"We believe that (ultra-mobile PCs) will eventually become as indispensable and ubiquitous as the mobile phone today," said Microsoft VP Bill Mitchell when the platform was first launched.

Despite the initial hype, the first generation UMPCs didn't quite make the splash in the marketplace that Microsoft had once hoped for. Samsung says that its UMPC sales have failed to meet expectations and that it sold less than 100,000 of its Q1 during 2006 -- the company hopes to sell 300,000 units in 2007.

There are a number of key reasons why the platform has floundered thus far: High price of entry, high system weight, meager system/video performance and poor battery life. Until these issues are addressed, sales may never take off for the platform.

Samsung is addressing three of the four above issues with its Q1 Ultra. Samsung has managed to lower the weight of its UMPC from 1.7 pounds for the Q1 to 1.5 pounds for the Q1 Ultra. The Q1 offers an 800MHz Core 2-based processor and Intel's 965 chipset to boost overall system performance. And lastly, battery life has been boosted from roughly 2.5 hours to 3.5 hours (6 hours with the extended battery pack).

Samsung still hasn't addressed the issue of pricing, however. The Q1 Ultra is expected to retail for around $1,200 USD when it is released. That's still a far cry from the low of $599 that Microsoft envisioned when it created the UMPC sector and is roughly the same price as a first generation Q1 with a 1.0GHz Pentium M 723 processor.

Acer is less than optimistic about the current state of affairs with the UMPC platform. As it stands, the company is still taking a "wait and see" approach to the platform.

"If you think about the ultramobile PC, you need first of all battery life that is like a telephone. with a telephone, you have 12 or 15 hours of battery life without a problem," said Acer president Gianfranco Lanci. "We need to wait another 18 months or 24 months before this is ready," he said.

Lanci also points to the subpar graphics available with most UMPCs. "You have very good graphics on the notebooks, but you also need very good graphics on the ultramobile PC."

Finally, Lanci points to the need for inexpensive 3G connectivity options. The Samsung Q1 Ultra throws not only WiFi and Bluetooth 2.0+EDR at the user, but also WiBRO (the mobile version of WiMAX) and HSDPA connectivity. "[3G and WiMAX] must be available, but at an affordable price, otherwise people won't use it."

The next few months should be rather interesting as we are sure to see more second generation devices announced. So far it seems that UMPCs have taken one step forward with the Samsung Q1 Ultra and one step backward with the new Asus T83 UMPC, which looks more like a miniature Tablet PC than a UMPC. The T83 in most respects is not as evolved as its R2H predecessor: Asus managed to launch a device that is larger, heavier, slower and has less features than the device that proceeded it.



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Lower the damn price
By osalcido on 3/21/2007 12:47:33 AM , Rating: 2
I'm not going to pay MORE money for SLOWER hardware.... i don't care how small it is. These UMPCs have the performance of the lowest end dell laptops right now and should be priced accordingly (650$ish)




RE: Lower the damn price
By Yawgm0th on 3/21/2007 3:47:55 AM , Rating: 2
You pay more for a laptop than a desktop, and laptop hardware is much slower. This is the exact same concept. I'm not saying I plan on getting a UMPC, but your logic is quite flawed.


RE: Lower the damn price
By osalcido on 3/21/2007 3:13:30 PM , Rating: 1
umm no....with a laptop you're paying for the assorted accessories (including expensive battery) and cpus that can run on low-voltage (which have lower yields than desktop cpus), special ram, etc.

the umpcs have all the same components, just slightly smaller and with much crappier performance (they're using older laptop technology such as celeron-M)


"We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

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