Samsung – Ultra UMPC review

too small for a laptop, too large for a PDA
Photo of Samsung – Ultra UMPC

The Ultra Mobile PC, or UMPC for short, is a breed of computer that is like a small laptop without a hinged screen. Or, if you prefer, like a large handheld computer. Either way, it is an unusual format for a computer. Too large for the pocket, too small for serious use as your main computer.

Some UMPCs have (small) keyboards, some don’t. Samsung’s Q1 Ultra is in the former group, and its keyboard is absolutely tiny. It is BlackBerry-sized in fact, and split in two halves ranged either side of the screen. You aren’t going to be using it to write long documents – more likely for entering Web addresses and maybe composing the odd e-mail.

As alternatives you can use handwriting recognition, a tappable keyboard on the touch-sensitive screen and ‘DialKeys’ which puts finger-tappable keys in two semi-circles in the bottom right and left corners of the screen.

The Q1 Ultra runs on Intel’s A110 processor, which has been especially designed for this kind of mobile device. It is a shame, therefore, that we found ourselves waiting for it to catch up with our requests for action a fair amount of the time. It took a while to fill windows with program icons and to flip the screen from landscape to portrait format, for example.

The Q1 runs Windows Vista, has Bluetooth, Ethernet and Wi-Fi built in, and later versions will have SIM support with HSDPA for ultra-fast, over-the-air data access. There is an SD card slot but no optical drive – this is an optional extra.

With a 60GB hard drive the Q1 Ultra feels under-specified in the storage department too. But it is great for wireless Web browsing, its 1024 x 600 pixel 7-inch screen being ideal for showing Web pages at a comfortable size. It isn’t too hot at media streaming, though, or showing video, which can be jerky.

Two USB ports and VGA-out are among the connectors on board. There are two cameras too. The front-facing one is suitable for use in Voice over IP calling, for which the twin array microphones will also come in handy. During VoIP calls or at any other time, you can prop the Q1 up on its integrated stand so that it sits at a useful viewing angle on the desk.

You get two batteries and, if you carry both of them around, you are looking at just over 1kg of kit to tote. A soft case accommodates the Q1 itself but not the second battery.

Company: Samsung

Contact: 01932 455 000

The Q1 Ultra is Samsung's second attempt at the UMPC format. It is an improvement on what went before, but it does not come cheap and it doesn't live up to expectations in every respect. We remain unconvinced about the UMPC format and await further developments.