Once full of promise and impressive feats of engineering, the ultramobile PC category has fallen on hard times, outmaneuvered by a cheaper, more capable class of systems known as Netbooks or mininotebooks. Best exemplified by the popular Asus Eee PC, these laptops use the same small screens and low-power CPUs as most UMPCs, but keep the traditional keyboard/touchpad interface and usually cost between $400 and $700, while many UMPCs cost $1,500 and as much as $2,500.
Samsung’s Q1 Ultra was always among our favorite UMPCs, thanks to its reasonable price, BlackBerry-style keyboard, and touch screen. This is the third version of this system we’ve looked at, and the $1,399 Q1 Ultra Premium seems an awful lot like the earlier models. That was fine in the pre-Netbook era, but the Q1 has clearly not changed enough with the times. There may still room for a device that’s equal parts BlackBerry, iPhone, and Eee PC–but Samsung will have to invest in a serious redesign to hit that ambitious benchmark.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$1,399|
|Processor||1.3GHz Intel Core Solo U1500|
|Memory||1GB, 533MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||80GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Intel 945 Express (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows XP Pro|
|Dimensions (WDH)||9.0×4.9×0.9 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||7.0 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||1.9 / 2.8 pounds|
While the Q1 is not as pocket-friendly as smaller UMPCs, such as the OQO model 02 or the WiBrain, we’ve always liked its combination of lightweight and a big screen. Looking more like an oversized Sony PSP than a laptop, it’s meant to be gripped in both hands rather than sitting on a desk or table. However, there is a built-in kickstand if you need to free up your hands or sit back to enjoy a miniature movie.
A bright, clear 7-inch wide-screen display dominates the glossy, black plastic chassis and features a native resolution of 1,024×600. Half of the QWERTY keyboard sits on each side of the display, positioned for thumb typing, as on a BlackBerry or Treo. One notable improvement over the previous version of the Q1 is that the plastic keys no longer have the same slick, glossy surface as the rest of the system, so they’re easier to get a grip on. Still, slightly rubberized keys would have been welcomed.
Typing on the Q1 Ultra is a chore, but it does become easier with practice–which is how some people describe iPhone typing. Fortunately, there are other input methods, including a touch screen with stylus and a ThinkPad-style mouse pointer. The mouse pointer is located under your left thumb, while the left and right mouse buttons are under your right thumb, along with a four-way input that works like the arrow keys on your keyboard. An onscreen keyboard is also available, called DialKeys, which puts a semicircular split keyboard in the lower-left and lower-right corners of the screen. We appreciate the multiple input methods, but for typing more than a few words, none is particularly easy to use.
Additionally, a few touch-sensitive buttons sit above the screen, next to a Webcam. These include volume up and down buttons and a button for bringing up Samsung’s custom onscreen menu, giving you control over screen brightness, the Wi-Fi connection, and other options.
|Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium||Average for category [UMPC]|
|Audio||Headphone jack||Headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 2.0, SD card reader||2 USB 2.0, mini FireWire, SD or multiformat memory card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
With two USB ports, a headphone jack, an SD card slot, Bluetooth, and a VGA out, most of your connectivity needs should be covered (and in any event, it’s a more generous setup than the MacBook Air.
The previous Q1 model we looked at had a woefully underpowered 800MHz Intel A110 CPU–essentially a chip designed for smartphones. It couldn’t keep up with even basic computing tasks, and we’re pleased to see an upgrade–even if it’s only to a 1.3GHz Intel Core Solo. With Intel’s Atom and Via’s Nano chips starting to show up in Netbooks, using an older chip is a good way to make your product seem dated.
Still, basic Web surfing was fine, and the system could handle video and audio streaming without much stuttering. The Core Solo CPU was generally faster than the VIA C7-M or Intel Celeron M CPUs found in other UMPCs and Netbooks.
One area where we were pleasantly surprised was battery life. The Q1 Ultra Premium ran for 5 hours and 27 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, which is excellent for any mobile computer, and especially for a UMPC–a category historically plagued by wimpy batteries.
Samsung includes an industry-standard, one-year, parts-and-labor warranty with the system. Support is accessible 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT, seven days a week, through a toll-free phone line, and the online knowledge base has a specific section for the Q1 line of UMPCs.