This may be known as the era of Netbooks, but sooner or later we'll be moving beyond it, into something more evolutionary. More portable and flexible devices will push the boundaries of what we consider to be possible in computing. While UMPCs and swivel-screen tablet devices have existed for years, newer iterations such as the Asus T91 and the Yukung Viliv S7 have begun to merge them with the popular Atom-powered Netbook.
In terms of ease of use and its tiny form, there's a lot to like about the Viliv S7--except for its price. Priced from $699, to our review unit at $799, you'll be paying a significant premium for the sub-Netbook specs under the S7's hood, especially when many Netbooks are available for as little as $299. On the other hand, should you need a 7-inch Netbook that can effortlessly convert into a tablet and provide decent battery life, the Viliv S7 might be for you.
We reviewed the Viliv S5 and X70EX UMPC-form devices, which both have energy-saving but lower-performing Z-series Atom processors and combine Windows XP with a custom user interface called The Cube. In both instances, we found that the tablet-style format, while portable, simply couldn't provide serious users with the same sort of useful interface that a keyboard could provide--and Windows XP plus a resistive touch screen don't exactly make for effortless touch control. To its credit, the S7 has a compact but fully featured keyboard and a swivel-hinged screen that can transform the device from a clamshell Netbook into a tablet, giving the S7, in some senses, the best of both worlds.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$799/$699|
|Processor||1.3 GHz Intel Atom Z520|
|Memory||1GB, 550MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||32GB SSD|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 500|
|Operating system||Windows XP Home Edition SP3|
|Dimensions (WD)||8.9x5.3 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.4 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||1.82/2.24 pounds|
The size and shape of the S7 is roughly similar to the Sony Vaio P series in terms of dimensions, but most like the 9-inch Asus T91 in form. Even though the screen and processor are identical to the recently reviewed X70EX tablet, the external look and feel are completely different. Covered in smooth but not overly glossy white or black plastic, the S7 has an attractive, modern look to it. The top lid that houses the screen is slightly smaller than the main body's width, letting it rest like a top layer on top of the S7 when closed. While the S7's body isn't wafer thin, it's pleasingly compact and feels easy to pick up and carry in one hand. Swiveling into tablet position, the S7 can flip its screen in any direction to transform from landscape to portrait. In tablet form the S7 feels thick, but is comfortable to hold.
Inside, a tapered keyboard with extremely compact keys feels surprisingly good to type on, with the keys carrying a good balance of solidity and springy click response. Their size is short but wide and slightly concave on the top, which makes individual keys easy to find with your fingers. But while the letters are a decent size, the right side of the keyboard collapses into pint-size mini keys for commas, arrows, and other functions, and the entire experience can become an exercise in frustration.
The touch pad is oddly positioned above and to the right of the keyboard, flanked by two buttons on either side of the narrow pad. There was no easy way to use the pad and the buttons--we settled for tapping on the pad directly in lieu of button clicking.
The Viliv S7's 7-inch glossy screen has a resolution of 1,024x600 pixels, which is standard for most Netbook screens 10 inches and smaller. It looked good when viewing Web pages and streaming video, although the S7 can't exactly handle flash-based streaming video all too well with its Z520 processor. On the other hand, the stereo speakers that flank the S7's screen are extremely loud and sound excellent for their size.
|Viliv S7||Average for category [Netbook]|
|Video||VGA out, custom I/O port||VGA|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 2.0, mini-USB port for system link, SD card reader||2 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||802.11 b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
The Viliv S7 has a more generous port selection than the tablet-form S5 and X70EX ultraportables, but it's still not as great as many Netbooks. One feature we missed was a direct Ethernet jack, especially when we briefly couldn't get Wi-Fi working properly (wireless and Bluetooth are tied together in on/off operation, controlled by Viliv's software UI that runs alongside Windows XP). These wireless configuration difficulties underlined an issue we have with the Viliv's specialized interface tweaks on Windows XP: they can be annoying and slightly harder to configure than a standard XP wireless control panel, as opposed to easier. While the Viliv S7's custom UI is more advanced than the S5 or X70EX's, it's still an awkward mix. The Viliv S7 perhaps should have left well enough alone with plain old Windows XP.
Another huge issue we have with the Viliv S7 is its price. Starting at $699 for a 16GB SSD configuration without 3G, it makes the $499 Asus asks for its similarly equipped convertible tablet T91 seem like a bargain. Our configuration upgraded the SSD to 32GB for $799. While this may be affordable compared with UMPCs of the past, it's far above the cost of almost any Netbook with equivalent specs (minus the SSD, of course). For $799 these days you can get a Core 2 Duo laptop and a cheap subsidized iPhone to go with it.
The Atom Z520 processor in the S7 is the same one that the S5 and X70EX have, and while it's more efficient at power management, the Z-series Atom processors are more sluggish than N-series Atoms. In our benchmark tests, the S7 performed about as well as most Z-series Netbooks--which is to say not very speedily. On the other hand, the S7 can handle basic office tasks and e-mail and Web browsing with little trouble. We also enjoyed flipping the S7's screen in tablet form into a makeshift e-reader, although the S7 lacked a stylus or any useful set of side buttons to complement the experience. In anecdotal use, we also found the S7's handling of streaming Web video to be serviceable but prone to stuttering in full-screen mode. A video-savvy device this is not.