Psion concept reborn in PsiXpda

Smaller and more expensive than a Netbook, the PsiXpda will be very appealing to a small group of buyers.

The PsiXpda is a capable, small, but expensive Netbook. Rafe Needleman/CNET

LAS VEGAS--I had a brief chance to check out the new PsiXpda ultramobile PC at a CES party Wednesday night. As has been written elsewhere, this is a cleverly packaged tiny Netbook with a solid spec sheet and full connectivity options (Wi-Fi and 3G). It's about $700, and a nerd's delight. The keyboard is small but not too small, and the screen is bright and legible, although it's only 5 inches diagonally, cramped compared to most Netbooks.

Social Media Club founder Chris Heuer and the PsiXpda at CES 2010. Rafe Needleman/CNET

Nice design features include a slide-out, tip-up screen. It has a capacitive touch surface, and in a clever twist, some of the glass off to the right of the screen works like a trackpad, while touching the screen directly gives you the one-to-one mouse tracking you'd expect. (There are two mouse buttons to the left of the screen.) The PsiXpda has an Atom CPU and is configured with 1GB of RAM, a 16GB solid-state drive, and Windows XP.

"It's also a phone!" a rep told me. Check. Yes, it has 3G in it and can make calls. But who will? This is a data device.

As cool as this little guy is, the market for these in-between-sized devices at this price is and will remain small. Yes, if you need a tiny computer for Web access or for writing, this is a decent solution. The rep told me it will be a great machine for system admins who need to walk around with a fully-connected PC jammed into their pocket (and who have enough budgetary control to swing it). But this device competes with $300 Netbook and mini-notebooks like the new HP Mini 210. People fond of the old Psion 5 form factor (like the PsiXpda founder, who left Psion in 1995) may be pleased to upgrade to the smart little machine, but the mass audience will find this computer too big to replace a smartphone, too small to replace a notebook, and too expensive regardless.

See also: Fujistsu Lifebook UH900.

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