In a world of ever-multiplying Netbooks and increasingly more versatile smartphones, it seems like there's been no better time than the present for ultraportable computing devices. Amid a landscape of larger, full-keyboard devices and smaller, pocket-size touch phones, the only question is whether there is room for the UMPC (or ultramobile PC), to thrive.
We previously reviewed the 4.8-inch Atom-powered Viliv S5, and now we've taken a look at its successor, the larger-screened X70EX. While many of our criticisms of the S5 have been addressed, a few larger-scale questions about the viability of the handheld tablet/UMPC format remain.
Years ago, before the iPhone and its wave of touch-interface Internet-friendly smart devices, UMPCs were hot because they represented the most mobile way to compute. However, for that portability, their prices were through the roof, often in the range of $2,000. Yukyung's Viliv X70EX starts around $587 (available from import sites like Dynamism and at other retailers), and while that's an improvement on value, it still looms large compared with $300 Netbooks and subsidized smartphones--and our review model included options that made it even more expensive.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$867/$587|
|Processor||1.33 GHz Intel Atom Z520|
|Memory||1 GB 533 MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||32 GB SSD|
|Chipset||Intel US 15|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 500|
|Operating System||Windows XP Home Edition SP3|
|Dimensions (WD)||8.3 x 4.1 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||7 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||1.9/1.6 pounds|
Covered in gunmetal-gray plastic accented with a light silver band and chrome touches, the Viliv X70EX's exterior is minimalist and smooth, a rectangular box with slight curves and gently rounded edges.
Interface buttons lining both sides are symmetrical and blend into the case design, and are comfortable to the touch. In addition to a few dedicated and customizable menu buttons, there's also a small thumbstick that can be used to jump between cells or icons on a desktop, as opposed to trackpoint navigation. There's a small Webcam on the top right of the screen, a new addition since the S5.
At 0.88 inch thick, the X70EX is actually slimmer than the S5--and proportionally, since the X70EX is a longer machine, it looks even slimmer. At 1.6 pounds, it's hardly a lightweight. However, the feel of the whole unit is very rugged and well-built, and feels like it could withstand a fall or two.
For navigation, an actual stylus is included with X70EX, as opposed to the guitar-pick mini stylus that came with the S5. It slides into the top of the UMPC on the left side, and the right side has an extendable antenna for improved 3G reception (it has 3G connectivity built in, but a service contract is required). GPS is also built into the X70EX, like its predecessor, the S5. However, like the S5, there's no included GPS software; you'll need to install navigation software to take advantage of that feature. If you do, however, the X70EX comes with a nice rear-mounting bracket for turning the tablet into a car-mounted navigation device.
The Viliv's Cube UI attempts to put a more polished and simplified method of browsing apps and settings on the X70EX, but there are times when only browsing Windows XP settings will do for getting the Viliv to perform the way you'd like. The haptic-feedback soft keyboard works slightly better than it did on the S5, mainly because of the larger screen and virtual keys. Still, this is no replacement for a normal keyboard, and it pales in comparison to the iPhone virtual keyboard. We found it difficult to comfortably type anything more than a simple sentence
The X70EX's glossy 7-inch screen has a resolution of 1,024x600, which is similar to the S5's resolution, and equivalent to the standard resolution on many Netbooks. While a 10-inch screen can display this type of detail well, the S5's 4.8-inch screen made reading icons and text a joke. Thankfully, the X70EX's 7-inch display is far better at presenting text very readably and clearly. It's an excellent size for a tablet, offering real estate that a smartphone simply can't afford. The rear-mounted speakers are also surprisingly loud, more than adequate for playing video or music to near annoying levels for everyone around you to hear. We wouldn't call them crisp, but their volume makes up for it.
|Viliv X70EX||Average for category [Netbook]|
|Video||VGA out, via dock||VGA|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone jack||headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||1 USB 2.0, mini-USB port for system link||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|
Two big things that the X70EX adds to the UMPC equation that the smaller S5 lacked are an SD card slot and a Webcam. The Webcam is a nice feature, but the SD slot is an essential one. The 32GB SSD isn't large enough for serious mobile computing use, but SD card storage at least makes the Viliv X70EX a contender, as well as making file transfers much easier. Like on the S5, a custom I/O port allows for video output. Annoyingly, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are controlled by the same setting on the Viliv Cube UI, which means it's both or none unless you tweak the settings through XP's device menus. The built-in HSPA 3G antenna is compatible with AT&T service in the U.S.
A note on price and configurations: for $587, you don't get the model we reviewed. That buys a 16GB SSD and doesn't include the 3G modem. We don't think 3G is a necessary feature, but you might find it worth the upgrade. You can even go whole hog to a 128GB SSD and Windows Vista with a free Windows 7 upgrade for the astonishing price of $1,359, at which point you might as well buy a discount Netbook or a 13-inch MacBook Pro.
Internally, the Atom Z520 processor is exactly the same as the one in the Viliv S5. The Z series is a lower power-consuming but more sluggish version of the Atom, which helps battery life but doesn't do great favors for the X70EX's zippiness. In our benchmark tests, the X70EX actually performed slightly worse than the Viliv S5. In anecdotal usage, loading Web pages and particularly flash files seemed to take longer than with a standard Atom N270 Netbook.