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Starting at $1,099, the Samsung Q1 seeks to combine elements of a laptop, a tablet, a PDA, a PVP, an MP3 player, a GPS module, and a gaming handheld into a form factor that falls between that of a smart phone/Pocket PC and an ultraportable laptop. When we first laid eyes on the UMPC form factor at the Intel Developer Forum back in March, we thought that the concept was sort of cool, but we had our doubts about how useful it could really be, lacking a built-in keyboard. After spending some time with the machine (provided to us by longtime importer Dynamism.com), those doubts persist; its 7-inch display and Windows operating system make it more comfortable to use than mobile devices such as the Treo 650 and the Sony PSP, but its lack of an attached keyboard and its mediocre performance make the Q1 difficult to use for anything more than basic media consumption. What's worse, the Q1 couldn't hit the three-hour mark on our battery-drain tests, which we consider a deal-breaker for a mobile, go-anywhere device. While the Q1's sleek case is definitely eye-catching, we expect more for the money. Unless you have cash to burn on slick-looking (if impractical) gadgets, we recommend you spend more to get the $1,549 Fujitsu LifeBook P1510D, a small-form-factor tablet that offers stronger performance and includes a keyboard.
At 1.7 pounds, the Q1 is one of the lightest computers we've seen--lighter even than the diminutive Toshiba Libretto U100 (though the latter has a keyboard)--but it's quite a bit larger than the personal electronic devices currently taking up space in our bag. Measuring 9 inches wide, 5.5 inches deep, and 1 inch thick, the Q1 is about twice the size of the Sony PSP and more than three times the size of the Treo 650. With its two-prong AC adapter, the Q1 has a travel weight of 2.6 pounds.
In exchange for that extra bulk, you'll get a slightly more comfortable wide-screen size: 7 inches (diagonal) with a native resolution of 800x480 (the Sony PSP, by comparison, has a 4.3-inch display and a 480x272 resolution). That should be just enough for jotting quick notes and watching movies on the run but not much else. The Q1's display is also touch sensitive, letting you navigate windows and menus with a stylus or your finger--a key feature for a device that lacks a keyboard. We were disappointed in the screen brightness, which measured just 208.9 cd/m2 on our Minolta luminance meter; it was just fine for sitting in the office but became almost completely washed out when we moved to a sunny room.
Buttons around the screen also help you navigate without a mouse or a keyboard; on the left side are a four-way joystick and a handy button that lets you toggle between screen resolutions (the computer will scale up to 1,024x600) so that you can get more screen real estate. On the right side, there are four programmable application-launch buttons, an enter button, and a menu button that calls up frequently used controls, including screen brightness, Wi-Fi on/off, and sound controls. Above the screen are two speakers with decent, though unsurprisingly tinny, sound; volume is controlled with a rocker switch on the left side of the device. A dual-mic array below the screen can record lectures and lets you participate in VOIP calls.
We are impressed with the feature set on the Samsung Q1, especially compared to another Origami device we've seen, the TabletKiosk eo v7110. The Samsung has the basics covered, with two USB 2.0 ports, a headphone jack, VGA out, and a CompactFlash slot that can be used as an expansion card reader. (At our demo in early May, a Microsoft representative was using a CompactFlash GPS device.) Networking options include Ethernet, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. That matches the ports and connections found on the larger Fujitsu LifeBook P1510D and exceeds those of the Sony PSP and the TabletKiosk eo.
Like the LifeBook P1510D, the Samsung Q1 runs on Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, meaning you can run all your existing software (including games). While most tablet PCs, such as the ThinkPad X41 Tablet, require an active stylus that sends a signal to the display, the Q1's passive stylus and touch screen mean that some of the operating system's handwriting recognition features are disabled. Included DialKeys software lets you choose from six types of onscreen keyboards for entering text with your fingers. Samsung also includes AVStation Now, which lets you play movies and MP3s and access other multimedia content without booting up the Windows OS.
Our enthusiasm wanes when we get to the internal components. At $1,099, the Samsung Q1 costs more than some full-fledged laptops, yet it features an ultra-low-voltage Celeron M processor with only 900MHz of processing power; most laptops and tablets, even ultraportables, include Pentium M or latest-generation Core Solo processors. The rest of the Q1's specs are what we'd expect from a laptop of its size: integrated Intel graphics, 512MB of sluggish 400MHz RAM, and a slow 4,200rpm hard drive. (We suspect the hard drive's 40GB capacity is likely to fill up quickly if you use the device as a true media player.) It all adds up to performance that's sufficient for surfing the Web and playing media files but definitely isn't enough to replace your laptop. On CNET Labs' mobile productivity benchmarks, the Q1 scored well ahead of the previous-generation Sony VAIO VGN-U50, which also runs on a 900MHz Celeron processor but has less RAM, but it couldn't match the performance of the LifeBook P1510D.
Perhaps the Samsung Q1's fatal flaw is its battery life. We think a mobile device that strikes a compromise between a laptop (average battery life of 3 hours) and a smart phone/pocket PC (average battery life of 8 to 9 hours talk time, six to seven days standby) should run for 5 or more hours if it's going to be truly indispensable. But the Q1 lasted for just 2 hours, 49 minutes in our battery-drain tests--below average for a laptop and certainly distressing for anyone who wants the Q1 to be their primary computer on the run. For the moment, at least, Samsung does not offer an extended-life battery.