The Good Decent performance; includes touch pad; handy shortcut keys; design suited for tabletop or handheld use.
The Bad Clunky, thick design; less-than-useful secondary display; not customizable, except for OS choice.
The Bottom Line The most laptop-like UMPC seen to date, the clamshell Vulcan FlipStart E-1001S offers welcome features including a touch pad, but it's still not the real-world practical UMPC we've been waiting for.
Pity the poor UMPC. The much-hyped ultramobile PC has been hailed as the next big thing for a couple of years now, without ever turning out a product that comes close to being useful in real-world situations, thanks to clunky interfaces, high prices, and poor battery life. The $1,999 FlipStart E-1001S (from Vulcan, a company started by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen) is substantially different in form from two other recent UMPCs we've looked at, the Asus R2H and the Sony VAIO UX390, but it still shares some of the same frustrations with input interfaces and performance. We have yet to find a UMPC that crosses the line into practicality, but the clamshell FlipStart is in some ways the most useful of the bunch, offering the most traditional laptop-like computing experience.
Measuring 5.9 inches wide, 4.5 inches deep, and 1.6 inches high, the FlipStart looks like a cross between a shrunk-down laptop and a vintage-'80s Franklin Pocket Dictionary. The blue clamshell look is somewhat clunky, especially compared to the slick mockup images of the FlipStart that have been seen online since the project was first announced in 2004. The system weighs a mere 1.7 pounds (2.3 pounds with the AC adapter), but the thick, boxy design makes it a tough fit for coat pockets and small bags. In comparison, the Asus R2H is even larger, closer to a portable media player (with a massive 7-inch screen), while the Sony VAIO UX390 is slightly smaller and has a much sleeker design, typical of Sony's focus on aesthetics.