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The Samsung Q1 is the world's first physical implementation of Microsoft's much-hyped Origami project. It's part of a new breed of computer known as the ultra-mobile PC (UMPC), but cynics will argue the Q1 and its ilk are a blatant attempt by Microsoft and Intel to reverse the fortunes of the ailing tablet PC, by making it slightly smaller.
At first glance, the Q1 is reminiscent of Sony's PSP console, albeit a very fat one. In some respects it also resembles a Cossor Melody Maker radio from the mid 1950s, though its glossy black bezel and striking 7-inch screen give it a modern feel.
It's approximately the height and width of a typical hardback book, and weighs 779g, which is slightly less than the average bag of sugar. As a result, the unit feels good in the hands, but it puts a mild strain on the wrist when held one-handed for long periods.
The front of the device is dominated by the screen, on either side of which is a pair of speaker grills and an assortment of control buttons, which we'll discuss in more detail later. At the rear of the Q1, there are two flip-out stands -- one for resting it on a desk at a 45-degree angle, and another for resting it at a 20-degree angle. The former comes in handy when using the Q1 with a USB keyboard, and the latter is ideal for using with a stylus while it lies on your desk.
Below the stand, you'll find a set of power indicator lights built directly into the Q1's removable battery. Press the button, and it illuminates a strip of up to five lights to indicate the level of remaining battery power. This allows you to check whether you'll need to take the power adaptor with you when you leave home.
Despite its odd physique, the Q1 is a PC at heart, so it has a vent at the top to aid the cooling of its components. A tiny fan whirrs fairly constantly inside the unit, expelling warm air through the vent. When in operation, the entire top end of the bezel is warm to the touch, but the unit never gets hot enough to burn your fingers.
Samsung has fitted the Q1 with a number of shortcut buttons to aid ease of use. There's an eight-way control stick on the left and below that, a button for switching the screen resolution between its native of 800x480 pixels, and two alternatives -- 800x600-pixels or 1,024x600-pixels. The alternative resolutions make images on the Q1 look horribly blurred, but provide slightly more desktop space.
The screen is of fairly good quality. It has a wide enough horizontal viewing angle so you can watch a movie with a friend without huddling together, and it isn't overly reflective, so you can comfortably view it, even in direct light.
To the right of the screen there's a set of four user-programmable buttons labelled U1-U4, each of which acts as a convenient way of launching applications or opening pre-assigned documents. Below these, there's a Return key and a button that launches a menu for adjusting common options like screen brightness and orientation.
There's an array microphone along the lower bezel, allowing the Q1 to be controlled using voice commands. Rather than opt for a single mic, having a pair of mics in an array configuration can help extract voice input from ambient noise and aid accuracy in voice recognition applications. Using the Q1 in this manner works well after a little practice, but most users will prefer to use the stylus tucked away at the rear of the unit.
We were also intrigued by the inclusion of Dialkeys, an application that launches a translucent on-screen keyboard overlay. Tapping your thumbs on the relevant keys enters text into the top-most document window. It's a very clever tool, but it isn't always precise and takes a lot of getting used to. We found it ideal for entering short blocks of texts, such as instant messages, but tedious for creating longer documents.
The left side of the Samsung Q1 plays host to a video-out port, a USB port, an audio jack, volume control button and a hold button which disables all user input, including via the touch screen. There's a VGA-out port on the right alongside another USB port, but you may find it hard to connect bulky USB devices as the port is very close to the AC power socket.
Inside the Q1, Samsung has opted for components you'd normally find in a low-end ultra-portable laptop. There's an Intel Celeron M CPU running at 900MHz matched with the Intel 915GM chipset. This ageing combination doesn't offer strong performance, and neither does it serve for very long battery life, as we'll explain later. There's 512MB of RAM, 32MB of which is allocated to the on-board Intel Extreme Graphics display adaptor. But don't be fooled by the 'Extreme' moniker -- it's extremely useless at displaying anything other than movies and pictures.
A range of hard drive options are available for the Q1, ranging from 20GB to 60GB. Our review sample shipped with a 40GB Hitachi Travelstar with a relatively slow spin speed of 4,200 RPM, but whereas this may cause problems in a desktop PC, it's quick enough for a portable such as the Q1. Our review sample has enough space to handle around 30 DivX movies, or approximately 10,000 songs, but there's no integrated optical drive, so you'll need to convert films to a digital-video format before transferring them to the device via USB.
Samsung has attempted to enhance the Q1's multimedia capabilities by furnishing it with a dedicated media playback suite. This functions in a similar manner to the Media Center portion of the Windows XP Media Center Edition operating system, minus the television playback features. It can be launched by sliding the device's power switch to the left (instead of right to launch Windows).
The Q1 isn't particularly fast. It is fairly responsive and can run everyday applications with ease, but you won't want to do anything more demanding than play a movie, surf the Web or carry out office productivity tasks. It achieved a PCMark 2005 score of just 907, which is poor in comparison to the sub-par score of 1,327 achieved by the Sony TX2 laptop. And don't even think about playing games with the Q1. It scored a paltry 57 in the 3DMark 2006 benchmark.
Battery life was also very unimpressive. Samsung claims it can last as long as 3.5 hours during normal use or up to 1.5 hours while watching a movie. In our tests it lasted around 2.5 hours during normal use and 1.5 hours during movie playback. As a result, you'll want to make sure you don't stray too far from mains power, or better still carry a spare battery.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield