Revolutionary products in the portable computing space are few and far between (most can be described as evolutionary at best), but Sony's UX17GP has the potential to completely change the way we look at working on the go.
An ultra-mobile PC (UMPC), the UX17 is best described as a cross between a notebook and a PDA. It doesn't use the traditional notebook form-factor, so it's not a notebook, but it's also too large and feature-rich to be classed as a PDA.
The aspect of the UX17 that excites us most is the fact that it's the smallest and lightest portable computing device in Australia to offer a fully-fledged install of Windows XP Professional. This enables you to cram your entire personal workstation into a system that's small enough to fit into one hand -- a feat that could only previously be accomplished by using a cut-down operating system, such as Windows Mobile 5, on a PDA.
Its exact measurements are 150.2mm by 95-100.5mm by 32.2-38.2mm, with a weight of 517g. The lower extremes of these dimensions are for when the device is closed, while the upper values are based on the screen being slid up for using the integrated keyboard. That's right -- there's a QWERTY keyboard for your word processing needs, and the device can also be used in tablet mode using the stylus.
Accessories available for the UX17 include a display/LAN adaptor and a port replicator. These offer up additional input/output ports, enabling users to hook the device up to a regular PC monitor and keyboard. This makes it incredibly handy for mobile professionals, as you can switch between desktop and mobile interfaces with ease.
Yet the UX17 isn't all work and no play; there are also plenty of multimedia features. For starters, it's got two integrated cameras -- one front-mounted for video conferencing and another on the rear for taking still images and video. The 4.5-inch WSVGA display offers up an impressive resolution of 1024x600, which is perfectly worthy of DVD viewing. The device can also function as a portable music player.
Networking functions include 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0 (there's also a 10/100 LAN connector on the port replicator accessory), while the device offers up a built-in fingerprint sensor to help keep data secure.
Internally, the UX17 boasts speedier components than its diminutive dimensions suggest. These include a 1.2GHz Intel Core Solo processor, 512MB of DDR2 memory a 30GB hard drive and an Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics solution.
From our limited time testing the device at Sony's launch event, the first thing we noticed was how tiny the keyboard is. Sony has managed to cram in a whopping 64 keys, but to do this they've had to shrink each key to a point where it's easy to hit two keys at once if you're not concentrating. We'd imagine that typing out long documents on the UX17 would fast become uncomfortable.
Additionally, while we haven't had the chance to run the device through our battery life tests, Sony rates the UX17 at a maximum of 3.5 hours. This isn't amazing as it is but, if you plan on making extensive use of its audio/video features, expect effective battery life to be much shorter than this.
Finally, there's no optical drive, so installing new software may prove troublesome for those without access to an external drive.
The Sony VGN-UX17GP is the smallest Windows XP device on the market. Its design and versatility make it a boon for mobile professionals and portable entertainment junkies alike.
Sony promises that the device will be available this month at a price of AU$2499.