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Frankenstein lives: a palmtop PC with two brains

Frankenstein lives: a palmtop PC with two brains

2 min read
While Intel is beating its chest about its new Napa dual-core platform, a company that's actually called DualCor is going a step further...or sideways. Or something. DualCor has taken Intel's PXA chip, typically found in PDAs, and put it in a box with a VIA processor, designed for laptops, to make something like a Frankenstein's monster palmtop PC. Called the cPC, this chunky little device, thicker but narrower than a PSP, combines the power of a purebred laptop with the instant-on accessibility of a PDA.

It's not a completely novel concept--plenty of laptop vendors are pursuing a more consumer electronics-like experience by offering instant-on technology that lets you watch DVDs or play CDs without booting the operating system. But that's more of an interim solution until Microsoft can figure out how to make Windows boot faster. The cPC, on the other hand, is not for the casual user; it's for the highly mobile worker who's frustrated by a PDA that can't handle heavyweight business applications and a laptop that can't cut the mustard as a PDA.

In addition to its 1.5GHz VIA C7-M and 400MHz Intel PXA263 processors, the cPC has a 5-inch (diagonal) LCD with 800x400 resolution, left and right mouse buttons, a tiny pointing stick, an external speaker, headphone and microphone jacks, two USB 2.0 ports, a CompactFlash slot, and a mini VGA port. It also comes with a stylus. It's much larger--and far less elegant--than other palmtop PCs we've seen, such as the OQO and the Sony U750P, though DualCor says it weighs just 17 ounces.

The cPC runs both Windows XP Tablet and Windows Mobile 5 simultaneously; you click a little yin-yang taskbar icon to toggle between the OSs. Because Windows files, such as Outlook contacts, live in the same place whether you're using Windows XP or Mobile, all of your data is always synced up regardless of which environment you're in. Battery life varies between modes: in Windows XP, you can expect up to 4 hours, and in Windows Mobile 5, up to 12 hours.

It's not perfect. The prototype we saw lacked integrated wired and wireless networking, though 802.11b/g will be built into the final production model. The cPC also lacks a keyboard--a sticking point for those of us with a Sony U750P. Still, we deeply appreciate the concept in play; who doesn't wish their laptop sometimes acted more like a PDA?

The DualCor cPC is expected to ship in March 2006 for $1,500.

Is the DualCor cPC the next big thing or just another near miss? Tell us what you think.