Dialogue Flybook VM HSDPA review
Innovative design and well constructed, but the poor performance and high price let it down.
Dialogue clearly wants to revolutionise the world of mobile computing. Its previous product, the Flybook V-series (www.pcpro.co.uk/reviews/33882), is a dinky convertible tablet that makes other ultraportables look like giants. And Dialogue is at the revolutionary game again with the Flybook VM and its Anglepoise-like screen mechanism that extends upwards and forwards.
The benefits of this adjustable screen can't be overstated enough; no longer are you hunched over your notebook as you work, with aches in your neck and back if you're typing for more than a few minutes. A simple grab of the screen bezel and an upwards pull elevates the display to a much more ergonomic position. And you can pull the screen forward and tilt it so that it's presented to you at just the right angle for comfortable extended viewing. To see this potentially revolutionary design in action, watch our video review at www.pcpro.co.uk/links/152flybook. We're confident you'll be as impressed as everyone in the office was (including our colleagues on sister mag MacUser).
The screen has more to its repertoire than just being joyfully ergonomic. There's the glossy coating that adds richness and vibrancy and, while there's a slight speckle pattern to the TFT, it does have the look of quality. We were more than happy to watch a DVD on the train, especially as we could pull the screen all the way forward and down to hide the distracting trackpad and keyboard behind it. Even the narrow vertical viewing angles are slightly more generous than with most ultraportables, and you can negate the problem entirely by positioning the screen just so in front of you.
Perhaps most surprising is that the screen is held in place with a pleasing firmness by the adjustable arm. Aggressive typing introduces some screen wobble, but nothing untoward. The main body is also solidly built, with hardly any flex, while the two-year collect-and-return warranty enforces the feeling of hardiness.
The keyboard is also well constructed; there's a firmness to each key press and just enough travel to have your fingers dancing over it. As with all ultraportables there are compromises, although none will have you scowling in frustration. The keys are smaller than normal, with comma, full stop and forward slash being half-width to boot. But then there's a Windows key where it should be, a Ctrl key outside of the Fn key at the bottom left-hand corner and a generally standard, if shrunken, layout. Even the small trackpad is perfectly functional.
However, just as the keys and trackpad are shrunken, so is the expansion potential. You have only two USB ports, no modem to back up the 10/100 Ethernet and the D-SUB output. The ExpressCard/54 slot on the right should come into its own in the future, and the inclusion of only a DVD combo drive isn't a great loss.
The Flybook VM scores well when it comes to wireless networking, though. There's 802.11a/b/g courtesy of the Centrino Duo branding, and Dialogue adds Bluetooth and an integrated HSDPA module that you can use with any network provider. Or, if you don't fancy the HSDPA module, you can save £170.
But the biggest compromise with the Flybook VM is the performance. With a 1.06GHz Core Duo U2400, performance will be modest, with an overall result of around 0.55 (our unit actually came with a slightly different processor, but this is roughly what Core Duo U2400 Centrino notebooks score). Still, at least that processor is a dual-core chip, so it'll run multiple applications better than a slow single-core CPU does. And to help out there's 1GB of RAM, ideal for running Vista Business smoothly. Battery life was nothing to get excited about either, with the standard three-cell battery lasting only around 1hr 15mins of intensive use and around 2hrs 50mins of light use. That's way off the ultraportable norm: the Dell Latitude D420 is much cheaper for its four hours of light use, while the more portable Sony VAIO VGN-TX2XP lasts an incredible nine hours. The six-cell optional battery will double endurance for £145.