First Look: Samsung Q1 Ultra review
Review Date: 30 May 2007
Reviewed By: Ross Burridge
Price when reviewed: (£799 inc VAT)
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It's the form factor that refuses to die. The Ultra Mobile PC has had just about all of the industry's biggest names working on it, and yet only a handful of devices have been released - none of which have taken the world by storm.
But all the best efforts of Microsoft, Intel, Sony and Samsung are now entering their second generation. One of the more successful first attempts was Samsung's own Q1, now followed by the Q1 Ultra - first seen at the CeBIT show in March. It's taken this long to actually surface though, and we've tested one of the first pre-production samples in the country.
The first change of note is the appearance of Windows Vista, which brings much-improved tablet facilities (including enhanced handwriting recognition and touch-friendly icons), as well as the impressive new Origami Experience. From here, you can easily launch various programs (such as a web browser or Office application) with either your finger or the included stylus. There's a (literally) one-touch setting which optimises all the Windows furniture to more digit-friendly dimensions too, although you might have to resort to a fingernail on occasion.
From the home page, you can also smoothly transition to browse your music, video and photos using a customised interface. It's all very pleasant - even tantalisingly close to Microsoft's early promises of how such a device might work. You don't even need to be that choosy to fit everything you want on the 60GB hard disk, or you could connect to a media-stuffed home network - Vista's Media Center also works well.
While there's Bluetooth and 802.11b/g built in (plus wired Ethernet), that's it as far as wireless connections go - we're yet to see anything as ambitious as GPRS or HSDPA, let alone the heady thrills of GPS.
The hardware itself has undergone a few changes too. In fact, the Q1 Ultra debuts a whole new platform, codenamed McCaslin (officially, the Intel Ultra Mobile Platform 2007) and a new ULV processor, codenamed Stealy (officially the A100). The latter is based on the Pentium M and in this case, runs at just 800MHz - surprisingly, enough to keep the Q1 Ultra feeling pretty pokey.
Physically, the biggest change is the split keyboard across the top, which brings a Blackberry-esque keyboard into play. The keys are a touch small, but we could get up to speed after a little practice, and we'd be happy using it for shorter messages or the odd edit.
Elsewhere, a number of shortcut keys really help to get you around Windows - helped by the reasonably generous screen resolution of 1,024 x 600, which leaves room for applications to stretch their legs.
Being a pre-production unit with early silicon and a sample battery (plus a fingerprint reader, which sadly won't make it onto production units), we couldn't make conclusive battery or performance tests, but it still lasted a couple of hours and felt responsive; even with a couple of programs open. It also remains impressively cool unless really pushed for extended periods.
Taking a step back, we're still a long way off the ultimate goal of a take-anywhere, last-all-day, always-connected device - for all its plus points and keyboard aside, it's arguable whether the Q1 Ultra is really as versatile a media device as Sony's sub-£300 Playstation Portable, so you'll need a good reason to spend £800 on it.
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