Samsung Q1b UMPC/Tablet PC Hands-On Review

by AWright Reads (34,729)

by AWright

Samsung Q1b UMPC/Tablet PC Review

Introduction

In a world that has spawned mobile computing there are laptops at the top of the food chain and PDAs/organizers at the bottom. In the middle you find some of the more innovative and sometimes more complex mobile devices such as smartphones and Tablet PCs. While both are more advanced with each coming year of technology, there is something to be said about the usability of these technologies as they relate to what it is we want to get done. Namely, where do these devices fit in, and are they really at a point where they can solve a problem.


Front view of the Samsung Q1b UMPC. (view large image)

Seeing that this is a review of the Samsung Q1b UMPC/Tablet PC, we are going to take a look at mobility from the side of Tablet devices. It’s no longer a question of the ability of the devices, the Samsung Q1b is an impressive piece of machinery packing Windows XP Tablet Edition, a 40GB hard drive, a touchscreen-based interface and enough connectivity options to keep your contacts from being aware that you are on the go. But there still is a question that needs to be asked: Is the Tablet PC, especially with the advent of flash memory hard drives and their increased performance, worth investing in? Let’s dive into the Q1b and then revisit this question.

Specs

  • VIA C7-M processor @ 1GHz
  • 512MB SDRAM
  • HD rated at 34.8GB
  • 7-inch WVGA TFT LCD (800×480), supports automatic resolution adjustment, max res 1600×1200 when connected to an external monitor
  • Windows XP Tablet PC Edition (SP2)
  • AVStation multimedia software
  • 802.11b/g
  • Bluetooth 2.0
  • Removable Lithium Ion battery (28.9Ah, 11.8v)
  • Touchscreen

Usability

Okay, so we have talked about the hard numbers. And from those numbers we see a device that is all but ready to take on the work and world around us. But how do all of those factors add into the Tablet experience?

Frankly, I was left with a bit of a mixed bag. On the positive side of things, the battery life, when not using Wi-Fi, is absolutely incredible. I only wish that my Treo smartphone was as frugal when being put to hard work. And it was not just the at work battery life that was unexpectedly well, because of my work schedule the Q1b was left for multiple days without being touched and it picked up just fine off of standby right where I left it.


(view large image)

Another positive of the Q1b is its weight. It always felt as if I were holding a paperback book instead of a computer. Sure, I didn’t want to throw it around or fold the pages, but the handwriting recognition and built-in applications were snappy and for the most part pleasing to work with. In addition to the weight, the Q1 rarely got hot in use. I could use it for 2.5 – 3 hours straight and the only time I felt heat is when I rotated the screen to a direction where I could feel the exhaust vents blowing.

On the other hand, speaking of the fact that I had to rotate the screen does bring to mind the negatives. I can say first and foremost that the negatives have more to do with Windows XP Tablet Edition rather than the hardware, though that does not clear the hardware any.

Here is a small list of the negatives that I experienced in terms of the Q1b’s usability:

  • The default screen resolution (800×480) is not very usable for much of anything, especially when browsing the web or system dialog boxes come up. Increasing the resolution shows blocky text and degrades the quality of reading.
  • The "joystick" was not very smooth in operation and the button+joystick combinations to make the mouse pointer move necessitated a bit of a learning curve.
  • The Wi-Fi antenna was not particularly strong in areas that previous devices would be just fine. However, when the Q1b locked onto a signal it stayed on it quite stubbornly.
  • The included stylus is horrible and should be replaced with one that has more weight and functionality.
  • Windows XP was not built for touchscreen navigation and it shows throughout applications. Vista does handle this better and the recently announced Q1p (Vista and a larger hard drive) should address that aspect.

Comments

This all being said, I came away with a so-so experience in using the Q1b. I felt that it worked really well as an Internet Tablet device, and even a portable music player (despite the mono speaker).


The Samsung Q1b compared to the Treo 680 smartphone. (view large image)

I made the change to Firefox and Internet Explorer 7 on the review unit that I had and that improved the readability of websites when going through different resolution settings. I imagine that other software packages that are fairly new will have the same positive effect when doing resolution switching as much as I was doing.

One of the things that I do wish was on the Q1b (and other Tablet devices) is a memory card reader, or at least a quick connection type application for digital cameras. The Q1b is great for showing off picture handling digital cameras as another media device leaves a gap in that experience.

Conclusion

The Samsung Q1b has prices starting at $899 in some places, which can be a good buy if your needs are simply that of a computing Tablet device that can serve as a weekend/weeknight warrior and you need the robustness of Windows XP applications. It’s probably best served in short stints though, and can come in handy during plane and car trips. I like the weight, and the AVStudio feature of being able to use the multimedia aspects without booting into Windows. I think that with some refinement to the battery drain when Wi-Fi is on, a better joystick and a lower price, Samsung could have a winner in the mainstream marketplace.




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