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Why Does Everyone Hate Ultra-Mobile PCs?

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  • Mobile
  • PCS
  • Laptops
Last response: in Laptop General Discussion
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June 28, 2006 11:08:59 AM

Ultra-Mobile PCs have been soundly trashed by the tech press and tech analysts. Do UMPCs deserve all this negativity?

More about : hate ultra mobile pcs

June 28, 2006 11:56:44 AM

Well, second post on that subject for me today (and second post altogether, by the way).

The only ultra mobile computer I ever used were Psion computers. To me the top was the Psion Revo. It could do all I could do on my desktop computer, weighted 200g and could fit in my pocket easily. All of that with a keyboard comftable enough to type either with my thumbs or with 4-6 fingers (when I could put it down on a table). Not to mention a superb design (with an intriguing case opening mechanism).

I'd love to see a similar offer now. It seems that for that kind of devices now, we are either limited to something too bulky to fit in a pocket, or with a device without keyboard (or a cellphone type keyboard, which isn't really any better)...

If anybody knows of such device, please tell me

until I find a replacement, I will be forced to hate current instance of ultra mobile PCs
June 28, 2006 1:37:55 PM

Yet another article with no real information and just a bunch of fluff. Please, please stop wasting space on Toms Hardware with the gibberish from Barry Gerber.
June 28, 2006 2:38:17 PM

Guess writing forum post about wasting space on articles brings wasting space to a new level.

I didn't feel anyone forced me to read it, but did anyway and found it interesting. Kind of agree with the first poster that ultraportables lack a few thing they had some years ago.

Never used a Psion (although I was tempted), but had a Hp 200LX and a HP 425. Especially the 200LX offered exceptional battery life and a keyboard you could actually use while current PDAs need almost daily recharges and either offer no keyboard or a too small one.

The new ultrasmall PCs are still too big to replace a PDA (or a cellphone) and try to be a multimedia center, which mean high power consumption and poor battery life. This might be a good idea in a while when batteries are better, powerconsumption is lower and prices are lower. So the question is: Do the people who wants a device like this:
a) Know they want it
b) Have the money to buy it

What I'd like to see is something preferably less than 500g, built in cellphone, a workable keyboard and a screen that will work for basic tasks like word, mailing and surfing. A 200+ MHz processor would probably be OK for driving Xp. Battery life is all important. 20 hours would be nice, although I'm aware that's probably impossible with todays technology.
June 28, 2006 3:59:59 PM

The biggest problem I see with UMPC's is marketing. Laptops & desktops are very easy to market because they are general purpose computers, UMPC's are not. By trying to market these computers as general purpose machines, the manufacturers are completely missing the point. Why should I pay a premium price for a computer that is slower and has less features than my laptop? Laptops are already small enough for probably 90-95% of users, although this may change as laptops keep increasing screen sizes.

If you find the correct application for these computers where they "fit the niche", then they will be a success. The following are the markets the manufacturers should be going after:
Hospitals - data entry of patient information, mostly filling in checkboxes to limit "handwriten" notes.
Warehouses - inventory, pulling inventory, etc. But this market is fairly crowded already
Video Production - Digital camcorders could use UMPC's as external capture and storage. Could also be used to verify footage (like dvrack)
June 28, 2006 5:03:37 PM

It's simple--it's a useless concept. Put them in specific industries (i.e. trading, hospitals, insurance agencies) and they do their jobs decently. But PDAs have the features (i.e. wireless, decent processing power, cameras, less overhead, enough memory, etc.) to do the same job with much less cost and with a much smaller form factor.

Also, everyone keeps blabbing about "XP for Tablet PCs" as it's some crazy new thing. Both IBM and Microsoft have tried it in the past to dismal failures... PenDOS, IBM Pen for OS/2, Microsoft Windows 3.1 for Pen Computing (aka. PenWindows). Why haven't they learned by now???
June 28, 2006 5:07:35 PM

Quote:
Yet another article with no real information and just a bunch of fluff. Please, please stop wasting space on Toms Hardware with the gibberish from Barry Gerber.


In the words of Stewie Griffin, "Hey... shut up."

Honestly, if you didn't care for the last one, or the one before that, or the one before that, WHY THE **** did you open this one? Isn't that like the definition of insanity, repeating something you know won't work?

This is a tech community. All that should be required for us to have a discussion on a topic, such as "What is good or bad about UMPCs? Why all the negative press?" is just the question, which this article poses. Even if the article is short and lacking on data, it still is the seed of a discussion.

Moving on to the actual topic...

I think the UMPC idea is brilliant. It is hopefully what all portable computers will become. Tablet PCs are just a tad too large unless you really need a screen that size. Laptops in general can't be used while on the go or standing (and they shouldn't even be used on your lap a lot fo the time, because with some designs it blocks air vents or really heats up your lap). PDAs don't have the capacity to work as full-blown computers. Take the touch screen of a Tablet PC, combine it with a laptop-capacity hard drive, and try to make it closer to the size of a PDA rather than a Laptop.

Today, we don't have the technology that is needed to do it well. Finer resolution displays would be an asset, and hitting 1280x720 on the screen or going higher still would be great: images could be viewed without scrolling and text could be finely detailed for easier reading. Better batteries would also be needed so you could hit 8-10 hours, which is probably as much or more time using a portable device in a day than most people would like. Faster components would also be desirable, for media playback, multi-tasking, etc.

However, when you think about it, many things that are established standards today were initially attempted and done poorly. The first hard drive by IBM was a massive device that employed 50 platters, 24" in diameter each, with a yummy capacity of about 5 MB and a read speed of a handful of KB per second. Good thing people didn't cave in to a sentiment of "this is a slow, power-hungry, overly large piece of *@&$!" and stop working on hard drives.
June 28, 2006 5:20:13 PM

Quote:
It's simple--it's a useless concept. Put them in specific industries (i.e. trading, hospitals, insurance agencies) and they do their jobs decently. But PDAs are much smaller and have the features (i.e. wireless, enough processing power, cameras, etc.) to do the same job with much less cost and with a much smaller form factor.

Also, everyone keeps blabbing about "XP for Tablet PCs" as it's some crazy new thing. Both IBM and Microsoft have tried it in the past to dismal failures... PenDOS, IBM Pen for OS/2, Microsoft Windows 3.1 for Pen Computing (aka. PenWindows). Why haven't they learned by now???


Wow. Yay for short-sightedness. Would you like to go down in history with Bill Gates saying we wouldn't ever need more than a couple hundred KB of RAM? I'm going to save this away for 20 years from now just so I can get a good laugh. I'll say "Oh, silly me, HOW could I have thought that using a fingertip to point at what you want, input so simple and obvious that an infant can do it, would be useful before the full implementation of speech-based computing and neural interfacing? I should've known that we would be forever locked into using 2"x3" touch sensitive pads or those rubber nipples in the middle of IBM ThinkPad keyboards for maneuvering the cursor. Because pointing at something you want? That's just too obvious."

PDAs are simply too small. If I were to have something that would do actual PC stuff, as in taking around movies, music, pictures, and other such things, I'm going to want (right now) a bare minimum of 50 GB of space. 100 GB of space is more future-proof. As soon as they make a 50 GB 1" drive that can be stuck in a PDA, I'll give them another look. Until then, without proper drive space or half-decent speeds, a PDA simply isn't a portable computing solution. The most productive thing you can do is take notes (on a touch screen much smaller than the UMPC screens that everyone thinks are too small already) or browse the web on a tiiiiny little screen.
June 28, 2006 5:36:56 PM

Like someone else says, these ultraportable are essentially a niche between a real laptop and a pda/video ipod/ whatever. While getting a real laptop or a pda cost you less than $1000. Getting these ultraportable costs you more at least $1500. If some company figures out how to 'mass produce' this stuff for about $700, you will see an acceptance for these ultraportables.
June 28, 2006 7:52:03 PM

I think the UMPCs are great. Only if they cost about the same as normal small notebooks. (I still need the thumb keyboard because I expect to do more typing on one of these than say a Pocket PC phone.)
Anyway, do hate when marketing guys use words like "remote control", glorified "pocket pc", $1000 "web viewer", $1000 "GPS MAP', etc.
Just let it be what it is, "A small expandible real PC for doing real PC work". It's JUST a small real PC for development, high-end engineering, full size office apps, etc. The built-in GPS is iceing on the cake.
Let me read the article again, then I can give a better responce..
June 28, 2006 8:40:45 PM

Quote:
Yet another article with no real information and just a bunch of fluff. Please, please stop wasting space on Toms Hardware with the gibberish from Barry Gerber.


I agree, can him ASAP!
June 28, 2006 9:19:29 PM

Quote:
Ultra-Mobile PCs have been soundly trashed by the tech press and tech analysts. Do UMPCs deserve all this negativity?


Until someone can point to a mass-market use where they are superior to existing products, yes. Their battery life is too little to make them "go anywhere/anytime" devices. The processors don't have the power to really distance themselves from PDAs. The screens are relatively sharp but Windows doesn't seem to fit well on it. Keyboards still seem to be necessary and none of them have a decent keyboard.

Oh, and price. Right now for the price of the Samsung you can get a low-end big-box brand laptop (that still smokes the umpc) AND a Treo 700w (though I'd wait for the 700p, but I like the sharper screen and the palmos).

Exactly when is it justified to buy a UMPC over a laptop + pda? Really, how many people need full PC power in their pocket? Of those, how many will only need it for 3-4 hours? And out of that group, how many can do what they need without a keyboard or a decent screen?

Conceptually, I want a decent clamshell/slider design that can work in "portrait" mode with a pen input like a typical PDA and flip to "landscape" with the keyboard unfolded for some serious data entry. I really don't give a crap about the CPU, ram or storage beyond "runs the applications well" and stores a typical "my documents directory" which is rarely more than 1-2GB, excluding MP3s. On the MP3 player front, force it to only play MP3 from flash memory, rely on a relatively stupid sub-processor to handle that task while Windows is in Sleep mode and include a 4GB+ flash card.

Really what I want, and what will apparently never be made, is a PalmOS5 device that measures about 4"x6"x0.5", has a slide-out keyboard, 3.5x5.5" screen, a bit more CPU than a Treo650 and includes WiFi & 3G phone. Include a decent VPN/VNC/RDP package and I'm a happy camper.
June 28, 2006 11:37:26 PM

Ok, my second post.
After reading thing again and other posters, UMPCs are close to useful.
I hear a promise of a "system on a chip" (everything except for RAM, storage, screen, and ports on one big chip) which can give a little more power while using a lot less watts and cheaper, in a smaller package. I think the current UMPCs are just like notebooks only smaller.
Yes, there is a need for UMPC as some others mention. You can't web surf on a cell phone or PPC. Sometimes you need real PC power in a smaller package, ever try to stuff a notebook PC in a backpack? Even a small notebook can't fit. Also people on the road a lot, the UMPC is a lot easier to carry - on the bus for example. etc, etc, blah blah.
June 29, 2006 1:54:01 AM

I think mobile computing will have comparitively limited use until voice recognition is a viable interface. The future of this as I see it, is a wristwatch style device that incorporates mobile phone, calendar, GPS, wireless and limited web connectivity, little or no screen, and voice-only interface.

The voice interface would have to be no less convenient than giving an adult the same instructions.
"Computer, send a message to mum: will be late for dinner"
"Computer, reserve the third of july 8am to 9am for Toms Hardware interview"
"Computer, google who is the current prime minister of canada"
"Computer, how do we get from here to 39 Walter street? And what direction am I pointing now?"

Until this device hits the market, mobile computing is pretty much a fluff topic imo.

cheers,
James
June 29, 2006 3:54:42 AM

You know what Twile? You are right, this is a technology community.

For some time, when I still bothered to read the tech news on MSNBC I would sit there and marvel at Gary Krakow. From reading so many of his articles it was completely apparent that he had no clue what he was writing about at anything more than a user-level, and that he was simply someone who enjoyed gadgets. That's fine, it actually describes a large portion of the Japanese population... but a tech journalist? No. That was OK though, he was writing for MSNBC, which doesn't even pretend to be a serious technology site.

And then, recently, Toms Hardware has had Barry Gerber writing for them, churning out content like it is going out of style, writing one article every two days it seems. And yet you know what? Gary Krakow seemed to actually know more about what he was writing about, on a TECHNICAL level, than good old Gerber does. At least, Krakow included the occasional technical detail.

Mr. Gerber simply writes about things that involve technology without ever getting technical. If this was the exception, that would be one thing, but it is becoming the rule, and that is something else entirely.

I find it funny that I could get a better, more in-depth, technical article from MSNBC. So sad but go figure.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12579136/

But hey, if that is the direction that Toms Hardware wants to go... just tell us.

As for UMPCs themselves... could be great, but they are at least 2 years ahead of their time. Wait until the average UMPC has the power of today's average laptop, and the price is much lower, and they will be worth looking at. I keep wishing they would release a tablet PC that resembled the pads that they use on Star Trek. Thin, light, about the size of a sheet of paper, and just under 1.5 cm thick, maybe 2 cm. Then I'd have something I would consider useful. Until then...
June 29, 2006 6:16:00 AM

Quote:
Yet another article with no real information and just a bunch of fluff. Please, please stop wasting space on Toms Hardware with the gibberish from Barry Gerber.


Not only is this just fluff it is written by a man who has no integrity, dose no real research on his articles and dosent even lie very well. Barry Gerber is an emarrasment to this community and THG needs to get rid of him before his ways infect others.

Fire Barry Gerber.
June 29, 2006 6:40:54 AM

Why doesn't Barry mention the TabletKiosk eo? It's a UMPC that came out at the same time as the Samsung Q1 and only costs $899. 1GHz CPU, 256MB RAM, 40GB HDD and it even comes in white! It also seems like he missed the news this week about the Sony VAIO coming with a 16GB flash drive instead of a hard drive.

Quote:
I hear a promise of a "system on a chip" (everything except for RAM, storage, screen, and ports on one big chip) which can give a little more power while using a lot less watts and cheaper, in a smaller package. I think the current UMPCs are just like notebooks only smaller.


VIA has previewed their system on a chip, codenamed "John" which promises to reduce the size and power consumption of future UMPCs. While John is not officially launched yet, there is a UMPC coming out that does utilize their northbridge/southbridge combo chipset (VX700) - the DualCor cPC.

It looks like there's a lot of confusion about UMPCs out there...
June 29, 2006 6:25:54 PM

The answer is simple millions of us have been waiting and hoping for a pocket size XP device with a touch type keyboard something similar in size to the old Psion 5mx 3.5 x 7.5 x 1" .

The issue with the umpc's thus far is they are not portable, meaning you can not put it in your pocket and thus are forced to carry a "man purse" which is not for the non geeks.

Second the reality is most want a touch type keyboard, NOT any variation on a thumb design. That is why tablets have been weak and the ones that do better are ones like Toshiba that have keyboard and work as a tablet.

Since most were wanting something resembling the above and these units are far from that people say a lot of negative things and say they are over priced. To me I do not hate them, I would not buy one even at a lower price, but they do prove that an XP can be made small. What will enable the umpc to be a huge hit is for hardware people to focus on functionality as someone else said they thought the old Psion was the best ergonomic portable device. Just have some engineers copy it and make it run on XP and that will be worth $1000 or more
!