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Thursday, June 14, 2007

My UMPC is more than a Companion PC.

I have been involved recently in many arguments about performance and battery life and that made me think about myself back in 2006 when the Origami Concept was being constantly attacked by the press and one of the things they were saying was that OEMs were using weak processors in Origamis. And I replied many times back then that UMPCs were companion PCs no designed or thought to replace your main PC at home.

Well, Today I have to admit that I was wrong. The processors used in the first generation of UMPC were good enough in the majority of cases, as you can see from the video attached to this article. But they have one problem, battery life. I wont say that this is a small problem. This is a huge problem in our modern life.  But like I have said before, you have many things that you can do to stay unplugged from power the whole day, but you can't do anything to increase performance once you reach the point where your UMPC is fully optimized.

I was wrong when I said that UMPCs are just Companion PCs. Why? Well because when you own one and you start to use it, soon you will discover that you can't live without one of these gadgets. You will enter in a state where you want to use only your UMPC. It's so comfortable after all to use it in literally everywhere that you wont turn on your main PC at home anymore.

To think like some companies are thinking that UMPC are designed for Internet and a little bit of document editing is too... simplistic. In current time everything is more complex. Let's take blogging. Who is going to visit a blog without pictures or without a few little videos? Blogging is about mobility! I like to blog when I feel that I have something to say and that happens in the most uncommon places sometime. Do I have to wait to get home to turn on my PC to get my short video edited or to insert some watermark into my pictures? Come on!

Games... I saw the other day a video from VIA demonstrating how they can play Quake III in a OQO 02. And I have conflicting reactions with that video. Who the heck is going to connect a UMPC to a full size keyboard and a mouse to play Quake in a UMPC? That's not what gamers want! Young people want to be able to take the UMPC in the way they are and play Hallo like they are playing it in a PSP! Yes, the OQO 02 can handle Quake III. That's good. VIA is getting better. But that's not enough. is there any company that has analyzed how to use the integrated keyboard in this second generation of UMPC to remap some keys to replace the normal use of those keys by the functionality of the keys in a game controller? has any OEM checked how many potential users ask for how good UMPC are from the point of view of games? Because this is one of the most common questions that I have been asked since 2006. And I'm not a gamer. If I'm talking about this is because like I said, people are asking me these kind of questions. No Microsoft, Sudoku does not enter in the category of games that young people want to play. And that brings the same problem again. Current UMPC are not powerful enough to handle most of the games that teenagers want to play. They do not have the power and they have not been optimized to be used as a portable game station. And they do not want a new portable play station. All they want is a real UMPC that they can take everywhere with all those programs and games that they have in their home PCs.

And now we have Vista. The Operating System with the best handwriting recognition I have seen. But... what a shame, people are downgrading their brand new Samsung Q1Us because some wise person decided to cut down a processor to increase battery life and another very wise person decided to use that weaken processor with Vista. Thanks God that that last person reanalyzed the idea of using a processor at 600 MHz with Vista! 

Performance is needed as much as battery life is needed!

Forget about that stupid idea about UMPCs being the next Nokia N800 in the market. That's the simplistic idea that I have back at the beginning of 2006 and like I have being saying from the beginning on this article I  W-A-S  W-R-O-N-G. And I was wrong because this is how I ended using my UMPC:

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  1. Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes! just what I am experiencing.

    I just got a Via based UMPC and haven't turned on my desktop for the last week and counting. It's starting to get lonely.

    I use my UMPC at work, around the house and while lying in bed.

    I am not doing graphic intensive things, or editing dozens of photos at once or cutting the next great indie documentary. I have a "real" desktop for those sort of pursuits. But at work for taking notes, at home for checking/answering e-mails, surfing the web during commercial breaks or catching up with friends and family on Messenger, using Outlook, it is perfect.

    It's also a great portable music player since I have my ENTIRE music collection with me. I take 5 minutes before a long drive and create a custom mix.

    So, in a sense, it has "replaced" my personal desktop for everyday, light computer needs. I find myself using it more because it is so portable and I don't feel like I have to be tied to a desk.

    I do agree, a gamer's aesthetic is seriously lacking. I do remember in the early Origami days of last year, Microsoft was showing what turned out to be the original Q1 playing Halo. It certainly gave the impression higher end games would be playable. Seems the vision is far ahead of the reality.

    But then again, between my Playstation 2, Wii and PSP, I wasn't using my desktop PC for much gaming lately.

    It would be great to have better processors from Via that can handle higher graphic requirements for gaming and such, do better at multi-tasking while keeping the power drain down.

    Maybe the next gen Intel chips will really turn things around and all three on my wish list could be accomplished.

  2. i second that completely. having lower processing power on the 2nd gen umpcs completely cut down their functionality. yes, umpcs need power and juice. i'm very happy with my q1p, its strong enough not to lag when running multiple office applications and its fast enought to play my movies without lag. i can even run quake 3 and true combat elite, which brings me to the other subject, games. if you want to play a game that requires more than 3 buttons, don't use a umpc. it's just not made for that, i tried it and i saw myself squinting the whole time to be able to shoot my enemy, i ended up connecting the q1 to an external monitor. final thought, q1 my main pc, for work, school entertainment. my laptop, to have my dvd backup, and whatever resource intensive programs i need to run.

  3. I'm in the same boat! My main machine is a 17" PowerBook G4 (soon to be upgraded to a MacBook Pro). Great machine, but a bit on the heavy side to carry around all day.

    I had a Sony U750P for a few years and it was great for travel and note-taking at meetings --- but then my eyesight got worse & I couldn't easily read the screen unless I changes the resolution.

    This unit was replaced by a P1510. Great machine, but annoyingly slow. It sounds like the P1610 may have the same problem. The Lenovo X61 seems promising, but is really a tad too big to carry around for 14 hr a day a conferences. Seems like what I want is a convertible sporting a Santa Rosa processor, 9-10" multi-touch screen, full communication capability, Vista, and at least 5-7 hr battery life - all weighing in at < 3.5 lbs.

    Guess I'll keep dreaming for another year or two!


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