The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Thoughts on the Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium UMPC

Posted by Deliverator on August 20th, 2008

I’ve received my new Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium (with XP Tablet 2005 NOT Vista) and have had a few days to let my feelings about the device gel a bit. I thought I might take some time to share some of my thoughts and recommendations.

The Good:

-The 1.3 Ghz Intel Core Solo processor in the Q1 UP is a huge improvement over any of the previous processors used in UMPC devices. This system with XP and half the ram feels snappier than my core duo wielding Lenovo with Vista and 2 GB. I can play back high resolution video with no dropped frames, something every previous UMPC I’ve tried has choked upon.

-The 1024*600 resolution screen with LED backlighting is beautiful. It provides much better screen real estate than previous UMPC devices without feeling squinty. The LED backlighting is extremely bright. It is easily brighter than either my 24″ Samsung desktop monitor or Lenovo Z61m.

-Comes with a minimum of pre-installed crapware.

-Very long battery life (5-6 hours of active use with WiFi and Bluetooth in use)

-Quick battery recharge time

-Built in SD card reader is full SDHC compliant, which means you can use 4+ GB capacity SD cards with it. This combined with the excellent screen will make this device very useful for reviewing/culling photos from my D80 without having to lug around a full laptop.

-Built in disk imaging utility which can be used for point in time snapshot backups.

-Dual microphones, stereo speakers and dual cameras all make this an excellent platform for video conferencing and VOIP use.

-There is an unused mini-PCI Express card slot inside the unit. Brave modders have already used this slot to add WWAN modules and other goodies to the Q1 UP. The ram module can also be upgraded to at least 2 GB, although the slot is much less accesible than the mini-PCI Express slot. For those of you wanting 2 GB from the get go, the Vista version features 2 GB and you know….you can always “downgrade” to XP.

-The Q1 UP has a USB port on the right side as well as on the top of the unit. This flexibility in where you plug in WWAN dongles, wireless mice and the like is really nice and an improvement over previous generations of Samsung UMPC devices.

The Bad:

-The screen has a layer of plastic (probably intended as a sort of integral screen protector) above the actual resistive touch panel. On my unit, this piece of plastic seems ill fitted and bulges outward slightly causing a small air gap between the touch panel and top surface, particularly on the left side of my unit. This has several negative, detrimental effects. Firstly, it requires one to press down harder than normal to register a tap. Secondly, it reduces the precision of the touchscreen as the stylus has a tendency to slip as this layer deforms. Thirdly, it is difficult to register a tap and hold properly. Fourthly, since the amount of pressure to register a tap isn’t uniform across the screen, one finds oneself having to be extremely deliberate about taping the screen. Fifthly, the difference in the amount of air caught in between the surface layer and the digitizer causes a sort of ripply, uneven glossy appearance which I find distasteful. I wish this issue was confined to just my unit, but I’ve seen reports of this issue on a couple other blogs, including from Kevin Tofel from the well respected mobile tech blog jkOnTheRun. I’m considering exchanging the unit with Amazon to see whether the roulette wheel coughs up a better unit.

-The 80 GB Toshiba HDD is pretty pokey performance wise. Quick benchmarks put its sequential read/write speed at around 22 MB/s. To put this in perspective, most run of the mill desktop hard drives turn in a number about 3 times faster. Random reads and writes suffer even more, probably due to the relatively low spindle speeds of 1.8″ hard drives. In actual use, I’ve mainly noticed this when launching larger executables such as Firefox. Once launched, application performance is excellent. I may consider swapping in a solid state disk at some point in the future, once they have gone down in price and up in capacity a bit. As I’ve noted in the past, in car use tends to be rather detrimental to hard disks.

-The Samsung Q1 has four touch areas at the top of the screen. These areas control volume up and down, pops up a display adjustment utility and utility which serves the sole purpose of remapping the functions provided by the fourway hat. It is trivially easy to accidentally brush against these buttons and I constantly find myself zeroing my volume or popping up a utility by complete accident. I’ve attempted to simply disable these buttons entirely, without much luck. I’ve managed to disable to on screen displays from popping up, but not the functions of the buttons themselves.

-All the input options included border on being mediocre:

The chicklet split qwerty keyboard is inferior to those implemented on blackberries and similar devices for the better part of the last half decade. It is not backlit or frontlit in any way, which makes it of limited usefulness for couch surfing and home theater use. The enter key is not on the keyboard itself, but is found as a round button in the center of a four way hat switch on the right side of the screen. This requires constant hand movements off the keyboard while typing. In addition, numbers are only available as second functions of the alphabetic keys, even though there is ample room on the device casing for a dedicated row of number keys. There is no delete key, even as a second function of another key, from what I can tell, or provision for f1-f12.

The thumb mouse found to the left of the screen is not only sloppy, but it is extremely difficult to make the cursor move accurately over shot distances. While an improvement over previous Q1 pointing devices, it falls frustratingly short of the excellent thumb driven pointers of the Toshiba Libretto series of over a decade ago or the track sticks that are standard issue on Thinkpads. The left and right mouse buttons, found to the right of the screen are small and are completely flush with the casing and are of the same material and texture as the surrounding casing. This makes it difficult to position ones fingers on them by tactile sensation alone. I may epoxy some grit to their surface to make them easier to use.

Inking is sub-par due to the lack of proper human interface device profile drivers for the touchscreen as well as the aforementioned issues with the poorly fitted integral “screen protector.”

Recommendations:

-There is an excellent free on screen keyboard called Zero Weight Keyboard. It is extremely well designed and customizable, and was designed with UMPC devices specifically in mind. The only minor downsides to it imo are that it uses the .Net Framework, which I would otherwise remove, and it takes up a lot of ram.

-The included hand strap and felt-like carry pouch are pretty well useless for their intended purposes. Otterbox makes a robust hard shell case for the Q1 UP which adds a great deal of shock/drop protection without adding greatly to the device’s size or blocking any ports/functions. The case has a hand strap for one handed use and there is a shoulder strap available at additional cost. It looks like any halfway decent camera bag strap would attach equally well and at lower cost than the Otterbox one.

-Ram Mounts has a number of vehicle mounting options for the Q1 UP and is the first to market (to my knowledge) with a device specific mount for the Q1 UP.