Tools Of The Trade: The Samsung Q1 tablet PC

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The Independent Online

Appropriately for a computer developed under the codename "Origami", the Samsung Q1 comes in an intricate, multi-layered cardboard box. Opening the Q1 is like receiving a gift.

But the device is less innovative than the packaging. Samsung describes the Q1 as an "ultramobile" PC, and with a seven-inch touch- screen it is certainly more portable than a standard laptop. But it is less radical than some of the early designs produced by Microsoft and Intel for the Origami project.

The Q1 is operated not by keyboard or even pen, but by users controlling buttons on each side of the screen with their thumbs. There is, though, a pen for more complex navigation, as well as for entering text using handwriting recognition, or for sketching on the tablet screen.

The Q1 has special menus to support the thumb navigation, as well as additional tools to record and play back media. It runs standard Windows XP Tablet Edition software, so it can also run standard business applications.

Whether it would be practical to do so is another matter. The Q1 packs a reasonable amount of power into its small case, coming with 512Mb of memory and a 40Gb hard drive. But the main processor is an Intel Celeron M running at a pedestrian 900MHz. While this is enough for email and word processing, high-end multimedia applications could stretch it.

The main problem for business users, though, is what the designers have left out. Unlike a full-sized tablet PC, which has a keyboard as well as a touchscreen, the Q1 relies on handwriting recognition or a touch-sensitive virtual keyboard that appears on the screen.

You could hook up an external keyboard to the Q1, but once that and an external CD Rom have been added - there is no optical drive included in the box - the machine will not be much smaller and lighter than a compact laptop.

The battery life also suffers from the designers' need to make the Q1 compact. Expect somewhere between two and a half and three and a half hours' use on the supplied battery, depending on the applications. Connect either to a Bluetooth mobile phone or a wireless network and battery life will be at the lower end of the spectrum.

Samsung wisely includes both Bluetooth and wireless LAN as standard in the Q1, and rather strangely for a highly portable device, there is also a fixed ethernet socket. But the memory slot will not take a 3G mobile data card, although the Q1 specification suggests that such cards could be built into ultra-mobile PCs in the near future.

The Q1 is an interesting demonstration of the art of miniaturisation, and it could make a fun gadget for checking email or web browsing around the house. But it is not flexible or powerful enough to serve as a business tool.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5.

PROS: good example of how a miniature tablet PC could work.

CONS: too slow, expensive and with too short a battery life to replace a laptop.

COST: around £800 including VAT.

CONTACT: www.samsung.co.uk

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