Samsung once again seeks to offer a dose of UMPC love to mobile professionals (and this time around, students of higher education) with the $1,299 Q1 Ultra Premium. Although it features tablet functionality and weighs just 1.9 pounds, we once again scratched our heads and wondered if this device is seeking to fill a niche that doesn’t exist.
The Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium features a split QWERTY keyboard that resides on both sides of the bright and sharp 7-inch, 1440 x 900-pixel LED display, similar to the PepperPad or Wibrain B1E. Getting accustomed to typing URLs and quick e-mails took us only a few minutes.
If the split-keyboard design isn’t to your liking, the Q1 also lets you punch out letters on a virtual keyboard with the stylus, or go the more natural route by using the handwriting recognition software. We attempted to write a three-paragraph document using the virtual keyboard and the stylus, which led to frustration. Tapping letters was simply too slow for writing lengthy pieces, and the handwriting recognition software misread quite a few letters unless we wrote very deliberately, which also slowed things down. We couldn’t fathom a road warrior or college student taking many notes with the device.
Good Touch Display
The resistive touchscreen was responsive to our inputs when navigating menus and clicking icons or links. It recognizes only direct input, however, not hover gestures. The Windows XP Tablet Edition operating system let us view on-screen content horizontally or rotate it vertically, which was more conducive for reading blogs, although we did need to scroll horizontally a bit on certain sites.
Above the display are four touch-sensitive buttons: UDF (user-defined function), Volume Up, Volume Down, and Menu. Menu offers quick access to important settings, such as toggling the Wi-Fi on and off, and rotating the display to the left or right. UDF lets users launch frequently used programs and create key combinations that you can map to the circular keypad beneath the right portion of the split QWERTY keyboard. We were able to swiftly create a setting for which pressing up on the pad copied a file or highlighted text and pressing down pasted it. Although we appreciated the shortcuts, they just felt like bandages attempting to cover the system’s odd design.
Below the left portion of the split-QWERTY is the Q-Button, which let us toggle between controlling the cursor with a mini-joystick and launching Internet Explorer. It’s a nice control option for those who feel more comfortable holding the Q1 in two hands, but for us, using the stylus was a far superior navigation method.
Samsung Q1 Ultra Multimedia Features
On the left side of the system, just above the Power button, is the AVStation Viewer software that offers one-touch access to your music, photo, and video collections. Unfortunately, it doesn’t automatically detect media files; we had to add them manually to the AVStation Premium software before we could access them. The system packs an 80GB 4,200-rpm hard drive (an optional solid state drive is in the planning stages) and a 2-in-1 memory card reader. The stereo speakers produce solid (if unspectacular) audio that could have used more volume. Samsung includes a VGA port for outputting video to a monitor.
Like the previous Q1 Ultra, the Q1 Ultra Premium packs dual cameras (0.3 megapixels on the front of the device, 1.3 megapixels on the back) that let you take still images or videos of yourself and others. A built-in kickstand on the back allowed us to prop the Q1 Ultra Premium into prime position for watching YouTube videos. We enjoyed rich colors, and on-screen images looked great from all angles.
The Q1 Ultra Premium’s 1.3-GHz U1500 ultra low voltage processor, 1GB of RAM (expandable to 2GB), and relatively lightweight operating system resulted in a lag-free computing experience even with multiple applications running at once. The system lasted 3 hours and 38 minutes on a charge on our DVD rundown test (using an external optical drive), but one could expect even greater endurance with typical use.
A 3DMark03 score of 1,026 is nearly double that of your average UMPC, but don’t expect to run any high-end games or graphics-intensive programs. Web surfing was decent; the 802.11b/g Wi-Fi signal pushed data along at rates of 16.6 Mbps at 15 feet way from our access point, and 8.7 Mbps at 50 feet. Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR is also included. A company spokesperson stated that HSDPA and WiMAX mobile broadband connections are in the works, which are essential for something that bills itself as ultramobile.
Software and Warranty
The Q1 Ultra Premium comes preinstalled with Adobe Reader, McAfee Virus Scan (30-day trial), and Microsoft Office (60-day trial). A fingerprint reader powered by AuthenTec’s biometrics technology is also included. Samsung covers the system with a one-year standard warranty and 24/7 tech support.
Ultimately, the $1,299 Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium, like its predecessors, feels like a pricey mobile Internet device. We could actually get more work done on a mini-notebook such as the HP 2133 Mini-Note (starting price of $599), which features a nearly full-size keyboard, larger 8.9-inch (1280 x 720) display, and an ExpressCard slot. And the high-end version of that notebook costs $750 less. Unless you’re absolutely enthralled with having tablet functionality, the Samsung Q1 is one to pass on.