Back in the 80’s hordes of yuppies wandered the busy streets wearing 3/4 length sleeve jackets and piano ties. Ghastly orange band headphones, with crappy foam cushions covered their ears and played the B52’s or Wham from ‘state of the art’ Sony Walkman cassette players. The true sign of yuppy success, however wasn’t your fake tan, or how much you looked like an extra from Miami Vice, no, the true sign was the size of your ‘mobile’ phone.
These breeze blocks with antennas were, the epitome of 80’s cool. People would stare at your manlyness as you struggled down the street lugging your monsterous black plastic block with you, cursing under your breath at ‘All these damned buildings blocking the reception’ only for you to finally run out of power again and resort to a payphone!
Ah, the good old days! How we long for those simpler times!
Since the 80’s and all through the 90‘s however, the technology industry has tried it’s best to make up for it’s ugly mistakes by making everything smaller, lighter and more reliable.
Cell phones quickly shrank in size due to leaps in battery design and technology, and cell phones companies started building proper infrastructures to support the new handhelds.
Technology is a wicked mistress however, and things we once wished were smaller have been so crammed with features, that now we want them bigger. Smart phones for example are getting bigger all the time. Reviewers actually mark down phones with smaller screens! The Nexus one, for example, makes my iPhone look like a gameboy pocket compared to the original dot matrix screen gameboy!
Then we have the flipside of the coin. Devices that have always had all the features smart phones are now getting (pmp’s, handheld game devices etc) are getting cellular data connection via Edge or 3G, effectviely turning them in to big smart phones.
The Smartbook U1000 is one of these is it or isn’t it devices. Launched by Chinese company Qi during November of last year, the U1000 is a 5 inch touch screen multimedia device running Window Mobile 6.1. It’s a tablet computer that can make calls, or is it a MID that connects flawlessly to your companies Windows network, or is it just a really big smart phone?
Qi are marketing the U1000 as a smart phone and laptop replacement device. Bigger and more functional than a phone, but with more battery life cheaper and more portable than a laptop. That’s not all however, the U1000 will happily fill the shoes of your current ebook reader, GPS navigation device, iPod and portable game machine!
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Under the hood there is a 624Mhz Marvell PXA310 CPU, 256Mb of ROM, and 128Mb of ram. While that’s not quite going to put your average netbook to shame, it will certainly be enough power to browse the web, compose emails, work on excel and play the odd game or watch a movie. These specs also prove to be energy efficient too, with Qi claiming the U1000’s battery will endure 3 hours of heavy usage, 30 hours of standby or 200min of talk time.
The U1000’s 4Gb on board memory can be easily expanded to a maximum of 36Gb with the addition of an 32Gb SD card (32Gb is the largest supported card for the U1000). Sharing application, documents or address books is also a simple task and can either be performed over USB 2.0, Bluetooth or connection to a local network over Wifi.
On the multimedia side the U1000 supports all document formats Window Mobile 6.1 supports. Meaning you can upload PDF files and JPG’s as well as editing Word documents and spreadsheet in Excel. Flash is also supported in the form of Adobe Flash Light. You can also use the device to read Ebooks, listen to Mp3s and watch movies (providing you have the correct codecs).
There are also ‘Gravity’ sensors which calculate the position the Smartbook is held. This can be used in a number of ways, from simply landscape/portrait modes to tilting the screen left to right to control games.
On the back of the device there is a 3.2 megapixel camera, which does a great job as a point and shoot replacement. The camera casing can pulled off to access the lens for cleaning and also the SIM card slot.
We’re pretty impressed by the U1000’s spec and can honestly picture ourselves using this device in place of our current smart phone and laptop as a business/travel device. However, the Smartbook U1000 does have it’s limitations.
Cellular connection is limited to Edge and GSM, there is no 3G support as of yet. The O.S is desperately out of date. Windows 6.1 was out of date at launch and now Mobile 7 is on it’s way! We would also like to see an Android model too.
Like the iPhone the battery is not customer replaceable, which could cause problems when on the road for a longtime. Finally we would love to see a flash on the camera. It seems like such a small gripe, but for a device that can already do so much, it seems slightly stingy of Qi not to add even a simple LED flash.
Although it comes with an out of date O.S and has no 3G support, we like it and can really see it as a useful addition to our digital lives. Acting as a GPS in the car, a web browser at the coffee shop, a handy point and shoot camera at the beach and an Ebook reader while on the toilet! The U1000 offers so much for so little.
Can we really complain when a device offers all this and costs as little as 2000RMB ($294)? We personally don’t thinks so.