Archive for September, 2007

From Pocket PC to Ultra-Mobile PC

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

As a heavy Pocket PC user I have been evaluating UMPC's as my next portable device. Why? Here is a list of the main reasons:

  • Full desktop OS (Vista or XP), thus desktop applications

  • Decent resolution (800×480 minimum)
  • Decent screen size (physical dimensions)
  • Decent storage on SSD, HDD

What will I lose by moving away from my Pocket PC? My built-in phone and some portability as UMPC's are obviously larger. Is this a big deal? Not as much as it used to be – read on…

I am using my PDA more and more and the small screen of my device is bugging me a lot – and hurting my eyes. Pocket PC's only seem to be getting smaller and smaller screens however, and any of the newer devices with larger screens have major drawbacks – the HTC Advantage with it's lack of phone support and it's stupid magnet (why have a portable device that cannot sit next to a wallet or another device with a HDD? duh), and the HP IPAQ 200 with it's nice 4inch screen but no phone. If a Pocket PC has no phone and a small screen then I am looking elsewhere – and the only elsewhere is towards the new generation of Ultra-Mobile PC's.

The concept of carrying around a full computer running the same applications as my everyday PC is very appealing. No more syncing of data, no more shelling over cash for Pocket PC software that is a cut-down imitation of the real thing. As I am a IT Manager/Developer it also means I will have access to tools that are required for my job at hand 24/7 – there will be no requirement for me to lug my laptop around when on the go. Sure I will have to carry a small phone plus a UMPC as opposed to a single device, but there are some advantages in that as well such as each device being optimised for its purpose.

To move away from a Pocket PC however there are a few requirements that a UMPC must meet to cover my everyday usage. It must be able to support at least 4 hours battery life. It must still be very portable in terms of overall dimensions. I also want to be able to use it in situations where it must be quiet and discreet. For example I use it a lot in places like my church to take notes and have study/reference material at hand – I don't want the device to be too obvious and distracting to others. For a UMPC to run desktop software it must also be reasonably fast and have decent storage capacity. A keyboard is not a huge requirement for me – I am very capable with a touchscreen combined with a Fitaly onscreen keyboard for data entry, but if a keyboard present and it does not add too much real-estate to the device then that is fine.

So that gives a bit of background on my usage and feature requirements.

There are two UMPC devices that interest me the most at this point. The RAON Digital Everun and the OQO 02. Until a few days ago the HTC Shift was also on the list, but definitely not now – the limited battery life and limited Windows Mobile took care of that.

To decide between the two devices I asked for feedback from the community. The feedback I received was mainly sweeping comments that the OQO was the better device in nearly all areas except battery life and was by far the more "productive" office machine. I kept feeling like there was more to the Everun than that – so I made the following chart to compare the two devices feature for feature. The end result? It's a tough call but I think in terms of value for money and overall usage the Everun is going to be hard to beat… especially when thinking in terms of moving away from a Pocket PC rather than as a desktop replacement.

RAON Digital Everun vs OQO 02

Key:
No Real Advantage/Disadvantage Winner Loser

 

Spec. Everun OQO Thoughts
CPU 600MHz AMD Geode LX 900 1.6 Ghz VIA C7M ULV
RAM 512Mb 1Gb If using Vista on OQO not sure 1Gb offers any real advantage
Operating System XP Home or Pro XP Pro or Vista Business/Ultimate Either XP or Vista is fine for my requirements. Both have advantages/disadvantages – XP is perhaps more stable and in theory will run faster on lower spec hardware than Vista.
Standard Battery Life 7 hours 3 hours
Extended Battery Life 12 hours 6 hours
Dimensions 83x170x25mm 83x142x25.4mm The OQO is shorter but slightly thicker.
Weight 460g (with SSD) / 490g (with HDD) 454g with standard battery
Design Practical/Nerdy Sleek/Professional Shouldn't affect my decision, but worthy of note!
Screen 4.8 inches 5 inches The OQO will be slightly more readable due to larger pixel size
Screen Type Touch Screen Active Digitizer After using a Pocket PC for years either type offers advantages that balance each other out
Native Resolution 800 x 480 800 x 480 The OQO has interpolated zoom up to 1000 x 600 still readable
External Resolution Up to 1920 x 1200 Up to 1920 x 1200 The OQO offers DVI support as well.
Zoom Up to 1680 x 1050 Up to 1200 x 720
Docking Station Coming Yes The OQO docking station is very slick – let's see what RAON bring to the table
Camera Coming No The Everun will have the option of a 2.0 Megapixel camera
HDD/SSD 30/60Gb HDD and/or 6Gb SSD 60/80/120Gb HDD or 32Gb SSD In my opinion the Everun wins because of the fact is allows both SSD and HDD or CF in the same device – so you can have a 6Gb SSD and a 60 Gb HDD or SSD and CF in the same device. CF cards now go up to 64Gb and can be swapped. Due to my emphasis on ruggedness and the device running queitly the extra Flash options are a bonus.
Compact Flash Yes, hybrid with SSD only No
Noise Silent Noisy Users are reporting that the Everun can only just be heard when holding it up to the ear.
Heat Cool Hot Speaks for itself.
WWAN HSDPA None I live in New Zealand, so the OQO's EVDO support is no good to me. The Everun however has the option of HSDPA which can optionally support voice.
Microphone Yes Yes
Wifi b/g a/b/g
Bluetooth Yes Yes
USB HDD Yes No This indicates if the device can be used as an external USB HDD or not.
Auto-Rotation Yes No There is a 3rd party solution to enable this on the OQO
Auto-Brightness Yes Yes
Keyboard Yes Yes Both have keyboards but it is obvious that the OQO's is very usable over the unusual thumbboard of the Everun. However for me this is a moot point – I will use the Fitaly onscreen keyboard anyway.
Integrated Pen Yes No The OQO pen cannot be stored in the device
Base Model Price USD 799 USD 1,299 The cheapest entry point – pricing from Dynamism.
Preferred Model Price USD 899 (SSD, CF adapter) USD 2,349 (Vista Business, SSD) If I was purchasing this device, the model I would select