14 Comments

Summary:

A lot of small gadgets come through Mobile Tech Manor but it is rare that one impresses me like the little UMID mbook BZ. The mbook is a full netbook, as it has the full complement of netbook components onboard, yet weighs less than a pound.

UMID running

A lot of small gadgets come through Mobile Tech Manor but it is rare that one impresses me like the little UMID mbook BZ. My friends at Dynamism sent one of these little laptops for evaluation and I am still trying to figure out how the folks at UMID crammed so much in such a small package. The mbook is best described as a full netbook, which may surprise many. It has the full complement of netbook components onboard, in a package that weighs less than a pound.

 

This light weight is a product of the size of the UMID; it is only 6.33 x 3.79 x 0.75 inches. This small form is a product of the 4.8-inch touch screen in the mbook, that displays at a big 1024×600 resolution. The touch screen functions are augmented by a tiny touchpad to the right of the screen which works surprisingly well, along with two mouse buttons on the left side of the display. These buttons are so small they can be tough to hit properly at times.

To fully appreciate the amount of goodness that UMID has crammed in this little handheld laptop you have to look at the full spec list:

  • CPU: Intel Atom Z515 (1.2 GHz)
  • Memory: 512 MB
  • Storage: 16 GB SSD
  • Display: 4.8-inch, touch screen (light touch resistive), 1024×600
  • Camera: 1.3 MP web cam
  • Communications: Wi-Fi (b/g), Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR
  • Ports: USB, 3.5 mm headphone, 10 pin VGA out (dongle included), microSD slot
  • OS: Windows XP Home
  • Included software: Thinkfree Mobile Office, ThePot (UI), LogmeIn
  • Power: 2600 mAh Li-Ion battery, 7 hours claimed, 5+ realistic

Topping off these decent netbook components is the full QWERTY keyboard. This is built with real keys that have good tactile feedback when typing. It is understandably small, so there’s no touch typing but I find it easy to use either with my thumbs or with an index finger. The keys are positioned where you expect them to be which aids in the typing experience for touch typists. UMID has included a lot of Fn key functions which add a lot of control to the mbook. In addition to the standard volume and screen brightness controls, there are keys that toggle a battery indicator, camera on/off, Page up/down, Home/End and F1 – F12 keys.

In front of the keyboard is a wireless activity LED that flashes when either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth is actively transmitting. To the right of the keyboard are two LEDs, one for power/ standby and another for SSD activity. Immediately above the keyboard are two keys, one to toggle wireless on/ off and a power button. There is a touch-sensitive screen brightness control above the keyboard that works by sliding a finger left or right.

The screen has a large bezel on the sides to accommodate the controls in place. On the left is a speaker grill, and beneath that are the two tiny mouse buttons. One the right bezel is the 1.3 megapixel web cam, and below that is the indented small touchpad. The integrated microphone is located on the front of the mbook, just to the left of the microSD slot. There is a slot cover on the front of the device that does not open, I’m thinking it might be a slot for a SIM card perhaps, although there is no 3G option at this time.

On the left of the mbook there is a mystery door that does not open and nothing else. On the right side is the 10-pin VGA connector for the included adapter, headphone jack, a covered USB port, and power jack.

I have only been using the mbook for a few hours and I must admit I am finding it more useful than I thought I would. It is so small that I didn’t think the keyboard would be useful. I am finding that is not the case, and I have gotten a lot of good use out of the keyboard. I am still not sure if the touch screen is needed, the screen is so small that the Microsoft Windows XP interface is too small to touch accurately. The resistive digitizer used is very light touch however, and it is easy to scroll in the browser by touch.

UMID has included a UI launcher that is pretty useful as it is optimized for touch operation. ThePot (don’t ask me what that means) provides easy access to all system controls, and it’s easy to add programs to the launcher. There is also a version of the ThinkFree Mobile Office included, making it possible to work with Microsoft Office documents on the go.

Dynamism is selling the UMID mbook BZ for $549, which includes the device as reviewed plus the VGA dongle. The dongle is needed to connect to a standard VGA monitor. It also has a neoprene zippered case in the box which fits the mbook perfectly, and has a zippered pocket on the front for small accessories.

Related research from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d): The State of the Smartbook

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  1. I wish it had more storage than the 16 SSD. The micro SD slot is helpful but the biggest cards available right now are only 16 GB. I have a lot of various files that I carry back and forth between work.

  2. How is it handling the basic tasks James? Any slow downs or hiccups while web surfing, videos, etc… The 512mb of ram has me wondering.. I love the form factor, but was thinking of holding out for a Viliv N5 based on tech specs mainly.

    1. It’s not bogging down on me. Performance is acceptable, not blazing but OK. Playing video can get choppy like on every netbook I’ve tried so far.

  3. Maybe it is not a good idea to show the XP serial number in one of the photos. OTOH XP Home is not probably much in demand.

    Atleast 1GB ram and ssd size choice would have made this a killer pocket device. Reminds me of my sharp zaurus c860. I would probably put linux in it to relive that experience.

  4. James, good overview…

    what’s your take on the BZ vs the UH900?

    Obviously, there’s some physical differences in size; footprint, display, keyboard, etc. also, in RAM amount and thus OS (XP vs W7)….

    Been toying with getting the UH900 as it has better specs…had the M1 briefly which was nice, especially for a shirt pocketable device with full desktop OS….but thinking of trading that portability for the higher spec/performance of UH900….

    Would be great to hear your thoughts….

    Thanks,

    Mark

    1. The performance of the UMID is acceptable, but it’s not blazing fast. I haven’t had my hands on the UH900 yet, but from what I can see it’s better equipped. Note that this UMID bz is slightly larger than the M1 you’re familiar with.

      1. Thanks, James….

        Yes, aware that BZ is a bit larger than M1, but still quite a bit smaller than UH900…

        Do you think you’ll get your hands on a UH900 soon?

        FYI, I called Fujitsu US today to clarify some specifics about the UH900 that has the rebate and special offer now on the Fujitsu online shop website….

        1) Unlike the U8x0 series, the UH900 does not come with the LAN/VGA adapter cable, that’s a separate accessory. For me, that’s not a big deal as I can use one of my USB ethernet adapters and I don’t need VGA connection…

        2) The one they’re selling online for this offer only comes in the Champagne color…..I’d prefer the black one if I had a choice, but could live with Champagne I guess…

  5. It is too close to SmartPhone size (ala iPhone, Droid, Nexus One) and runs a 9 year old operating system.

    I think the iPad will eliminate the need for most devices between 5 and 9 inches.

    Will this tiny device run the new interactive-TV apps that ABC, ESPN and other Disney partners are making, I don’t think so. If you think espn360 is cool, wait till you see sports coverage on the iPad ! Will this device run the new Disney games and Comic Books..I don’t think so. Not much here really unless you need to run some legacy windows stuff on the go.

    With a Smartphone and an iPad I don’t see a need for some middle device like this, maybe i’m wrong, but the marketplace will soon decide.

    1. Just remember with the iPad you are still running apps just like the iPhone/iPod Touch. This is a computer which can run anything you want including iTunes which your iPad will need to connect to to do practically anything. I don’t think it makes any sense to compare a true computer to a iPad/iPod…

  6. Joshua Blankenship Wednesday, February 10, 2010

    Try any Skype video calls on this guy yet?

    1. Not yet but that’s on the agenda. At least it has a web cam. :)

      1. If it works well, that’s defintely going to increase it’s value. Almost worth the price for “pocketable” video conferencing/conversing. Though more RAM and Win7 would’ve been a plus, I have no gripes about XP on such a device. Not sure why folks complain about that. XP is still more powerful than a smartphone OS. Can’t expect a handheld to be a full computing platform.

        Now the next thing you must try after Skype – Starcraft. ;)

  7. James comparing it to your Viliv S5, do you like it better with keyboard? Between both, which one has a better viewing screen and which one feels snappier.

  8. Someone on eBay has gotten a stock of new Fujitsu U820s and has been trying to sell them, the buy-it-now price has been going down and probably will continue to do so until they start selling. Right now, it’s at $549.

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