When the Right Gadget Makes a Difference

21 Comments

Last night I was faced with a rare situation, as my wife was meeting some friends for dinner and I had to eat alone. I decided to head over to the local Denny’s (s denn) and have a quiet dinner, which would give me a chance to read a good e-book. I thought about it for a bit and decided to take a device with me that would not only provide a good reading experience but also let me go online if I wanted. It made sense to take a gadget that would take advantage of the free Wi-Fi in Denny’s should I so desire. I took a long look around Mobile Tech Manor and came up with the perfect solution, the Viliv S7 convertible netbook. Or maybe it’s a UMPC, I’m less sure what fits that category than ever before given the rash of slates, netbooks, etc. It turned out the loaner S7 was the perfect choice for this session, and here’s why.

By way of a refresher, the Viliv S7 is a 7-inch convertible netbook, with a swiveling touch screen that goes from a laptop configuration to a slate tablet. The device is very small and easy to carry, and while the keyboard is not adequate for touch typing, it is perfect for short online sessions with a minimal amount of expected typing. What makes the S7 so versatile is the dual configurations, a perfect fit for my expected needs for this trip to Denny’s.

I had no desire to take a “real” notebook with me, that was overkill and simply too big. I could have taken a smaller pure slate UMPC for the portability, but I wanted a better input scheme should I need it. The Viliv S7 combined the best of both worlds so that’s what I grabbed on the way out the door.

When I got to Denny’s I spun the screen around into slate configuration, and fired up the book reader. I have both Kindle (s amzn) for the PC and eReader Pro (s bks) installed, so I was covered for handling content in either format. The 7-inch screen is an awesome display for reading e-books, as it can display a full page the equivalent of a paperback book. I simply tap the screen to turn the page, it couldn’t be easier. I ate my salad, a very nice one BTW, and read a good book with the slate sitting on the table in front of me. It was a wonderful experience, with a great leisurely pace to enjoy both the meal and the book.

Once the meal was done I decided to go on the web and catch up on things that happened during the day. I swiveled the screen around into laptop configuration and fired up the Google (s goog) Chrome browser. I am finding Chrome to be the best browser on netbooks with the limited hardware they have; Chrome is just as fast as can be for handling multiple tabs. The 1024×600 screen was a joy to use in the browser, and it was nice having the keyboard for inputting key commands in the browser.

I also fired up TweetDeck to catch up with my Twitter friends, and switched back and forth between it and the browser. I caught up on my email for the day (inbox zero, in fact), and generally had a fun session on the web. The S7 was a joy to use and I was so glad I brought it to Denny’s.

The point of this is not to prove how good it is to have a big stable of gadgets to choose from. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but the point is to get folks thinking about intended usage scenarios when considering what device (or what type of device) might fit the bill. I’m confident a bigger device would not have been as enjoyable, in fact I probably wouldn’t have even carried a bigger slate with me. I didn’t want to be compromised in how I could use a gadget during my meal, and this 7-inch device was perfect. Easy to carry, easy to use.

Truth be told, I could have taken a smaller slate device, or even one of my smartphones would have worked. But the S7 made everything I did much easier, and more importantly more enjoyable. The bigger screen and real keyboard was nicer to use, and made all the difference in the world. The entire session was a real joy, and that’s priceless.

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21 Comments

Paul

One more question on this topic… Today… something happened that is typical of why I want a UMPC. I typed up a proposal on my laptop before I left home and emailed it out. While driving to home depot, to price up the supplies to go with said proposal I called my client and found out that they hadn’t received the email so I needed to re-send it. I couldn’t do it from my HTC TP2 cause I couldn’t get hotmail to act right and I needed to add a couple lines to the email. Called the wife to resend to my fastmail account, which does act right on the phone,but she couldn’t get that done. Luckily there was a bestbuy next to the HD so I ran in and used one of the display computers to forward both to my fastmail and my client.
While walking around in HD, I really wanted to set up a spreadsheet to log product numbers, price and quantities which I could do and have done on the TP2 but the screen is so small
Later when I got to work… if I had onenote I would have taken notes on what I did that day and would have emailed out to suppliers and clients.
SO… none of what I need to do with MS office is real serious, but I need on the fly access to read documents and email, do small modifications, take a few notes, do a quicky spreadsheet and stuff like that. And I need to be able to do it while walking through a store or a building project or sitting in the vehicle.
Any thoughts on using a 7″ slate UMPC to serve this need?

Lee

I see Dynamism just released preorder info on the Viliv S10. What is maddening is the S10 will only have 1 gig of ram! Its a deal breaker for me. Why do companies purposely cripple their devices? 2 gigs of ram would make a big difference in performance and cost very little to do. Whats up with this.

Paul

Thank You! Didn’t realize UMID was a company? Are they any good? Do you think Viliv and Archos will have staying power as companies? Who else makes 7″ UMPC’s with resistive screens? I think I am look for 7″ slate computers because I dont quite see how I would be able to suction cup a convertible to a windshield. I know I said I wanted onenote, but I am willing to look at android and windows models as long as the computer can multi task… IE, I can split the screen and do GPS and winamp while traveling , or at least do full screen GPS with winamp and firefox running in the background.

Paul

2 Questions have been answered! I dont want a capacitive screen and 9-10″ is to big to be a grab and go device if you want it to be pocketable and not have to carry a bag.

Since the supersonic is practically 5″ it seems that I should investigate the 7″ UMID’s

Zan

I liked this post. I just returned from spending 2 months backpacking around New Zealand with only a Kohjinsha SC3 (7″, similar specs) and an iPhone with a 3G data plan and tethering. I didn’t touch a handheld mouse for two months.

I found it handled nearly everything I needed it for, maily watching video and Onenote but also syncing iTunes, VOIP, photo management, ebook reading, etc.

Only major problem I have is with PDF files. I have not found a program to take advantage of a touchscreen in a capacity which would allow me to quickly navigate and zoom around a PDF file which require a high degree of magnification to make text legible on a 7″ screen.

Charlie

I have to chime in and say, I really like the idea of the HD2 or the Dell Mini 5 expanding my smartphone use in the direction of needing my laptop less. I have a convertible laptop and its awesome but I wouldnt rock it a Denny’s. Too big. I dont’ want a smartphone, laptop AND a UMPC so, it about getting more out of my smartphone. I could easily live with a bigger (using a Touch Pro 2) smartphone if it gave me a bigger screen and better web browser. A MID with a phone.

Paul

@HK thanks for pointing out the onenote issue… you can’t currently use onenote on android so I couldn’t use it on a HTC supersonic either. As for the keyboard issue… I have had to trade in a sprint mogul, 2 or 3 touch pro’s and a touch pro 2 because the keyboards stopped working. There are times that I txt,IM, email and FB alot. I like the handwriting recognition on the TP 2 better than any handwriting recognition before it, and if it is as good as it is, phatware’s calligrapher most be better. But my guess is it wont run on android, yet, and it probably isn’t compatible with the screen technology of most UMID’s, yet.

As for screen size… are you saying that you are happy with the viewing experience that you are having on the 5″ screen when it comes to movies and email?

As for the s10t and other mids with keyboards, would you think that the screen is too big to be mounted in a car?

GoodThings2Life

I’m a firm believer in this concept… and when people ask me what they should get, I always tell them to consider what they’re using it for. I’ll tell them not to go below a certain RAM/HDD minimum, but beyond that it’s about form and function. I’m a power user, so me telling them 15″ screen and 256GB SSD and such is meaningless if all they want is to surf the web from their couch or restaurant table.

TONYP

Thanks James, a timely article. I’m struggling with a discussion about what the next set of devices I need and which will best fit my needs. If you had an iPad in Mobile Tech Manor would you have taken it along to Dennys? It didn’t sound like inking was a concern. I know you wanted the keyboard, but would a virtual keyboard have worked as well? If it had been me, I’d have taken the Kindle and waited till I was home for Web access. The screen size on my Palm Centro is to small to enjoy extended web browsing.

I’m looking to add a new convertible laptop or slate ( <2.5 lbs). —- Viliv S7 or Viliv S10 or eeePC T91MT or iPad? I need full size, but portable MindMapping tool, and I prefer Mind Manager but web based would work too.

New Cell Phone (prefer GSM, which mean TMobile or AT&T)
—- Palm Pre or Palm Pixi (GSM not avaiblle yet) or iPhone 3GS or iPodTouch w/ Skype? I’ve got Business Numbers plus Home and Cell and would like to consolidate or merge Google Voice comes to mind.

Joshua Blankenship

Definitely makes sense for that limited situation. Of course, being an average consumer makes it difficult without such an arsenal. I see the S7 as very limited in function. Unfortunately, 7 in. keyboards are too big to be thumb boards and too small to be touch-typing boards, which severely limits their functionality. I do like the convertibly option, but the upcoming N5 seems to me like it will fit “more bills” than the S7 could. And the case design of the S7… reminiscent of toy laptops by VTech.

HG

This is a great example James. Sometimes certain devices work better for what your going to be doing. Lucky I have a few that I can choice as well when I go out and need to be connected for some reason. The 7″ screen is a really nice sizee for portable. I have the Kohjinsha SC3 with the 7″ but battery life is not that great so only take it if I will use for about 2.5 – 3 hours. If I need to do a lot of emailing or Word documents and want to travel lite, then I take my Sony P which is a great device gives me 5.5 to 6 hours of battery life witht he Sony power settings. So like you said James the Viliv S7 fits the bill in your case.

Paul

Your article addresses a question that I have been debating for myself. I have a htc touch pro 2 ,I am awaiting the release of the supersonic. I travel a lot,by car and air, I couch and bedside surf alot, and I find myself in boring meetings/out shopping with wife, eating alone in restaurants a good bit. I also run a business, I am an electrician and use MS Word,excel, and onenote. I need a GPS. Right now I use the phone, but that makes it difficult to do anything else with the phone. I want my mp3/internet radio, some movies, rss/email/FB with me all the time. I want my internet accessible all the time.
2 Questions.
1. what is the biggest size screen that is practically windshield mountable for GPS vs what is the smallest screen size for watching movies and viewing a webpage with out having to pan left-right.
2. All of the UMID’s are currently offering 3G connectivity. As a sprint customer I will have access to 4G soon. Am I better off tethering my UMID to the supersonic to get 4G speed or getting the 3G built in?

I have really been stuck on viliv’s x70 or S5 since they came out last year, but I have now discovered Archos. I am also a firm lover of all things Lenovo and the S10t is a cheaper yet more powerful alternative than the viliv or Archos from a company that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But is it car mountable?

HG

@Paul Another quick question. Do you need something with a usable keyboard? Most MID’s as you know are really hard to input long text. You can always get a BT Keyboard if you really want to keep the size in a smaller form factor. You mention OneNote and if you use this then the Archos 5 would be out, since you wouldn’t be able to use with OneNote. I have a Archos 5 that I use for work and works really good because I can use it as a GPS, Word viewer, PDF viewer, look up, email, etc… fits in the pocket and when I need a quick specs for anything I just pull out and tether to my BlackBerry. I say you get a separate 3G solution because you can always use it with other devices. That’s just me. The Archos 5 pretty much does everything you mention, except the OneNote. I have been testing the S10-3t and it is a nice device but you if plan on inking only a few words or do some mark up then you might not like the S10-3t. Other than that it is well built. Here is some links of videos I did for both.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3oedAql65k

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5QKIsYjldE

Ths Viliv S5 with Tablet Edition:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XKouTfdDAg

Archos 5 with Dolphin Browser:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fJ6mCbT7ek

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