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 (s intc) 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 (s msft) 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 (s msft) 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