Moving pictures, on the move

Samsung takes ultraportables in a multimedia direction

THE WORLD OF ultraportable computers continues to evolve, and the Samsung Q1U-CMXP offers one direction that might appeal to some users, though certainly not to everyone.

The problem with portable computers is that as things get smaller, features also tend to dwindle. You are never going to have as many features or as much raw power in an ultraportable as you will in, say, a desktop-replacement laptop PC. So the questions become which features should be preserved in an ultraportable design and what is the cost in other areas.

The Q1U-CMXP puts an emphasis on multimedia applications with its big seven-inch LCD screen and HD-quality audio. It's a svelte 0.93 inches thick by 8.98 inches long by 4.88 inches wide. It only weighs 1.52 pounds. We must admit that we enjoyed our time with the Q1U-CMXP, although its emphasis on multimedia comes at the expense of other areas.

The most notable deficiency was processor performance, which started to show when using large programs such as Microsoft PowerPoint and even Excel. The 800 MHz Intel Ultra Mobile Processor A110, backed by 1G of RAM, was huffing and puffing to try to run some applications. To a lesser extent, the input devices on the Q1U-CMXP were a little difficult to use, though this could get easier once you got used to the interface.

It was difficult to get past the slow processor. With a score of 104.6 on the Passmark Performance Benchmarks, it was the lowest rating of any device ever tested by the lab using this method and below even other ultraportable systems. For example, the Itronix GoBook MR-1 scored 190.6 and was visibly faster. Even simple tasks seemed to take the Q1UCMXP a long time. Opening the control panel took between four and 10 seconds from the time you clicked, depending on what else the system was doing at the time. Opening a simple Word file sometimes took more than 10 seconds, although everything seemed to work fine after that.

But at least it did not refuse to run anything. Our test unit came with Windows XP Tablet edition, though one slightly higher model, the Q1UP-V, ships with Vista Business. Regardless, you have a full operating system that can run multiple Windows programs without restrictions.

The slower processor does have one advantage ' see, we said it was all give-andtake at this size ' and that is long battery life. With constant use, basically running a teleconference, we were able to get 3 hours, 55 minutes of battery life out of our test unit, and that was using the 802.11b/g wireless signal to transmit. So you might get more life from your system if you disable the wireless and are not taxing the system as much as we did.

Surprisingly, video conferencing was one of the Q1U-CMXP's best features. As with other applications, it took a while to get the camera software up and running, but once that happened, it worked extremely well.

The Q1U-CMXP has two cameras. One is mostly used for videoconferencing, the other for still shots. The videoconference camera, a 300P model, is mounted above the LCD in the front. It always made the images on the screen look good and crisp, even in various lighting conditions, Those conditions included a bright sunny terrace, a dim room with Christmas-type lights, a standard office setting and a dark area. The audio was also excellent, able to capture people talking from across a conference room even if the device was not facing them.

The only problem was that because of the slow processor and only 128M of video memory ' which is also shared from the main memory ' the frame rates are not very good.

There is a delay when someone moves in front of the lens and the appearance of jumpiness when you move too quickly. However, it would be great to take a Q1U-CMXP on a business trip and be able to videoconference to the office from a 1.5-pound unit sitting on your desk at the hotel. A little stand helps it prop up so that it sits like a picture frame on almost any surface. As a portable videoconferencing system, the Q1U-CMXP is attractive at its $1,499 price.

The second camera, a 1.3-megapixel model, points out from the back side of the LCD and is positioned so that you can take pictures as you would with a standard camera.

Another strength of the Q1U-CMXP is how you can use the teleconferencing or other software to communicate. Our test unit had the ability to connect to AT&T's High-Speed Downlink Packet Access cellular network. This meant that we could start and maintain a video conference from just about anywhere the AT&T network covered. If you need a backup, the Q1UCMXP has you covered with 802.11b/g wireless and Bluetooth 2.0. There is also a 10/100 network port if you can find a place to plug in somewhere.

The interface on the Q1U-CMXP takes some getting used to, though people who use BlackBerrys will likely have little problem. There is a full QWERTY keyboard split on both sides of the LCD. Given that you will probably be holding the unit in your hands, thumb typing is going to be your preferred method of pecking out information. The LCD also is a touch screen, so you can use an onscreen keyboard if you prefer. There is a joystick that acts like a mouse and can also be easily manipulated with a thumb. It takes time to get comfortable with it, but it is intuitive.

The Q1U-CMXP is an interesting system that might not be perfect for everyone, but anyone looking for a portable teleconferencing and communications system that just happens to have access to a full operating system might just fall in love. And did we mention that movies look great on its bright 300-nits screen? However, you will probably need to purchase the optional DVD-RW drive to enjoy them.

Samsung Electronics America, 949-975- 7088, www.samsung.com

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