PC tablet might be handy, but it's also awfully heavy

PC tablet might be handy, but it's also awfully heavy

By John Breeden II

GCN Staff

The Qbe Cirrus Personal Computing Tablet has everything: a keyboard, a mouse, a webcam, Universal Serial Bus and serial ports, PC Card slots, a touch screen, voice recognition, a CD-ROM drive and a smart card reader. But it can't defy gravity.

Fully loaded, it weighs almost 9 pounds and measures 14 inches by 10 inches by 1.6 inches. I like to call it an arm pilot because you must dedicate an entire arm to support it. To make it more travel-friendly, you can trim its weight to about 6 pounds by removing the port station.

Aqcess Technologies Inc. designed Qbe to be held like a clipboard, but its weight begins to drag after time.

Pumping chips

Aqcess Technologies' Qbe tablet is an attempt to put standard computing functions into a novel size.

Try holding up a full-length hardback book in one hand for 15 minutes with no other support, and you'll get an idea of how quickly your arm tires out.

Admittedly, the device is powerful'essentially a 400-MHz Pentium II notebook PC with a 12G hard drive and 128M of memory expandable to 256M.

In components, it matches up handily against desktop systems.

The Qbe scored well on the GCN Lab's ZD Benchmark Operation tests, doing about 84 percent better than a 233-MHz Pentium MMX.

The most notable feature is the large, 13-inch active-matrix color display with up to 1,024- by 768-pixel resolution. The display also is a highly accurate touch screen.

A large stylus connects to the unit to focus your clicks and reduce fingerprint smudges.

By default, an on-screen keyboard that's functional for input occupies the bottom third of the display. You can turn it off to view the full screen; you can also plug a physical keyboard into the PS/2 port, and there's a USB mouse, too.

Box Score

Qbe Personal Computing Tablet

Clipboardlike PC

Aqcess Technologies Inc.; Irvine, Calif.;

tel. 888-240-2823


Price: $4,745

+Lots of ports

+Good-looking touch screen


'Short battery life

Features and ConfigurationA
Benchmark PerformanceB
ZD's Business Windstone 9918.4
About 84% better than a 233-MHz Pentium MMX

The overall grade comprises scores for three factors: usability (40 percent), features and configuration (30 percent), and performance (30 percent). The lab used ZD's Winstone 99 1.2. For benchmark information, visit www.gcn.com/gcnlab/benchmark.

The one downside to the large screen is that when the device is used in a bright office, the display acts almost like a mirror with a dark background. You could literally look into it while you comb your hair. I'm not sure whether that's an example of an antiglare coating gone wrong, but the end result is that the display truly works its best only in dim light.

The port station screws into the back like a stand for using the Qbe on a desk. It has a serial and a parallel port, two more PS/2 ports, an external RGB video connection and a second USB port. With the port station, the Qbe is more functional than some desktop systems.

The webcam at the top of the Qbe can capture images at a resolution of up to 640 by 480 pixels.

But it's inadequate for gathering live video of what's happening in front of the device. Images tend to blur and drop out. For still images, it works fine.

The unit's Silicon Motion Lynx3DM graphics chip has 8M of video RAM but doesn't render 3-D well. In the ZD benchmark tests, the Qbe could barely render eight 3-D frames per second even at a low texture density.

For more detailed textures, it dropped to one or two frames per second. You might not need blazing 3-D performance from a handheld computer, but some users do.

The battery life, as you might guess given the large screen, is short. In the lab's torture tests, which constantly spin both hard and CD-ROM drives, the battery lasted just under an hour. For normal use, that time would probably stretch to more than an hour.

Atop a desk

The Qbe is as small as most so-called legacy-free clients but has full PC functions and frankly would be most useful on a desk.

But it's supposed to be a handheld. You wouldn't want to walk around with most notebook PCs resting in your palm either, but many notebooks have gone ultralight and are easier to grasp because they have handles.

The company in September plans to release a 3-pound, scaled-down version. If you're concerned about weight and carrying ease, you might want to wait.


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