Doug Moran reminded me last night that I have been severely slacking in my DualCor cPC updates since returning from San Francisco over a month ago. Wow time has flown, and he is absolutely right!
He said and I quote: “So anyway, aside from the stuff below, and my interest in how you’re doing with the Hermes, I’m also interested in how you’re doing with the cPC, which you haven’t written about since you got back from San Francisco. Ahem. Not that I’m eager to find out what you think of it. No, nope, not me.”
Well, regardless of the fact that neither of the screen protector vendors I’ve talked to (and taken detailed measurements for) have yet sent me a protector for the device, and I have therefore had to continue using a piteously small JasJar protector which makes the cPC look cheap and ugly, here is the device in question…
(shown next to a Treo)
…and here it is again, shown next to the another itty-bitty ultra-portable, the Sony VAIO UX.
Those two pictures of the cPC were taken by my friend Larry Liaw at Mobius 2006 in Thailand; you can see more of his Mobius photos here. In fact, why not just click here for a fabulous write-up and pictorial he did on Mobius. You don’t have to understand Chinese to enjoy the pictures!
So anyway, back to Doug!
He sent links and information on two new Ultra Mobile Personal Computers, the Asus R2H and Raon Vega, and wanted to know what I thought of them. Well, I have been keeping up with both of these UMPCs, and I’ve got to tell you that the first thing that caught my eye – especially on the Asus – were how similar they looked to the cPC.
Here is a quick specification run-down…
The Asus R2H, gloriously unboxed by Chiang on Mobile01: Basic specs: 7″ WXGA TFT touchscreen, GPS, fingerprint identification, XP Tablet PC Edition, Bluetooth 2.0 EDR ( Enhanced Data Rate), WLAN 802.11, Intel 900MHz CPU, 256MB RAM, 60GB hard disk, 23.4 x 13.3 x 2.8cm, 830g.
The Raon Vega, with its review by Carrypad. Basic specs: 4.3″ XGA TFT 800×480 screen, 30GB hard disk, 512 MB RAM, 500MHz AMD Geode CPU, 6.3 (W) x 3.1 (L) x 1.1 (H) [inch] and 1.06 lb. Does not have Bluetooth or WiFi.
For those that need an update on the cPC’s specs, here they are taken from an early: The cPC measures 6.5 x 3.3 x 1.2, utilizes two processors (1.5 GHz and 400 MHz); 1 GB of DDR2 RAM; a 5 inch, 800×480 resolution, 262K color, touch screen display; three USB Hi-Speed 2.0 ports (one of which is USB type-b); a headset and phone jack; integrated Compact Flash Type II; mini-VGA port; speaker, microphone and mouse controls. Does not have built-in WiFi or Bluetooth, but does ship with a compact flash WiFi adapter and can accept a USB BT adapter if desired. According to my source at DualCor, future models (but not necessarily the first shipping version) will come with WiFi and BT on board.
For those that are new to the story, the DualCor cPC is not yet for sale to the general public. I purchased an early engineering sample, which basically means that some of the software is not quite finished and my USB type-b port does not work.
So on with my experience…
For those of you that haven’t noticed, I am of the female persuasion, which means I just about always have a bag or purse along wherever I go. This particular fact means that I don’t have any immediate objections to a larger than usual PDA, which is why the cPC was actually functioning as my daily driver until the Mobius event in Thailand. I knew I would need a GPRS device for data while on the way, and I didn’t know what my WiFi situation would be at the hotel. Thank goodness I brought the JasJar…that’s all I can say.
While I enjoyed the excellent battery life of the cPC when reading eBooks in WM5 mode on the plane, I could never get the WiFi to connect in the Moevenpick Hotel’s meeting room.
I believe that a big part of the problem is that the WiFi on the cPC is controlled through the WM5 side, not the XP side. The Moevenpick’s WiFi did not support WM5, but their tech guy used a work around when given the specific MAC address of the Pocket PC trying to access the system. If you have no idea what I am talking about, don’t fret – I had no clue either. Derek Snyder asked for my MAC address, and I thought he was kidding…um, yeah. Never let it be said that I am not as clueless as the next person at times!
So anyway, a WM5 Pocket PC’s MAC address is accessed by going to Start/Settings/Connections/Wireless LAN. Once in that screen, everything needed is easily accessible, and I was able to get connected with my JasJar. But not with my cPC. For whatever reason, the cPC does not have this Wireless LAN icon in the Connection folder, and I could not find a way to find to the necessary information on the WM5 side. Derek went in through the XP side and found my MAC address, but I could never get it to connect and finally just gave up. Which if you know me at all, you’ll understand that this only occurred after much trial and error and more than a little bit of frustration.
That’s not to say that I didn’t still use the cPC a lot on the trip – I did. I just couldn’t immediately connect like I am able to at home, which was a major bummer. I still carried my cPC around in my bag, and I still managed to pull it out when I needed it for non-wireless activities. Its appearance at the event was a minor sensation with the guys from Asia; they all wanted pictures of it and wanted to know when it would be available. I was asked several times by different about-to-be photographers if it was all right to take the cPC’s picture, or if it was a NDA device. I had to explain it was a not-yet-released device, but certainly not a secret.
The software I am running is still the engineering sample version, so it can still be quirky at times. So I am still going to be more forgiving than usual as I write about it, because it is not finished. Hopefully the connection problems I encountered were due to early quirks. With that said, I would like to know what happened to the Wireless LAN button! No fair removing options when I might actually need them!!
So what are my peeves about the hardware after using it for several months? Well, I do have a couple…
I would really like a jog dial on the upper left corner with a selection button, I would like the option of being able to restart the cPC without having to keep a paperclip in the bottom of my makeup pouch. I don’t like that the black painted finish on the sides is starting to flake off, revealing the shiny chrome underneath; the black trim is nice, but only if it is not going to flake under normal use.
And as far using it every day? My only issue is that I wish I had a compact keyboard that would hook up wirelessly without having to add a dongle.
I can live with these issues for now, because this is a full Tablet XP device in tandem with a full Windows Mobile 5 Pocket PC. Internet surfing on the cPC is a dream, as long as WiFi is working – of course! I can see more on the screen in WM5 than on any other PPC device; it is a pleasure to read books on this screen, and the near unlimited memory is a luxury I have quickly grown used to.
When I am shown pictures of other UMPCs that may or may not have built in wireless, or that have built in keyboards, or that have a similar style as the cPC but with buttons that I wish were on my device, I feel a moment of lust – I admit it.
But then reality strikes and I remember that no other ultra portable packs both XP and the battery saving Windows Mobile 5 in the same device. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t like to try one of the other UMPCs, I just think that for now, the DualCor is my best value for the money.
(the latest family portrait)
There’s a lot of debate about whether there is really a market out there for the UMPC, or if this is basically a matter of a couple of manufacturer’s (and one giant software company) trying to create a market for a device that isn’t needed or practical. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.