Sony Vaio VGN-UX1XN ultra-mobile PC
Think of the smallest laptop you've ever seen, and this will be smaller
Review The Sony UX1XN is quite possibly one of the smallest laptops ever. Think of the smallest laptop you've ever seen, and this will be smaller. Probably. Everything about it is dinky - it's barely bigger than a thick-ish paperback book, yet it packs a full Vista-touting PC inside its diddy dimensions.
Sony's UX series has been around in Japan for some time, only available on these shores via unofficial import. The UX1XN - UX1 for short - is the first model to be officially supported over here and it's fully kitted out with Windows Vista Business too. All in a machine that measures just 15 x 9.5 x 3.5cm and weighs a mere 500g.
While you'd expect a machine this size to make a compromise here or there, Vista capability isn't one of the corners that has been cut. The Intel GMA 950 graphics chip has enough grunt to run Vista's whizzy Aero interface, so you get the full Vista experience despite its small size.
Vista pegs its Windows Experience Index score at 2.7, with the 3D graphics holding it back - the overall score is determined by the lowest component score. Across the categories it gets 2.9 for processor, 4.3 for memory, 3.2 for graphics, 2.7 for gaming graphics and 5.2 for hard disk.
While the scores aren't huge - they are impressive given the UX1's small size. Running it through PCMark05 it only managed to pull in a score of 1636, which is pretty low.
The Intel Core Solo U1500 processor, running at 1.33GHz, is nothing special and 1GB of DDR 2 memory is fairly standard. Where Sony has pulled out the stops, however, is with the hard drive. At first glance 32GB seems a bit measly, but this isn't any old 32GB model - it's a Flash drive. This has two advantages: it's faster than a standard drive and it's also more durable since there are no moving parts. While you should still treat UX1 carefully, it's going to be more resilient to the odd bump or two than a device with a traditional spinning hard drive.
Maybe not now, but soon...
Actually there IS a need for ONE device that can replace a cell phone, PDA, PMP, and Laptop.
One might observe that current UMPC's don't offer cell phone functionality. Until we recall that they DO have 3G or EVDO as well as Bluetooth 2.0. Skype and a bit of software are all that is needed to transform them into mobile phones.
UMPC form factor is prohibitive from a human factors standpoint. But we may well need to see the workplace evolve a bit before these devices come into their own. Imagine a not so distant future when all office desks are no longer equipped with a computer. Rather a keyboard, monitor, and docking station. When you leave the office your computer travels with you, in “portable mode” it serves as a PDA and phone. Aircraft seat back tables would have fold down keyboards with an embedded display and dock.
By making the “guts” of the computer user portable, we eliminate the need to constantly upgrade our workstations. After all, keyboards and displays have pretty much remained the same for decades. If the “guts” are with the employee, they aren’t left alone and unattended in an office. It also eliminates the need to transport data between computers, or between work and home.
And finally it eliminates the plethora of gadgets on belts, in pockets, and briefcases. Of course the loss of such an item could be disastrous, but the same could be said now for the loss of a corporate laptop or PDA/Cell phone.
Until then, they need a “few good peeps” to step up and help finance “the revolution”. Sadly I am a bit short of cash right now…… :-o
What am I doing here?
The poor little UX1 sits dazed and confused in neverland without a real use. The latest Microsoft spin on the UMPC is just all wrong - its sheer novelty. Who in their right mind is going to use a slide out keyboard or an on screen keyboard in that crazy fashion?
Now don't get me wrong, this little UX1 baby is some funky engineering. Its truly amazing, unfortunately just misdirected from a usability standpoint - which started with Microsoft dictating the crazy-ass form factor and then Sony engineers doing what they could with the 'two thumb' requirement.
The reality of 'two mode' or 'three mode' computers when you really examine users in the field is more like 'finger-actions' 'scribble/notebook' and 'compute'. If you look at where the iPhone wows people is very much with this focus on really addressing REAL users with pragmatic usability solutions for one of the modes - not just a novelty. I understand the UMPC is not an iPhone - and that the operating system would need to keep up with the form factor (which the UMPC extensions for Vista DO NOT) but you start to see how two thumbs is just not going to cut it.
The present UMPC incarnation is just not addressing the use of the form factor and the issues the reviewer has had with the UX1 is testament to this. It really seems as if the design of the whole platform just doesn't know where its going yet and until the UMPC can get some clear direction with delineating the 'three-mode' computer experience so that it is compelling enough to fill a DESPERATE NICHE which is craving for simplicity, mobility and usability - it will be destined to sit somewhere in the middle of a product range dazed and confused.
Not so much of a PC ....
But more like a high end challenge to all the Palm Pilots and equivalents out there.
There is a defenite niche for a handheld in this size class. The question is "Has Sony made a viable winner or an also ran?"
At its initial asking price its in the range of a high end notebooks and nowhere near the more cost effective Palms etc...
The weak points, as I see them are as follows
- Price (but we are talking SONY)
- Battery life (rather low and how easy is it to recharge?)
- Media (SD, CF etc would be nice)
- two cameras? Why?
- 160 min run time? (real run time will be less)
- The dock could have had a few more desktop features and ports available
You milage may vary .....