It’s always encouraging when a company takes comments and criticisms onboard in an effort to improve the next generation of products. I say it’s encouraging, because more often than not, this doesn’t happen. Most of the time big companies are so sure that they’ve got it right, that they don’t care about reviews or even user feedback. I’m therefore very pleased to see that Samsung has learned a lot since it released its Q1 ultra-mobile PC just over a year ago. In fact, the second generation Q1 Ultra, looks very much like the product that most reviewers would have liked to have seen first time round.
First up, let me say that I’m still not entirely convinced that there is any need for the Ultra-Mobile PC platform. With ultra-portable notebooks like Sony’s TZ11MN, Asus’ U1F and Samsung’s own Q40 already offering very lightweight computing on the move, I can’t help but wonder who would choose a UMPC over a conventional ultra-portable machine. But it’s clear that my personal views aren’t inline with the technology industry, with the likes of Samsung, Sony, Asus, Intel and niche concerns like OQO firmly behind the handheld computer model.
The original Q1 looked great – Samsung definitely got the design part right. Unfortunately the great design didn’t extend to usability, and the lack of built-in keyboard definitely counted against the Q1. That said, a built-in keyboard is only worthwhile if it’s usable, as the Sony UX1 proved – the slide-out keyboard on the UX1 was just too tiny to use.
Samsung has gone for a very unusual design for the keyboard in the Q1 Ultra, dismissing the slide-out design seen in the Sony UX1 and OQO Model 1. Instead the Q1 Ultra splits the QWERTY keyboard in half and positions it either side of the screen. The key to this positioning is that you can stab at the keys with your thumbs while you’re holding the Q1 Ultra. Although the keys are very small, I found myself getting used to them reasonably quickly – I’m not saying that I’d like to bash out an entire feature on the Q1 Ultra, but the keyboard is certainly adequate for emails and note taking.
One thing that I did find was that the keys were a little high. This meant that I couldn’t rest the Q1 Ultra on the heels of my hands while typing if I wanted to reach the upper row. If I had larger hands this wouldn’t be a problem, but then my thumbs would probably be too big to accurately hit the keys. This isn’t a major issue though, and it’s not uncomfortable to grip the device from the sides.