It seems that summer is finally upon us. Great. Lots of warm weather, cricket on the telly and barbecues in the garden. Unfortunately, there is a downside to the sunny season – and that's having to put up with 13 weeks of listening to supposedly intelligent people banging on about a bunch of idiots on the telly. Yep, it's Big Brother time again, and I'm afraid to say I just can't see the attraction.
This general sense of bafflement is one I get from time to time upon hearing of certain developments in the technology industry too. In fact it happened last year when Microsoft launched its "origami" concept to much fanfare. While almost every other hack on the planet was getting in a complete tiz about it, I honestly couldn't work out what the fuss was all about.
We already had plenty of ultra mobile, fully fledged Windows PCs, didn't we? We also had plenty of tablet PCs. The formats had filled a niche, but hadn't exactly set the world alight, so why should Microsoft's sudden interest make any difference?
Nevertheless, Bill Gates' minions pushed ahead and the result since has been a steady trickle of small, keyboard-less tablet-style UMPCs, the most notable of which, reviewed in the pages of this website, has so far been Samsung's Q1. Now it's the turn of the Ubiquio 701 to convince us that Origami is a good idea.
First impressions are good. In format it's very similar to the Q1: slightly bigger, but still highly portable. It's about the size of a large-format paperback book, with a seven inch, 800 x 480 touch-sensitive screen on one side, surrounded by a number of thumb-operated controls.
It looks reasonably smart too, mimicking the Q1's glossy finish, and feels very solidly built with no rattles or creaks apparent in the chassis. The number of fiddly buttons have been kept to a minimum, and this helps the 701 maintain a sleek, uncluttered look.
But the lack of buttons doesn't mean that the 701 is difficult to use. On the contrary – they actually make this one of the easiest to use UMPCs around. The star of the show is the notebook-style mouse nib, which gives you an alternative to the stylus or your finger, when you just can't be bothered. Below this are big, thumb-sized buttons for quickly scrolling up and down pages, so you don't have to faff about with scrollbars. There's also a settings quick launch button here and a key that's used to switch quickly between different screen resolutions – especially useful for rescuing you when important dialog boxes disappear off the edges of small screen.
To the left of the screen are the left and right mouse buttons and a directional pad that mimics the cursor keys with an enter/double click button in the centre. And below this are shortcut keys for launching Tablet PC Edition's handwriting recognition panel and Program Launcher application. Finally, set into the bottom right hand corner and half-recessed, is a very handy CTRL-ALT-DEL shortcut button for launching the task manager.