As if business people didn't have enough technology to worry about with the likes of
Blackberry's, smart phones, PDA's, and the more traditional portable computers than on to the scene jumps the Ultra Mobile PC (or UMPC). If you believe the manufacturers then the UMPC is the “next big thing” – the cross over from PDA to PC that we’ve all had missing in our lives.
These devices are really in the second generation now and the VAIO UX390 sees Sony attempting to cement a foothold into this burgeoning market. With a glance at the specification you could be forgiven for thinking that the UX390 is a standard portable PC. First off a proper operating system, Windows Vista Business as it's Operating System (no Windows mobile for this one) this obviously opens up the world of software – no more having to settle for a ‘lite’ version of an application.
So how portable is the device? Well measuring in at 5.9 inches wide by 3.7 inches deep by 1.5 inches thick it’s bigger than a standard PC it weighs in at little over 1lbs. Whilst it is fairly compact - the size does rule it out of being carried around in your shirt pocket as you would say an iPAQ, but it's still portable enough.
Interfacing with the device is all fairly intuitive - the screen slides back allowing access to a small QWERTY keyboard which is suitable enough for "thumb" typing. Sony have positioned the controls so that the device can be nestled in two hands allowing easy access to the controls situated to the side of the device (these includes a small trackerpad, mouse buttons – most of the controls this way are powered by the users thumbs.
The screen (a 41/2 inch display which can run upto 1200 X 600) also doubles as a touchscreen - this will be familiar to those with a PDA and to top this off a stylus is
also available. For the security concious the device comes equipped with a fingerprint reader which enhances the already powerful curity sweet that comes with Vista there’s also a small webcam built in to the top of the screen.
Powering it all along is a Intel Core Solo U1500 / 1.33 GHz processor and 1GB of RAM which moves things along at a sprightly enough pace. For storage there’s a 32GB Solid-State (Flash) hard-drive - with Windows Vista onboard - expect this to be swallowed up fast! Those looking for extra expansion will be pleased to see a memory card slot.
Potential users of the UX390 are spoiled by a plethora of connectivity options including Bluetooth, 802.11a/b/g wireless and EV-DO (this is supported somewhat neatly
by a fold out antenae). There's also the standard connections such as a headphone Jack, firewire etc. Coupled with the docking station –(which is used for recharging the device) the capabilities become expanded – the docking station comes equipped with a number of connection slots allowing you to plug the device into a standard PC monitor for example or have extra USB connectivity.
The biggest drawback for the device against a standard PDA or Laptop is the power supply - the battery (in standard use) can expect to support around three hours with average use. This will be a big niggle for many accustomed to the battery life of a PDA and for future devices to become more usable – manufacturers will want to pay close attention to this.
At around $2,500 the device isn't cheap - and there will be alot of soul searching for those weighing up a UX390 against say a top of the range standard PDA– whilst the device is cool looking with bags of functionality and potential uses – the battery life is a real sucker punch and could prove to be a real decision point for potential buyers.