Somewhere between a tablet notebook computer and a PDA, it offers great connectivity, lots of storage, and a 7-in. touch screen
I've had the chance to test several members of the relatively new family of computers known as ultra-mobile PCs. When it comes to size, ease of use, and range of capabilities, these devices land somewhere between a full-sized tablet notebook computer on one end and a personal digital assistant on the other. Of those I have used, TableKiosk's eo i7210 is a favorite.
Available from reseller Dynamism.com since October, the i7210 is about the size of a paperback novel and weighs 1.83 pounds with the battery inside. That leaves it too large to put in a pocket, but lighter than most notebooks, which typically weigh at least three pounds. Best of all, the i7210 gives you almost everything you would expect from a full-featured notebook, making it worth the $1,399 you'll pay for it.
Let's start with the all-important chip that makes the computer run. Unlike many ultra-mobile PCs, which tend to be less powerful than today's large tablets and notebooks, the eo i7210 features a decent processor—Intel's (INTC) Pentium M, which allows for low power consumption and longer battery life (in this case, that still isn't very long, though).
The machine also runs Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows XP, and is capable of upgrading to the latest iteration of Windows—Vista, which became available to consumers at the end of January. There's plenty of memory and storage—a whole Gigabyte of RAM and 60 Gigabytes of hard disk drive space. It does lack a feature found in most laptops: a DVD/CD drive.
But as more video, audio, and other content becomes available for download over the Internet, the importance of these drives will diminish. And the device comes with a slot for reading an array of digital media, including so-called secure digital (SD) cards, a feature many laptops and PDAs lack.
I was equally impressed with the i7210's connectivity features. It comes not only with a LAN cable connection and Wi-Fi capabilities but also Bluetooth, which lets you connect wirelessly with all manner of electronic devices and surf the Net over cellular networks. Very few ultra-mobile PCs offer all three variants, making the i7210 a handy tool for professionals on the go.
No Screen Squint
The i7210 also boasts a range of easy to use multimedia functions, including a jack for an additional microphone and a built-in 1.3 megapixel camera that can be used for video calling. It comes with Windows Messenger, but you can also download other Internet communication tools, such as eBay's (EBAY) Skype. Music lovers will no doubt appreciate the computer's separate control pad for digital music. And it boasts easy-to-find buttons for launching Internet Explorer and adjusting volume and screen brightness.
The accolades continue. The 7-in. touch screen was large enough that my eyes didn't tire from reading or watching, and it responded well to stylus or finger controls. The handwriting recognition picked up even my scribbles without a problem.
I had some minor quibbles with the i7210. First, I wish it came with some of the software perks I've found on other ultra-mobile PCs, such as RSS-feed management available on the Nokia n800 tablet (see BusinessWeek.com, 1/31/07, "Nokia's New and Novel N800").
Unlike most tablets, the i7210 came with both a kickstand and a docking station. This lets users set up the device as if it were a picture frame, for more comfortable video watching. A note of caution, though: The device's battery only lasts about two and a half hours, so, if you plan to watch a long movie, be sure to bring a spare. Some new devices out there can last several hours longer.
And finally, while the keyboard is easily turned on with a button on a virtual dashboard, I prefer the good old keyboard, which you can add using one of the device's two USB ports or a USB port on the docking station. Overall, these gripes are minor, and the i720 is a great option for anyone in search of a smaller, easy-to-use tablet PC.