Tablet-convertible ultraportable for under $1800
The popularity of ultraportable laptops is undeniable. You only have to look at how many competitors the inexpensive ASUS Eee PC has spawned, all vying to be better-designed and more comprehensively featured. There's a reason the competition took notice of ASUS: most of us just love the portability and the convenience of an ultraportable laptop. The next logical evolution then, is an ultraportable that's the size of the Eee PC, but which also has a tablet-convertible form factor. Enter the VYE Mini-V S37, which isn't outrageously priced for a tablet.
- Very light and portable, good range of connectivity options (including Bluetooth and 802.11g), more than 3 hours battery life, good tablet functionality
- Sluggish performance, no fingerprint reader
It runs Windows Vista, has a large hard drive and is basically a full-blown computer that's about twice the size of a smartphone. It's perfect for anyone who is after a small tablet PC for under $1800.
Price$ 1,759.00 (AUD)
It's distributed by VYE Computers, which is new to the Australian market. The company is enthusiastic about the Mini-V as a product for businesses, schools and end users alike. After having a look at this model, it's easy to get caught up in the hype — it's a unit that's relatively easy to use, sturdy and adequately powered for running office applications. It also has enough battery life to be a convenient video player for when you are on the road or stuck in a pressurised can at 30,000ft. Indeed, it lasted 3hr 30min in our battery test, in which we loop video files while the screen is at maximum brightness.
Physically, the unit has a 7in touch-screen LCD panel, which has good contrast and brightness and a sturdy hinge. It swings around and flips down to provide tablet functionality, and the screen will recognise input either from your finger or from the supplied pen. It's accurate for selecting icons, menu items and general navigation, but it's not always convenient when writing. You'll have to write very neatly if you want the character recognition program to perform accurately. What's convenient about the screen when it's in tablet mode is the array of buttons and functions that are present on it. Although not all of them were functional on our pre-production model, the availability of shortcut buttons for rotating the screen and adjusting the brightness, and a thumb control for the pointer, made the unit easy to use.
In our benchmarks, the unit's 800MHz Intel A110 CPU was understandably slow. Running Windows Vista, it recorded only 20 in WorldBench 6, which means that while it will run most office applications, you might notice some sluggishness. Still, it's not bad at all for a unit that's running a full-blown version of Vista. You get 1GB of RAM, as well as a 120GB, 5400rpm hard drive, so the unit does have moving parts.
Along the edges of the unit you get a D-Sub port, a 10/100 Ethernet port, two USB ports, an SD card slot, and, surprisingly, a CompactFlash card slot. The latter is an inclusion that's rarely seen in notebooks and it's a welcome one for users who have a high-end digital camera with CompactFlash and want something spacious to dump their photos on. But it can also be considered an expansion slot as it can be used for secondary storage or even communications devices. The rear of the unit houses a 5200mAh battery that sticks out from the unit and can be used as a hand-grip of sorts when using the notebook in tablet mode. With this battery, the unit weighs 1.1kg, so it's very light; the overall build of the unit feels sturdy enough to withstand the pressures of everyday use.
The closest competitor to this unit is probably Fujitsu's Lifebook U1010, which has similar functionality but weighs less as it foregoes some built-in ports and requires a dongle for facilities such as the D-Sub port. In this respect, the Mini-V is better as you don't need to plug anything else into it to benefit from all its features. The Mini-V also has a built-in 1.3-megapixel webcam, a microphone, and 802.11g wireless networking.
Its keyboard has a full array of keys; while it's small, you get used to it after a while. Of course, it's not comfortable to type on for long periods of time, so if you plan on using it as your main PC at home and in the office, you'll want to plug in a USB keyboard, as well as a screen that can supply a higher resolution than the unit's 1024x600 pixels.
It's definitely a nifty little product, and for under $1800, it's definitely an inexpensive option for anyone who needs an ultraportable with tablet functionality. The only downside we can see is that it doesn't have a built-in fingerprint reader for security, so you'll have to remember your passwords.
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