The Test Centre puts "you beaut" high tech products through their paces every day, but once in a while we get something so snazzy it turns us into show-off school kids - like Dialogue's new Flybook ultra-portable tablet PC and Toshiba's Libretto U100 notebook. They're miniature marvels.
Dialogue Flybook A33i
Well constructed and styled, the Flybook is the smallest tablet PC we've seen.
It has solid networking credentials, including built-in Ethernet and 56Kbps modem ports, plus 802.11b Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity. A Bluetooth GPS receiver/navigation software bundle is optional. The Flybook also offers GPRS communications via an integrated SIM card slot. Using the included BVRP Mobile Phone Tools software, you'll get tri-band mobile phone, SMS and e-mail functionality.
The 1024x600 pixel, 8.9in touch-sensitive widescreen can swivel 180 degrees and fold back over the keyboard for tablet use. Interestingly, the Flybook runs Windows XP Professional instead of Windows XP Tablet Edition.
The touch display can be operated using your finger or the supplied stylus that stores away in the right side of the unit. Double-tapping a selected icon to run a program was straightforward, but we found right-clicking a little clunky. Unlike Microsoft-backed Tablet PCs, the stylus has no right-click button, forcing you to manually select right-click mode from the system tray when needed. There are also black left/right mouse-click buttons at the top-left and top-right where you'll also find a tricky-to-use touch stick for cursor control and dedicated scrolling button.
Dialogue pre-installs its own PenMount ritePen software which converts words written by hand on the screen into text for your e-mail, word processor, etc. We had quite a bit of success at this, but it can sometimes be hard to write lengthy sentences big enough to be recognised properly.
The Transmeta processor won't break any speed records, but was perfectly suitable for the sort of tasks for which the Flybook was designed.
Toshiba Libretto U100
Toshiba's Libretto U100 looks retro, but packs a lot of modern technology into its video cassette-like dimensions.
Weighing 1.43kg with detachable double-layer DVD writer dock (and just 980g without), the U100 is a fully-fledged Windows XP Home palm-top computer.
It's durable too, featuring a magnesium alloy chassis and 3-D motion sensor to disable the hard disk before impact. The hard disk and screen are anti-shock mounted also.
The 7.2in 1280x768 resolution display has fantastic image quality, but text can appear very small. Many will find the default resolution perfectly workable, but personally, when I tired from squinting, I found that even pressing the Function key and spacebar to zoom in and make things larger wasn't always an ideal workaround.
The tiny Libretto U100's keyboard is cramped. Still, the unit is just so darn cute, I could live with it. It also has two USB 2.0 ports for external devices. Given its extreme portability, we appreciated that Toshiba included an integrated biometric fingerprint reader, capable of BIOS and Windows-level authentication and file encryption.
The Libretto U100 caters for Ethernet and 56Kbps modem wired networking, plus 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Most noteworthy however, is that its 1.2GHz Intel Pentium M 753 ultra low voltage processor, 512MB memory and integrated graphics controller scored a commendable 62 in PC WorldBench 5 and 2339 in 3DMark 2001.
Verdict: The Libretto U100 is powerful for its size and has about five hours battery life, compared to the slower Flybook A33i's three hours. However, the Flybook provides all the benefits of tablet computing, displays some true innovation and comes in several colours. Both machines are light, unique in appearance and let you stay productive and in-touch when away from your desk.
Dialogue Flybook A33i
Vendor: Dialogue Australia
Phone: (02) 9947 2750
Specs: 8.9in touch widescreen; 1GHz Transmeta Crusoe TM-5800; 512MB DDR SDRAM, 40GB hard disk; Ethernet; 56Kbps modem; 802.11b Wi-Fi; Bluetooth; two USB 2.0 and FireWire ports; supports one Type II PC Card; 235x140x30mm (WxDxH); 1.2kg; bundled protective sleeve; external CD/DVD drivesty.
Toshiba Libretto U100
Phone: 13 3070
Specs: 7.2in display; 1.2GHz Intel Pentium M 753 ULV; 512MB DDR SDRAM, 60GB hard disk; Ethernet; 56Kbps modem; Atheros 802.11b/g Wi-Fi; Bluetooth; dual-layer DVD writer (via dock); two USB 2.0 ports; FireWire; SD card reader; supports one Type II PC Card; 210x165x28.9mm (WxDxH); 1.43kg (with dual-layer DVD writer dock); 980g (stand-alone); 1-year warranty.