Some day, every truly digital home may have a convenient, wireless monitor-type device like this one. Formerly codenamed Mira, Smart Displays consist of an LCD touch screen that you can carry from room to room and use to control a separate fully-functioning PC over a Wi-Fi (802.11b) network. For instance, you can browse the Web or read your e-mail using the V110 in the living room while your computer remains in your home office.
The 1.3kg V110 has a 10.4in display capable of 800x600 resolution and uses a 400MHz Intel Xscale processor, 32MB of Flash ROM and 64MB of SDRAM. Its built-in Windows CE for Smart Displays OS will only function with PCs running Windows XP Professional (because only XP Pro allows you to take over your PC remotely) and equipped with a Wi-Fi networking adapter. The $1800 V110 package includes an XP Pro upgrade for XP Home users, as well as a USB Wi-Fi adapter for the host PC.
The V110’s 15in $2400 V150 sibling tips the scales at 2.7kg, making it heavier than many notebooks. Though both Smart Displays have optional docking stations ($US149 for the V110 and $US199 for the V150 — local pricing not confirmed at press time), only the V150’s has a VGA pass-through, which lets that display also function as a primary monitor. However, both recharge the displays’ lithium ion batteries. ViewSonic’s claim that the V110 will operate for 3.5 to four hours per charge held up in informal shipping unit testing.
In use, logging in to the V110 takes less than 30 seconds. Relatively easy to set up, a Smart Display is definitely speedier to use than trekking over to a desktop. And even if you have an ultra-thin notebook, it can be more convenient to leave that plugged in and logged on continuously while you use the V110 for the occasional digital nibble, since you don’t have to log on and off and you avoid running down your notebook’s battery.
ViewSonic will be offering a free Nevo Home Control Kit (www.mynevo.com) that allows their Smart Displays to control your TV, home theatre and other appliances.
For a device that is clearly intended for heavy Web surfing, however, the absence of a wheel or toggle for scrolling is mystifying and inexcusable. And due to Wi-Fi bandwidth limitations, the V110 can’t handle video files or serious 3D games. You can stream music to the V110 or use it as a remote for a computer connected to your stereo.
None of these drawbacks seriously affects the V110’s value to the user. The problem is that the device’s convenience simply isn’t worth its price tag. Let’s hope that the competition of Smart Displays from multiple vendors helps to bring down the cost of this wonderful technology as a whole.
In brief: ViewSonic Airpanel V110 Smart Display
A wireless flat panel display makes mobile PC use easy, but literally at a price. The first of the Microsoft software-based Smart Displays that we’ve tested, the V110 is sure to attract attention from those who see it in action.
Price: V110 $1800, V150 $2400
Phone: (02) 9929 3955