UMPC as Primary PC

Last weekend, my desktop system developed a major overheating issue. I attempted to correct the problem by replacing the CPU heat-sink and fan, but ended up messing something up and leaving the system unable to boot at all. As a result, it has been at the repair shop for the last week. This means that my UMPC has been serving as my primary PC for the past week, resulting in an interesting test of its overall usability.

My desktop PC is kept in our living room and even since I got my eo, I have mostly still been using the desktop system when I was in that room. Even for tasks like web surfing and email, I have mostly been using the UMPC when on the go or around the house in rooms other than the one where the desktop PC was located, particularly up in the bedroom. With the UMPC as the only PC available this week (unless I want to use my wife’s notebook PC), I have now expanded to using it anywhere in the house. What I have found is that this has helped to introduce me more to the wonders of “couch surfing”, the term that many in the UMPC community have used for web browsing from the couch while parked in front of the TV. While I admit that I almost feel a tad lazy web browsing in that way, I also get the feeling that I could get way too used to it. It is a bit decadent, but also pretty nice…

This week, I do wish that I already had the docking station cradle that has been announced for the eo, but not yet released. This cradle while add VGA and Ethernet ports as well as a couple extra USB connectors. If this were already available, I could have essentially used the eo as a desktop PC some of the time this week by hooking it up to the monitor, keyboard, and mouse that are currently going unused. The USB connectors on the eo itself do allow the use of the keyboard and mouse, if I want, but connecting it to the monitor isn’t really an option. There are a few USB-based video adapters on the market, but they tend to be expensive and also have a reputation for being very slow. I’d rather wait for the cradle. Admittedly, this is one case where the Samsung Q1 would have been advantageous, since it does have a VGA connector directly on the device. For me, though, this would really only have been advantages during this time that the docking station cradle isn’t yet available.

Even with the docking station unavailable, I am actually writing this blog post while sitting at the computer desk in my living room. I am using the extra stylus that was included with the eo as a stand (the plastic stand that TabletKiosk sent me is on my desk at work) and have just moved the full-sized computer monitor out of the way. Since space is pretty limited on my desk with the monitor still there, I am using my smaller Stowaway Bluetooth keyboard and the touchscreen/mouse stick instead of plugging in the full-sized keyboard and mouse. It would be nice to have this hooked to the bigger monitor, but I’m still finding this to work very well.

The biggest disadvantage that I have found to the use of the eo as my primary PC has been the poor battery life. With my desktop box in the shop, I have not yet sent in my eo for the recall service, so I’ve had to keep working around the way-too-short 1:20 battery life. Even once I do get the recall work done, that probably isn’t going to extend to much over 2 hours. That is still pretty short for fairly heavy usage. Of course, it isn’t extremely hard to keep the system on the charger much of the time when using it around the house, although even there it has been something of an inconvenience. I have a 2-year-old child, which means that I really can only use the eo on the charger in places where he can’t easily get at the cord. On weekends, my wife and I also typically spend some of the time taking turns hiding out in the upstairs bedroom while the other watches our son. It also still isn’t unusual to have to get up with the kid in the middle of the night on some days. With no desktop PC downstairs, I have run into a few occasions where the battery ran out and the charger was in the other part of the house. It actually has me considering getting another charger to keep downstairs, although I suspect this problem will be much less significant once the extended life battery is available.

While my UMPC is powerful enough for a large percentage of the things for which I use the desktop PC, admittedly there are a few things that it isn’t. I use my desktop PC for photo and video editing sometimes and both of those tasks really do need a bigger monitor and more powerful processor. I took some digital photos of my son at play yesterday that I’d certainly like to post online for his grandparents, but I just can’t see spending a lot of time using Photoshop Elements to work on them on the eo. They probably will end up being held until I get the desktop PC back.

I also use my desktop PC as a music server, a function that the eo can’t fully duplicate. We have over 1,000 CDs all of which have been ripped to high-quality digital files. I have around a terabyte of storage on the desktop PC, which can’t obviously be matched on the UMPC. One of the reasons I chose the eo was the availability of a 100 GB hard drive, but that still only holds a relatively small portion of my music collection. I also haven’t even tried hooking the eo to my stereo system, so I don’t know how the sound quality would be.

One thing that I have been glad about is that I regularly synchronize key data between the desktop and UMPC. This gives me readily accessible backups and even access to some key data. For example, I manage our finances using Microsoft Money. I hadn’t gotten around to installing that on the eo, but the data file was part of the regular synchronization of my documents directory. This meant that I only had to install Money on the UMPC to continue normal updates.

It really has been great having the eo during this period. I never could have obtained this level of continuation with a PDA and the UMPC is way more portable than any laptop. This week has helped me to really see how the UMPC can really help to free my computing activities.

No Responses to “UMPC as Primary PC”

  1. Troy Howard says:

    Jeff,
    I bought a Samsung Q1 as a secondary device for my Toshiba Tecra M4. I bought the Tecra because it is my primary computer and I needed a powerhouse. However, I quickly grew tired of lugging it around from boardroom to boardroom or site to site just to take meeting notes. That is the reason that I bought the Q1. The interesting thing I found out is that the Q1can handle the majority of my computing tasks during the day. I now use it as my primary device. In fact, in the three weeks that I have owned it my Tecra has been gathering dust. The only thing that I have not been able to use the Q1 for and needed the Tecra was to take care of some video editing. It is important to realize that I am on a computer twelve hours a day or more so it is pretty impressive that the Q1 meets most of my needs. Would I use it as my only PC? I would not. I do need a powerhouse occasionally and that is why I have the Tecra, but it is not getting the attention it used to. I know that people complain about the lack of keyboard and battery life, but I bought a bluetooth keyboard and my Tecra battery although new, still does not last as long as the Q1. As a secondary device this is perfect, but I believe that most people will notice that they will use it more than their “primary” device.

  2. techslob says:

    I have been using my Q1 as my primary machine for over a month and it has exceeded my expectations.

    I normally use a Dell 700m and I find that the Q1 performs as well for most day-to-day tasks such as word processing, surfing and even coding.

    The battery life is clocking in at 2.5 – 3 hours depending on what I am doing. Typically that means Word, Firefox and WMP11. I have really fallen in love with Journal and, truth be told, I am most suprised at the increase in my productivity using this device over my laptop.

    It may not be perfect for all baut id most certainly works for me.

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