Vye S37 – First week observations

As the next part of my series of posts about my new Vye S37, I initially started to write up a detailed description of the process of configuration and system setup.  After a short time, I found that I was even boring myself.  Therefore, I’m going to instead just share some overall observations on my first week of use.  I’m going to take a bit of a stream-of-consciousness approach here, so hopefully it won’t be too rambling.

More on the Keyboard

In my last post, I already talked a bit about my early experiences with the keyboard.  The presence of the keyboard definitely is the biggest difference compared to my previous UMPC and I’m already seeing a substantial change in my use patterns.  With the eo, I found that I generally used it primarily as a sort of a combination of a web browsing device (essentially a MID) and an MP3 player.  When I bought it, I had visions of using it more for writing than I ever did.  The truth is that I never really got the hang of making handwriting recognition work.  Even with the improvements in Vista, I still had to make a huge number of manual corrections.  Even short discussion board posts, blog comments, or even emails took a ridiculously long time.

I do have a Think Outside folding keyboard that I used with the eo, but it never was extraordinarily convenient.  It was pretty much unusable without a table top available and also took a fair amount of effort to take out, unfold, and connect.  The attached keyboard on the Vye, on the other hand, is always present and readily available.  The size of the unit is such that I have found that I can very easily use it in "laptop mode" even while lounging on the couch or in bed.   With the Vye, it is really easy to work on a blog post or some other written work pretty much whenever I have a bit of down time.  Over the last few days, I’ve done a fair amount of writing while also watching TV, something I never found easy to do in the past.

I’m still not joining the camp that believes that a UMPC absolutely must have a full keyboard in order to be useful as I’m well aware that different people have different needs.  Some people certainly have much better handwriting than I do and I’m certain are able to be significantly more productive via handwriting recognition.  For me, though, I am now pretty much convinced that a keyboard really is the best input option and I see my productivity likely growing dramatically with the Vye.

Ink and Touch Screen

That does bring me to the other side of this, which is the overall inking and touch screen experience.  To be honest, it really isn’t that good.  The touch screen on the Vye is a much softer touch than the eo was and I have found the legibility of handwriting to be quite a bit lower.  I don’t have any past experience with inking on larger than a 7-inch screen and have never had a habit of resting my hand on the screen, so that hasn’t really been a problem. Instead, the lighter touch and the finer detail with the higher resolution 1024×600 screen (which I otherwise love) are making it tougher.

As I said above, I’m not a heavy inker as my handwriting is pretty lousy anyway, but I do occasionally do some hand-written notes in OneNote during meetings.  I’ve only had one occasion to use the Vye this way so far and it was a bit of a rough experience.  After doing some experimentation with line widths and overall writing angles, I did get the writing to be at least acceptable enough for notes that are only for my own use.  Longer term, though, I think I’m going to probably have to rework my approach some.  More than likely, I’ll end up using the keyboard a bit more for general notetaking in meetings, switching to ink mainly for diagrams as well as for hand-annotation of documents, PowerPoint slides, etc.

Even the use of the touch screen for general navigation and selection is taking some getting used to.  I’ve had a bit of a hard time getting accurate calibration, even after several attempts.  As with the inking, I think that has a lot to do with simply being not quite used to the differences in resolution and touch sensitivity compared to what I’m used to.  The rotating screen seems to have some effect as well as I haven’t quite found the right position for effectively doing the calibration.  With practice, I think this will improve, but I have so far found myself using the track pad and track stick a lot more than I did with the eo.

The Vista Decision

The question of the appropriateness of Vista versus Windows XP (or even Linux) for UMPCs is a common subject of debate.  While I definitely recognize the performance limitations of Vista, I also think the overall advantages in the Tablet PC and media features, in particular, do make it worthwhile.  I’ve was actually using Vista on my eo v7110 for much of the past year as well and I couldn’t see going back.  Better Vista performance was a big motivator for me to move up to a new UMPC.

Other than slimming down the Vista installation a bit using VLite, I haven’t really done any significant performance tweaks so far.  That is largely intentional as I want to get a feel for how well the OS performs on the Vye without disabling any features.  I did have to do some pretty serious tweaking on my eo in order to make it useable, which meant that I did without some of Vista’s key features such as the search indexing.

The performance certainly isn’t up to what I get with Vista on my pretty high-end Core 2 Duo based desktop system, but it definitely is very useable and lightyears better than what I saw with the eo.  As is all too typical with Vista, the performance does vary somewhat, not always for clear reasons.  Vista is known for running slower during the initial indexing and I have definitely noticed that it is running snappier now than it did during the first couple days.

Over time, I’m sure that I will do a fair amount of tweaking of performance as well as general experimentation to see what works best.  I haven’t really run any benchmarks yet, but perhaps I’ll do so later and report back a bit on that.

Organizing the 250GB drive

I know the 250GB drive in my Vye is extremely unusual for a UMPC, which introduces some organizational challenges that most UMPC owners don’t generally face.  I decided to separate the 250GB drive into three partitions.  I set up a 100GB partition for media (mainly my music collection) and 12GB for drivers and various software installation packages.  The rest of the drive was assigned to the primary system partition, with the OS plus applications and general data.

One of the realities of Windows is that every once in a while it does become necessary to wipe the system partition and re-install in order to correct problems or even just to clear out enough garbage to get it back to acceptable performance.  Partitioning the drive in this manner allows me to avoid having to re-copy all the media files and also to have the key drivers and software readily available during a re-install. 

This partitioning also will allow me to potentially use BitLocker on the C drive without affecting all the media, although I haven’t decided for sure yet whether I want to do that.  Right now, I don’t really have anything stored on the system that I would consider to be particularly sensitive, but that could change depending on how much I end up using it for work purposes.

More to come

I’ll close out this post here, but I certainly still have a lot more to say about the Vye.  For my next post, I expect to discuss some of my specific application experiences with the Vye.  In particular, I have a fair amount to say about media playback (particularly music).  I also will post some comments about my experience using Photoshop Elements to prepare the photo that I included in my previous post about the aesthetics and design.

No Responses to “Vye S37 – First week observations”

  1. Badcam says:

    Hey Jeffrey. Loved the review. I to have a Vye (SH8 actually with 2GB) and I love it. I’m still using the original Vista install which is Japanese. I’d dearly love to re-install with vLite and am hoping that you might get around to doing a Vye specific tutorial sometime. Food for thought.

    If theirs one thing that I’ve done with my SH8 that is the smartest move I’ve made, it’s the installation of Origami. It’s really sweet. I find that the SH8 is fantastic for playing movies on and this came in really handy on a recent 23 hour flight (including transit lounge waits). I have two extended batteries and as I carry the laptop in my car or in a over the shoulder satchel, the weight has never been an issue.

    I hope your review goes some way towards convincing a lot more people to consider purchasing a Vye/SH8. I think it’s a seriously underrated device.

  2. Martin says:

    Jeffrey, I loved these three blog entries on the Vye S37B.
    Easily the best and most in-depth “review” of this machine I have found yet.

    Since I first read them in January I’ve been looking out daily for the next entry (”more to come”) but without luck.

    Are you still planning to continue this series, or have you run out of things to say about your Vye? Or at least in a nutshell, how do you like your gadget after one month?

  3. jgraebner says:

    Thanks for the positive comments! I’m a terrible procrastinator when it comes to writing, but I actually do have my next post in the series (a report on using the Vye as a music player) almost finished. I’ll try to get it published in the next couple days.

    In a nutshell, I’m still really happy with the Vye after a month of use. I’ve found that I use it much more extensively than I did my eo and I overall think it was a great purchase.

  4. Neal Johns says:

    Great review! Much was written early on about the brightness of the screen – some said it was usable outside in the sunlight. How about your experience outside with the current hardware?

  5. jgraebner says:

    I haven’t actually tried using it outside. I have used it in a few areas where there was a fair amount of glare (mainly restaurants with lots of windows) and found it to be more usable than my eo was, but still a bit difficult to read.

    I’ll have to try taking it outdoors and see how it does.

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