While in Japan a week and a half ago I picked up Sony's new teeny ultramobile (UMPC), the Vaio VGN-UX50. Strongly reminiscent of the OQO, its sliding screen reveals an integrated keyboard. And although it appears from its size like it would be a wimpy machine, performance is on-par with my old Dell 1.8 GHz Centrino laptop! It's got a little 1.8" 30 gig hard drive from Toshiba, half a gig of RAM, and a jaw-dropping 4.5" screen that does 1024x600. You have to see it to believe the amazing detail it can show. Here's a video of the unboxing of the unit, done at a temple in Nagano:
Video: Opening the UX50 (WMV format, 7 min 33 secs, 35 megs)
It has enough processing power to play back 720p high def video resized to 1024x576 -- at 60 frames per second! Crystal clear and perfect, amazing to behold. I had previously written a script that converts HDV footage coming from the Sony HC1 camera to MPEG2 at 1024x576 / 60fps for use with my projector, and those same videos end up to be perfect for playback on this unit, too. Altogether a near desktop replacement in the palm of your hand. If only it had more RAM it could be my only machine. Hooking it up to a monitor, it goes up to 1600x1200.
Battery life leaves a little to be desired, it's less than the 3.5 hours that Sony advertises. I get around 70 minutes when playing high def video (which keeps the processor pegged at 65% and no doubt taxes the video card pretty seriously), or 2 hours doing casual surfing.
They're only available in Japan right now, but in a month they'll be out in the States and Europe. Where I bought it at Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara (the “Electric Town“ section of Tokyo) the price equates to $1450 USD. Bic camera in Japan also sells it, and at a 10% discount. But they were out of stock at the time. It will have a street price of around $1700 when it hits the states. I decided to take the plunge, even with the one-year warranty being valid only in Japan, and the keyboard and OS of the unit in Japanese. If it ever craps out then that just means another great vacation to Japan to get it fixed!
The machine uses a brand new processor from Intel: the U1300, which is based on a 65nm process and consumes only 5.5 watts. It runs the bus at 533 MHz, and the processor's clock speed at exactly twice that rate, 1.066 GHz. Has 2 megs of L2 cache, and costs $241 each in quantity. The only other announced notebook that currently uses the chip is an ultraportable from Gateway. There's a related dual core U2500 coming that will likely be a drop-in replacement, and offer nearly twice the performance for multithreaded apps. That version will probably consume about 7 watts, so similar battery life if it were put into this Sony UX platform. Hopefully we will see such a system, and with at least a gig of RAM instead of the paltry 512 megs in this first unit.
I used the unit for a week, stumbling around in Japanese Windows. Was easy enough since I'm very familiar with the OS. Typed lots of email and looked up lots of attractions on the thing while travelling around Kyoto, Osaka, and Nagano. Much to my benefit many WiFi hotspots around Japan are not secured. Case in point there's one I hook up to in the video at that temple in Nagano!
There's definitely more to blog about this little PC in the near future. If you're going out to TechEd then stop in at the community booth and talk to my good friend Scott Cate who will have the unit over there for the week. Not only is the little machine interesting to see, Scott is also a great guy to know. So that you can pick him out of the crowd, he's the guy pictured in the middle on the cover of Wrox's new book about AJAX.