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The New UMPCs: Pocket-Size Laptops Toughen Up

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Part-laptop, part-handheld, today's Ultra Mobile PCs pack the best of both worlds, shoehorning a notebook's best features inside a device that's no bigger than your hand. Sure, they lack the horsepower to edit video and play the latest games. However, when you're on the go and need to check email, these perfect travel companions make the thinnest ultralight look like a bloated monolith. Because of their tiny size, their processors barely push the 1GHz mark, but that doesn't mean they're not well-equipped. EV-DO, Wi-Fi, and flash drives are just some of the features you'll find in today's UMPCs. So before you splurge on that new notebook, feast your eyes on the latest crop of UMPCs.

Asus Eee PC

Don't let its innocent looks fool you. Despite its tiny size, the Asus Eee PC ($399.99 + $0 s&h at Amazon.com, a current price low) can punch twice its weight. A frequent mention on dealnews, this 2-pound PC sports an Intel Celeron M processor along with a 4GB Solid-State Disk, making the Eee PC both durable and shock-proof. The Eee PC packs a 7" screen, which you can use to surf the Web thanks to its built-in Wi-Fi. It has a built-in webcam too. Unlike most of its brethren, the Eee PC also features a proper keyboard so you don't have to peck away on a virtual keyboard. Best of all, you can kiss system crashes goodbye, since it runs a Xandros-customized Linux OS instead of Windows. See also the Asus Eee PC 4G Surf ($349.99 + $10 s&h at newegg.com, a current price low), which differs from the Eee PC 4G in that it features soldered PC2-3200 RAM (instead of expandable PC2-5300 RAM), a 4400 mAh battery (instead of 5200 mAh), and no webcam.

Samsung Q1

You might know them for their high-def TVs, but Samsung is also dipping its toes into the world of UMPCs with the Samsung Q1 Tablet PC (from $739 + $12 s&h, although it's been as low as $710). This 1.5-pound tablet totes a split QWERTY keyboard that makes thumb-typing a breeze. It obliterates the Eee PC's hard drive with a more traditional, far larger 60GB hard drive. It also boasts a 2-in-1 memory card slot for MMC and SD cards. The 7" display doubles as a touch-screen and like the Eee PC, the Q1 packs a built-in webcam. Windows Vista rounds off the package as does built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

OQO Model 02

Taking the UMPC principle to heart, the folks at OQO packed everything they could inside the OQO Model 02 ($1,209.99 + $30 s&h at TigerDirect.com, a $310 drop from last week), but what really makes this UMPC stand out is its built-in EV-DO modem, which lets you log onto the Internet from just about anywhere. (EV-DO service is extra.) Complimenting the EV-DO are both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. This UMPC packs a small 5" display, but can support displays with up to a 1920x1200 resolution via its HDMI port. Storage-wise, you can opt for a 32GB Solid-State Disk or a more conventional 40GB, 60GB, 80GB, or 120GB drive. For typing, there’s a sliding, backlit QWERTY keyboard. Another distinguishing trait is its VIA CPU running from 1.2GHz to 1.6GHz.

HTC Shift

As notebooks shrink in size, smartphones have grown in features. Combine the two and you have the HTC Shift ($1,599 pre-order). Set to debut early December, this UMPC packs an adjustable 7" touch-screen display that can slide out and be angled. It runs Windows Vista Business and uses an 800MHz Intel CPU for horsepower combined with a 40GB hard drive for storage space. On the wireless front, the Shift has HSDPA and EDGE along with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. A built-in fingerprint scanner keeps prying eyes at bay and the device’s QWERTY keyboard features left and right mouse buttons. What impressed us more, however, is its SnapVUE feature, which lets you access e-mail, calendar, and contact information without having to boot up.

Louis Ramirez is a dealnews Features Editor who's hoping Santa brings him a shiny new UMPC this Christmas.

DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Unless marked as a "Sponsored Deal," the opinions expressed here are those of the author and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the companies mentioned. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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