Viliv S5 Lightning Review (Netbook, Meet MID)

The gadget: Viliv S5, a computer that fits in your palm, packing all the Atom processor power of the latest netbooks along with GPS.

The price: $US599 (configured with 4.8" WSVGA display, 60GB HD, Intel Atom 1.33GHz CPU, free spare battery, car kit and pouch)

The verdict: The S5 is a good value, but you may not like it anyway.

At .92lbs, the Viliv is a bit hefty in your hands even though it's 680 grams lighter than most netbooks (it's sitting on an Asus Eee 1000HE here). Still, the Viliv kept surprising me with its speed. Loaded with the same processor as the Vaio P, the system doesn't actually run XP faster than any Atom-based, but to see installation bars and downloads move so quickly on such a tiny device is always a bit of a mindfrak.

The touchscreen has passable colour, brightness and contrast—luckily, it's also ridiculously accurate. Yeah, the buttons and icons are as minuscule as you'd expect, but I never had a hard time, say, hitting the "X" to close a window (with my precision "nail" tool, of course)...unless my browser was full screen. Then my finger just never fit in the corner properly. For when you need extreme precision, the four-way thumbstick doubles as a mouse, or you can use the bundled "Cube" interface for larger icons (which is fine for a skin, but you'll need to tinker in the real XP sooner or later).

As for the keyboard, it pops up with a conveniently placed button on the right. Pressing keys offers a satisfying moment of haptic feedback. It works about 90% of the time, but however the keyboard skin was designed, your finger press sometimes goes through the keyboard and hits a link or something that's on your screen. It can make typing a simple phrase quite taxing as you unintentionally swap text boxes.

The GPS? It works, but you'll need to supply your own nav software (an additional cost). The battery? It's rated at 6 hours, but we received four hours (and two minutes) when tested with nonstop WMV playback (Wi-Fi on with the screen at medium brightness). Since many manufacturers claim battery life that's double actual testing, I considered four hours to be decent.
The USB, headphone and Multi I/O ports are enough in a device of this size, because between them, you could plug in a keyboard, monitor (with adaptor) and speakers. In this respect, the Viliv could make for an extremely portable home-to-office computer.

Here's the issue: I just don't like MIDs. I hate them, really. If I want to use something small, I'll use a smartphone. If I want to use something slightly bigger, that's netbook/laptop territory. The MID, in my mind, is a failed idea of the future still stuck in the 90s. It's a computer that neither fits in your pocket nor serves as your main computer. So if you hate MIDs, the Viliv S5 won't do anything to change that.

But for a MID, I must say, I liked the Viliv. If you are the type of person who can stand the 4.8-inch screen and is looking for their GPS to do a little more, then it might interest you. And at $US599, it's sort of the netbook of MIDs—a whole lot cheaper than what you can get from Sony or the soon defunct OQO.

As fast as any netbook

Relatively cheap

Utilitarian but solid build

Accurate touchscreen

Some keyboard quirks

[Dynamism and Video from ITInside]


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