Hands On With The Atom-Powered UMID MBook BZ

Hands On With The Atom-Powered UMID MBook BZ

The UMID mBook BZ is in many ways a curious animal: It packs a ton of power into a MID, but doesn’t know quite to how to harness it. It’s an ultra small computer that can be ultra hard to use.

The mBook BZ has many of the same specs as its predecessor, the M1: It has the same 4.8-inch touchscreen at 1024×600 resolution, the same 512MB of memory, and runs the same outmoded Windows XP operating system. The BZ, though, runs on the 1.3GHz Atom Z515 processor, which helps it get listed with a pretty incredible seven hours of battery life with continuous playback. The mBook BZ also features a 1.3-megapixel webcam, VGA out and a built-in microphone.

When closed, the BZ is about the size and shape of a large billfold; it’s small enough to fit into your pocket. The device is arrayed such that the touchpad is to the right side of the display and operated with your right thumb. Above it is the webcam. To the left of the display are the right and left buttons, above which is the speaker. It seems like an efficient use of space, and the touchpad is pleasantly responsive, but it also places you in the awkward position of having to re-adjust your hands every time you want to move from navigation to typing and vice versa.

That is, if you’re able to type at all. For all of its impressive functionality, probably the biggest drawback of the mBook is the keyboard. It’s just too small to use, at least for my adult fingers. I can hunt-and-peck more quickly than I can touch type, and the hunting and pecking is a slow and deliberate business. Using your thumbs should be a viable option, but the keys are so tightly packed and the space bar is narrow.

Fortunately, the Thepot Player software simplifies the UI on the BZ model provided to Gizmodo by Intel. It offers large icons for Bluetooth, Music, Dictionary and other applications that are easily accessible through the touchscreen.

Using the touchscreen for other functions, though – like closing out a web page – proved difficult-to-impossible, given the small size of the display.

If you enjoy MIDs, you’ll be happy with the mBook BZ. It’s got standard specs, but seven hours of continuous battery life in a device whose whole purpose is portability is an automatic win. If you don’t enjoy MIDs, well, I’m not sure the this is the one that will change your mind. And neither will the price tag: the BZ will be available at Dynamism.com $US549 on January 22nd, although it will sell for $US499 for a limited time after its release.