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Jewish World Review
March 30, 2007
/ 11 Nissan, 5767
Tiny PC, reconsidered
Running through the Washington, D.C., Convention Center to catch up with a newsmaker, I was suddenly very glad the computer I toted weighed 1.5 pounds. Yes, it's the same computer I had sort-of trashed two days earlier in print.
To be brief, I was wrong about the FlipStart, the $1,999 Windows XP-running micro-sized, ultra-portable PC. At least, I was mostly wrong in my original, somewhat snarky assessment. May I ask, gentle reader, that you join me for this reconsideration?
As I discovered during three days of commuting to, and working at, the 2007 edition of the Federal Office Systems Exposition, or FOSE, lightness is a plus. I had abandoned my car for the local Metrorail; schlepping a briefcase and portable computer wasn't my idea of a good time. Not even the only-4.5-pound HP Pavilion tx 1000 notebook/tablet PC. While that system is quite enjoyable, the extra three pounds wouldn't have been that much fun on the go.
So I decided to tough it out, slinging the carrying pouch for the computer around my neck, stuffing an external keyboard in one pocket, and the power adapter in another. The wireless external mouse slipped in the FlipStart carrying case.
And I was off to the races. Each day of the FOSE event, I was responsible for attending various presentations and writing news reports, which had to get back to Defense News, an industry newspaper published in Springfield, Virginia, quickly. The FlipStart unit I was testing had both Microsoft Office 2003 installed more than adequate for the tasks I was charged with and a built-in, wireless broadband data connection. (The FlipStart folks, as this is written, are keeping the wireless carrier's name under wraps.
Even in the "bowels" of the Washington Convention Center, or at least the lower exhibition area, the broadband service worked very, very well. That let me link up to e-mail, and the Internet, with ease. There were extra electrical outlets in the press room, so I could keep the FlipStart's battery charged. Almost all of my time there, I was online, and the computer was powered up.
Three intensive days of working on the road changed my appreciation for the FlipStart. It's not a "ruggedized" computer, but it can take demanding use well. The battery life is good, but it's better to have electricity handy. When functioning properly, which it did about 95 percent of the time, the "zoom" feature on the 5.6-inch (diagonal) screen is a tremendous help.
But I'm still not thrilled with the built-in FlipStart keyboard. Had I not had the ThinkOutside Stowaway keyboard, I don't know if I'd have written one-fifth of what I had done. The external Stowaway mouse was great, until I mislaid it. Both the Stowaway keyboard and mouse are options, which add about $230 to the total retail price.
Despite these hassles, the FlipStart proved itself where it counts. It gave me the productivity I would find in a regular desktop or notebook PC, without the additional weight. Those who consider a computer as an extension of their hands will know how valuable such performance can be
Call me a flip-flopper: in this case, you'd be right. To paraphrase a well-known politician, I was against the FlipStart before I was for it. True road warriors may find they need this machine as much as I did while loping through an airport or an exhibition.
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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.
© 2007, News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at http://www.washingtontimes.com
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