The dream of being able to carry a computer in your pocket and access the Internet from anywhere is more of a reality today than ever before, with not just smartphones but also affordable handheld mobile internet devices (MIDs)
and ultra-mobile PCs on the rise. If you want the full capabilities of a PC in a smaller package (but more screen real estate than from a smartphone) or just want mobile Internet access, via wi-fi, without the monthly smartphone data fees, consider these notable pocketable computing devices (7" and under), selected for their innovation and hardware specs. (September 2010)
The viliv s5, a 4.8" touchscreen mobile internet device, was demoed in June 2009 as the world's first Windows 7-based MID (Windows XP version also available). The initial launch of 1,000 s5 units in Korea sold out in several hours, with similar stories in other markets worldwide. The viliv s5 runs off a 1.33GHz Intel Atom Silverthorne processor, powers up in under 4 seconds, and features a 1024 x 600 LCD, virtual haptic (vibration) keyboard, built-in GPS receiver, 32GB solid state disk, 6 hours of playback time, and 3G/4G, wi-fi, and bluetooth connectivity. Available for under $1000.
Archos, best known for its portable media players and MP3 players, introduced its first Android-based tablet in September 2009 as "the ultimate internet tablet with android applications, bluetooth, GPS, and HD videos in one handheld device." The Archos 5 offers up to 500GB of storage, 720p HD, a 5" 800x480 touchscreen display, optional TV recording with a DVR accessory, and access to Android applications via an Archos AppsLib Store. Connectivity via wi-fi b/g/n. Prices start at under $250.
The Dell Streak is being marketed as a 5" mobile internet device, or rather an Android tablet, though it also has the 3G cellular capabilities of smartphones and is subsidize by AT&T. Thus, the Streak may be most notable as the largest smartphone to date -- one with a 5MP camera; VGA front-facing camera; 3G, wi-fi, and bluetooth; and a micro SD slot expandable up to 32GB. From under $550.
The Nokia N900 is another mobile computing device with smartphone functions. Introduced in the fall of 2009, the N900 marks global cell phone leader, Nokia's, first Maemo (a custom Linux-based operating system) device that includes phone functionality -- GSM and 3G connectivity as well as wi-fi. With a 3.5" touchscreen, 600 MHz processor, up to 1GB of application memory, integrated GPS, and Carl Zeiss camera lens, and integrated GPS, the N900 offers many of the advantages of (and similar form factor as) smartphones, but with a full desktop operating system. From under $400.
Toshiba has a long history, with its Libretto line of UMPCs, of squeezing traditional operating systems into tiny portable computing devices. The Libretto W100 (first introduced and speculated about here
in June 2010), a special limited-edition model commemorating Toshiba's 25th anniversary of introducing their first laptop, continues that tradition with a unique design: two 7" multi-touch screens that fold down into a compact clamshell weighing 1.5 pounds. Powered by Windows 7, the W100 offers wireless-n and Bluetooth connectivity, 64GB SSD storage, memory card reader, and a multi-mode virtual keyboard. Starting at $1099.
With a 7" display, the Samsung Galaxy Tab is the largest of this roundup. This slate tablet won't really fit into your pocket, but can be held comfortably in one hand and is very portable, and slightly smaller than the iPad. The Galaxy Tab runs Android, provides over 7 hours of movie playback, offers front and rear facing cameras, supports multiple HD video formats, and has 3G, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth connectivity. Slated for release with all major US wireless carriers in the fall of 2010 at an expected price under $300.
The Pandora is described as a hybrid handheld, a cross between a PC (it runs Linux and has a QWERTY keyboard) and a gaming console (with dedicated gaming controls, e.g., D-pad, and enough power to play games like Quake3 and, of course, emulate classic video game consoles). The 4.3" touchscreen has a 800x480 resolution, battery life is over 10 hours, and you can use Pandora in complete PC desktop mode, as well as surf the Web over wi-fi using your favorite browser. Pandora began shipping in May 2010; prices start at just under $350.