Is Ultra-Portable Computing Viable? - The HP UMPC 2133

Ben Arnold, our Guest Blogger, is a long time worker in the tech support industry and loves to get his hands dirty supporting the latest gadgets and computer technology; that is, when he's not battling the frigid Eastern Iowa winter weather. He wanted to share his latest gadget finds with the readers of

Here's his article:

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The popularity of ultra-portable laptop models has been on the upswing recently, it would seem. It started at the end of last year with the release of such hardware as the XO by OLPC and the Asus Eee PC . Already, 2008 has seen a slew of newly released ultra-portable laptop and sub-notebook computers. It started at the Macworld Conference and Expo in January with the announcement of the MacBook Air . Then in February, we had the announcement of the Lenovo ThinkPad x300 , the Everex Cloudbook, and finally, the HP UMPC 2133. Does this round of ultra-portable laptop releases mean that ultra-portable computing is again on the rise? These aren't the first models of their kind, by any means, so what will be their ultimate fate this time around?

On February 18th, HP dropped the news that they were developing their first ultra-mobile personal computer and that ". . . you won't even need to consider this purchase". Sounds like a pretty confident statement to me, especially because they seem to be branding the 2133 as a "lifestyle companion device." Since the initial information release, details have come from numerous gadget sites about various aspects of the UMPC 2133. The Asus Eee PC seems to currently be the benchmark for the sub-notebook, so honestly, what makes HP so confident in their product that they are apparently producing two million units of the 2133? Let's look at the details as they are (currently) known:

  1. 8.9" scratch-resistant screen: This is a huge factor for me. Time will tell what exactly "scratch resistant" means, but for something that I have in my bag on the go with me all the time, it had better be at least semi-resistant to scratches.

  2. 1366x768 WXGA screen resolution: Meh . . .

  3. ExpressCard/54 slot: This adds some nice expandability options.

  4. 4. Wireless LAN: This is a must-have for any portable device, from an iPhone to a laptop.

  5. 5. "Almost" full QWERTY keyboard: This is also really important for me. My hands are big and, thus, don't do well on smaller size keyboards. It really will come down to the definition of "almost."

  6. Built-in webcam: Meh...

  7. Optional Solid State Drive: Meh . . . the benefits of solid-state-drive technology have not been overwhelmingly proven to me by any means. The extra cost just isn't worth it at this point, I would say.

  8. Approximately 2.5 lbs.: This sounds good to me-my current Dell hurts my shoulder in my messenger bag.

The rumored price these days floats around $600 (I assume this is without the solid-state drive). I would think that many consumers would opt for a full-blown laptop for that price or just a little more. As a "lifestyle companion device," I'd rather have an even more portable iPhone, iPod Touch, or other smart phone for quick access to email and the net over wireless and for less money.

A recurring theme with ultra-portable devices seems to be their cost vs. performance. The technology that powers them is still just expensive enough to raise their prices-significantly in many cases-over more robust laptop models. This pushes them into a niche market: those who want a second device in addition to their regular laptop. One of the biggest complaints against the admittedly beautiful MacBook Air was that it was too expensive and not powerful enough to be a primary machine. I could see this same negative connotation potentially applied to the HP UMPC 2133, or perhaps to all UMPCs.

The portable-computing market is growing rapidly in conjunction with other trends like web 2.0 and "in-the-cloud computing." The irresistible idea of having all of one's data available "in the cloud" and accessible from anywhere is going to drive growth and innovation in the portable-computing market. Time will tell if the HP UMPC 2133 and others like it are the answer to the need for more and more portable computers, or if they will fall by the wayside, following models like the famed Apple 12" PowerBook.

Sources: E ngadget

Ben Arnold
Guest Blogger

Feb 29, 2008
by Anonymous


The SSD is what's driving the market, and in my experience (with HP Jornada [Eee size keyboard] & NEC MobilePro [HP 2133 size keyboard]) makes using a conventional hard drive excruciating! Granted we are now talking about using a full-size Operating System.