Should I buy an Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC), a Tablet or a Laptop?

Remember Microsoft Origami project? It was the introduction of ultracompact or ultra mobile computers on the market, using Microsoft Windows.

The idea never really caught on because the ultra mobile computers were pricey, relatively bulky and with a battery life of only a few hours.

Has the situation changed after a year? Is it time to consider buying an ultra mobile PC or a tablet instead of a laptop?


Ultra Mobile PC

There are a number of ultra mobile pc on the market. They are getting more powerful and slimmer. Battery life has also improved substantially. Perhaps one of the most well known is the Samsung Q1 Ultra, an almost 10″ long, 5″ wide and slightly less than 1″ thick tablet equipped with a 800 MHz ultra mobile processor from Intel.

Samsung Q1 ultra

There is also the mini attractive OQO model 2 with 1.5 MHz processor and 1 GB DDR2 SDRAM.

OQO model 2

The size is 5.6″(W) x 3.3″(H) x 1.0″(D) and it weighs under 1 lb. Battery life can last up to 6 hours.

Other UMPC are Sony VAIO VGN-UX180P and Toshiba Libretto.

The prices vary between $1,100 and 2,000.

Internet Tablet

As for Internet Tablet Nokia N800 is probably one of the most popular one. It is an improved version of the N770.

Nokia N800

Internet tablet is different from ultra mobile PC in that it does not have a pc operating system. It is designed mainly to surf the internet. It has no hard drive.

However now that a lot of applications can be accessed online, e.g email, calendar, word processing, spreadsheet, (see Yahoo calendar, Google Docs) there is less need to store informations on hard disk.

Although it is not a phone it is often used as an internet (VOIP) phone through Skype.

The device becomes useless if there is no access to the internet. Internet tablet relies heavily on spot WiFi or a mobile phone.

One of the major complaint is that it has limited softwares, e.g no calendar, no office suite. With the appropriate softwares the tablet could become a PDA and still be useful if there is no access to the internet.

Internet tablet costs around $350 or less, which makes it the cheaper than an ultra mobile PC or laptop.


Laptop prices have been dropping quite drastically. It is now possible to buy one around $450. The problem with a laptop is that it is still quite bulky and heavy regardless what screen size it has. It is not something you carry around.

So which one should you choose?

We would suggest that you choose a laptop if you have to do a lot of work with a computer. If size and weight matter opt for an 11″ or 12″ screen. They are generally more expensive than the 15.4″ but are more convenient to carry around.

Toshiba Portege R400-S4831

If you are mainly interested to access the internet, check the email and listen to music the internet tablet might be more appropriate for you.

We believe that the ultra mobile PC is still too pricey, just like the iPhone. The price will eventually drop and an ultra mobile PC would then be a second PC you might use for travelling.

Learn more about the different types of mobile computers and compare models: