Portable Computing Gets an Upgrade
By Brad Frischkorn
Portable computing is getting a shot in the arm as new innovations continue to make the 'pocket office' more powerful and affordable. Fans of the genre call it an upgrade for the venerable Compute Stick.
China-based Shenzhen Visson Technology is one of several competing manufacturers in the mini-computer wave; its Vensmile W10 mini PC allows owners to literally pack an entire computer in a trouser pocket.
The machine has been on the market for about a year, but still drew plenty of attention in Hong Kong at the April Spring Electronics Fair.
"The W10 is especially designed for business travelers, and transforms any HDMI TV or monitor into a full PC," says Shenzen Visson Tech sales rep Noda Xu, swiftly connecting the device to an HDMI monitor and manipulating the Windows 10 touch screen to display a streamed movie, which plays seamlessly, with no jerkiness or pixilation.
Less than 6 inches in length, under 1/2 inch in width, and weighing just 142 grams, the device is scarcely bigger than a large cell phone. It sports Intel's Atom Z3735F Bay Trail 1.33Ghz processor along with a quad-core (4C/4T) system-on-a-chip, 2GB of DDR3L RAM and 64GB of storage capacity. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 are supported.
For connectivity, there are two USB 2.0 ports, a micro USB port, a microSD card slot, and stereo and mini HDMI ports. The unit ships with a Windows 10 touch screen Bing operating system.
The 2016 version of Shenzhen Visson's machine has more power and stamina than its predecessor and pushes the envelope for portability that Intel opened in early 2015 with its revolutionary Compute Stick.
But Intel's dongle-shaped gadget disappointed from a lack of everything -- RAM, memory storage capacity, accessory hubs, and multi-tasking power, while being prone to screen seizures. At around $150, many also saw it as overpriced.
Vensmile's mini-PC, which comes boxed with HDMI and USB cables, can be readily connected to a wireless keyboard and mouse to complete the portable office or entertainment platform. At a special convention price of $81, the units were selling swiftly in Hong Kong; Amazon.com currently retails them for about $130.
Some critics initially questioned the economics of the entire genre of mini PCs, citing the extra costs for peripheral hardware. But after a slow start, they have found a niche as complements to the PC, rather than wholesale replacements. Over the last year, improvements in power, speed, memory, and flexibility have added to their appeal.
Reviewers give the Vensmile W10 high marks, even as the market fills with worthy rivals such as the Raspberry Pi, the Ugoos UG007B, and newer iterations of the Compute Stick. Some can be customized and/or outfitted to use Linux or Android operating systems.
But as a package, the W10 sports some unique advantages that many others lack, including relatively large memory capacity, multiple USB ports, and a metal exterior that dissipates heat to keep the unit quiet.
The machine's 3,000mAh internal battery is perhaps it most potent selling point; the unit has the stamina to last for two hours while on CPU-intensive duty like movie-watching, or up to 4 hours with normal use. It can also be used to charge other devices.
"The engineers have really done something new here. You can get almost 2 full charges for an iPhone 6," says Home Media Tech.Net, an online review site. "It turns this mini PC into something truly portable."
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