CES: Ultramobiles getting closer to pay dirt

Vendors have been struggling for years with the trade-offs involved in trying to deliver desktop PC power in smaller units. Two companies leading the effort unveiled new ultramobile portable computers at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.

Seamless WiFi debuted its S-XGen, a device that’s a bit bigger than a personal digital assistant but smaller than a laptop. Specifically, the unit measures 6.5 inches x 3.8 inches and weighs less than a pound. The S-XGen features a foldout keyboard and a 4-inch 470 x 280 LCD touch-screen display. The keyboard isn’t quite full size, but it’s definitely easier to work with than the thumb-oriented keyboards on PDAs.

And the device’s eight-hour battery life means you should be able to get a full day’s work done without recharging.

The unit, which comes loaded with Microsoft Windows CE and the Office Mobile suite, runs on an Intel PXA 270 XScale 520 MHz processor. The base unit carries 256M of system memory and a 20G hard drive. The device comes with an Ethernet port and Bluetooth support, and the unit also has a built-in Web cam.

The suggested retail price of the S-XGen, with Microsoft Office included, is $1,400.

If you need an ultramobile portable computer that can survive more wear and tear, check out the SwitchBack PC from Black Diamond Advanced Technology. This ruggedized unit, designed to exceed military standards, measures 7.5 inches x 5.5 inches x 2 inches and sports a 5.6-inch touch-screen display. The SwitchBack PC includes an Intel 1 GHz Celeron M processor, 1G of system memory and a 60G hard drive. You have your pick of operating systems from Windows XP, Windows Mobile and Linux.

Apart from its ruggedness, the SwitchBack is unique because of its modular nature. Users will be able to selectively add processors, hard drives, extra batteries and a Global Positioning System receiver.

Black Diamond has not yet set a price for the Switchback PC. It expects to ship the PC in the first quarter of 2007.

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