The Samsung Q1 is the world's first physical implementation of Microsoft's much-hyped Origami project. It's part of a new breed of computer known as the ultra-mobile PC (UMPC), but cynics will argue the Q1 and its ilk are a blatant attempt by Microsoft and Intel to reverse the fortunes of the ailing tablet PC, by making it slightly smaller.
At first glance, the Q1 is reminiscent of Sony's PSP console, albeit a very fat one. In some respects it also resembles a Cossor Melody Maker radio from the mid 1950s, though its glossy black bezel and striking 7-inch screen give it a modern feel.
It's approximately the height and width of a typical hardback book, and weighs 779g, which is slightly less than the average bag of sugar. As a result, the unit feels good in the hands, but it puts a mild strain on the wrist when held one-handed for long periods.
The front of the device is dominated by the screen, on either side of which is a pair of speaker grills and an assortment of control buttons, which we'll discuss in more detail later. At the rear of the Q1, there are two flip-out stands -- one for resting it on a desk at a 45-degree angle, and another for resting it at a 20-degree angle. The former comes in handy when using the Q1 with a USB keyboard, and the latter is ideal for using with a stylus while it lies on your desk.
Below the stand, you'll find a set of power indicator lights built directly into the Q1's removable battery. Press the button, and it illuminates a strip of up to five lights to indicate the level of remaining battery power. This allows you to check whether you'll need to take the power adaptor with you when you leave home.
Despite its odd physique, the Q1 is a PC at heart, so it has a vent at the top to aid the cooling of its components. A tiny fan whirrs fairly constantly inside the unit, expelling warm air through the vent. When in operation, the entire top end of the bezel is warm to the touch, but the unit never gets hot enough to burn your fingers.
Samsung has fitted the Q1 with a number of shortcut buttons to aid ease of use. There's an eight-way control stick on the left and below that, a button for switching the screen resolution between its native of 800x480 pixels, and two alternatives -- 800x600-pixels or 1,024x600-pixels. The alternative resolutions make images on the Q1 look horribly blurred, but provide slightly more desktop space.
The screen is of fairly good quality. It has a wide enough horizontal viewing angle so you can watch a movie with a friend without huddling together, and it isn't overly reflective, so you can comfortably view it, even in direct light.
To the right of the screen there's a set of four user-programmable buttons labelled U1-U4, each of which acts as a convenient way of launching applications or opening pre-assigned documents. Below these, there's a Return key and a button that launches a menu for adjusting common options like screen brightness and orientation.
There's an array microphone along the lower bezel, allowing the Q1 to be controlled using voice commands. Rather than opt for a single mic, having a pair of mics in an array configuration can help extract voice input from ambient noise and aid accuracy in voice recognition applications. Using the Q1 in this manner works well after a little practice, but most users will prefer to use the stylus tucked away at the rear of the unit.