UMPC Knockout: Vulcan Flipstart vs. OQO 02 vs. Sony UX280P

Who doesn’t love some ultra-portable PC action? We definitely do! We’re going to pin the Vulcan Flipstart against the OQO 02 and the Sony UX 280P. We’ll get into everything from portability, battery, connectivity, keyboards, screens — the whole nine! But first let’s take a look at the Vulcan Flipstart. It’s actually one of the few devices we’ve seen that use the clamshell form-factor. Remember those old Motorola Timeport P935 pagers (that’s another BGR flashback for you)? Think of it like that, but with, well, a full computer inside. The moment we opened the box which was so nicely provided to us by Dynamism, we were beyond excited! That excitement slowly faded as we held the unit in our hands, saying to ourselves, "that’s a huuuuuge bitch!" That wasn’t all though. In fact, the battery wasn’t even on the unit! With the battery finally attached, we don’t think Richard Simmons could save this beast. We might be judging it a little too harshly, but we’re used to the sleek slenderness of the OQO 02 and Sony UX. These should be referred to as "sub-notebooks," the Flipstart included, as these are not actually categorized as UMPCs. Still, they should be ultra-portable, right? We had high hopes for the Flipstart, but ultimately came to the conclusion that this was a product that was supposed to be released many years ago, and it might be a little too late. Hit the jump to see how the other two mobile companions fared when put head-to-head with the Vulcan Flipstart!

Overall design

Vulcan Flipstart:

The Flipstart as we mentioned above, seems like it was designed many moons ago. And unless we’re mistaken, it was. From what we’ve heard from our brief investigation, the unit was started a long time ago, but components were just too expensive to get this out to the public. Now that things are more reasonable it finally saw the light of day, but we think it’s too late.

OQO 02:

The OQO 02’s screen slides up to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard. Everything on the unit is solid. Made of mostly metal, the computer is a little heavy, but build quality is no longer a problem. There’s an extendable antenna for Wi-Fi / WWAN on the right side, a couple connectors at the bottom including an HDMI out, power / dock port, and a USB port. On the left side there’s a simple power button.

Sony UX280P:

The UX has got 1000 things! A fingerprint scanner on the screen, which also slides up to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard, a zoom button, track stick mouse and select button, power button, wireless on / off button, and a whole lot more. The Sony unit has a very sharp and sophisticated look to it, following Sony’s usual design aesthetics.

CPU

Vulcan Flipstart:

Flipstart rocks an Intel Pentium M 1.1GHz processor, and while isn’t the speediest, it really isn’t all too bad.

OQO 02:

The top of the line model comes with a 1.6 GHz VIA C7M ULV processor. Not exactly Intel Core Solo, but not terrible either.

Sony UX280P:

Sony FTW! We can’t go into all the UX models, Japanese and US, so we’ll give you Sony’s top US model, and that’s the UX490. It runs an Intel Core 2 Solo U2200 1.2GHz processor.

Screen

Vulcan Flipstart:

There’s no touch screen here, just a simple display that we actual felt performed the worst out of the 3.

OQO 02:

OQO uses an active digitizer screen, and that means you can’t touch the screen. It is used in traditional tablet form with a tablet pen. Some might love this, but we’re not feeling it. Especially since the pen no longer fits in the actual unit like it does in the Sony, it is a pain, and we’ve never ever bothered to really use it. The actual screen looks amazing, and the zooming in and out options are fantastic. Document too big to fit on the screen? OQO’s zoom gives you to ability to zoom out beyond native resolutions to try and see how that presentation really looks.

Sony UX280P:

Sony uses a passive TFT touch screen for their 4.5" screen, and we have to say, it looks the best out of all of them!

Connectivity

Vulcan Flipstart:

The Flipstart contains an embedded Sprint EV-DO modem for WWAN connectivity. We would have loved to see a Verizon option. The modem isn’t Rev A. It is Rev A. actually, but there are no external or extendable antennas. We haven’t had a chance to check out the Sprint Broadband on the Flipstart, but we’re guessing it works fine.

OQO 02:

Here we’ve got the choice of either Sprint or Verizon, with Rev A.! Holla! The 02 does have that extendable antenna for when things get rough and you need your mobile fix, but to be honest, the built-in antenna is more than adequate for us, and we’ve never really had to use the extender. Pause.

Sony UX280P:

Sony, we want to love you, we really do. Maybe if we sat at Starbucks all day we’d be OK, but for people on the move, EDGE really isn’t going to cut it at the tail end of 2007. We had high hopes for the UX line ever since we got our first taste of it, even though it was the Japanese version. The Japanese versions use a CF card slot, where as the US models have a Cingular / AT&T EDGE module built-in. Sony will actually unlock it for too, if you want to use the computer on T-Mobile, that’s no problem. While the device should work internationally, EDGE is a little hard to come by outside of the US, and we think you’d rather stick to Wi-Fi instead of GPRS over there.

Keyboard

Vulcan Flipstart:

Actually, pretty surprised to say this, but the Flipstart has the best keyboard. This is almost directly related to how big the unit is, but the buttons are more than comfy to bang out an email on or do anything else you have to do. Holding the unit on the other hand, can get very tiresome.

OQO 02:

We’re rating the OQO 02 at #2 in the keyboard test, and not because the keyboard isn’t great, it is! It just that the Flipstart has a little bit of an edge, and there’s got to be a number two, right? The keys on the OQO are more than comfortable, pretty well spaced, and we love the number pad on the right side! Something OQO did which the Flipstart and Sony don’t do, is let you press a shift or Fn key, and have it stick. We know about sticky keys in Windows, but come on! You’re making a mobile device with a small ass keyboard, at least make it as usable as possible! OQO did that, and this is why we use this unit daily.

Sony UX280P:

Ah, the Japanese must have small hands. On the other hand, I don’t think a gorilla could push one of these keys down! They are paper thin! This to us, is the biggest downfall of the UX-series. They might as well have not included the keyboard and made the unit thinner. It really is that bad. No tactile response, horrible placement, and did we say no tactile response?

Portability

Vulcan Flipstart:

We might have to hire a new assistant just to carry this thing around! It is the oddest shape, extremely heavy, and we feel like people are laughing at us whenever we use it in public.

OQO 02:

Extremely portable. Fits into practically anything you want, and while on the heavier side, we take it everywhere we go!

Sony UX280P:

It is a little larger than the OQO, but no where near the Flipstart. It also is a not a burden to take with you wherever you need it.

Noise

Vulcan Flipstart:

The Flip isn’t too bad with the fans, but whenever the keyboard backlight comes on, it emits a low frequency buzz that should be used to torture prisoners in Gitmo. Yeah, it’s horrible!

OQO 02:

The fans on the OQO are configurable, and when you’re really getting up on the thing they might be a little noisy, but it’s that good noise. The one where you know your computer is crunching data like it should.

Sony UX280P:

Very little fan noise on the Sony, and if I remember correctly, it is also configurable.

Unit temperature

Vulcan Flipstart:

The Flipstart got hot the second we turned it on! Add in the charger, and you could fry on an egg on this thing! Well, not exactly, but it was warm and toasty which wasn’t exactly a bad thing on a 30-degree night. Still it is a little too warm for comfort.

OQO 02:

The OQO gets a little warm, but it more controlled thanks to the fans in the unit. You’re sacrificing a cooler unit for a more noisy one, but you do get a cool fan throttle in the OQO options, and can config it to your hearts content.

Sony UX280P:

The Sony really didn’t show too many heat fluctuations, with just that general, you know it’s on type of heat. Nothing bad at all.

Configurability

Vulcan Flipstart:

Definitely last here, the is not one single thing configurable about the Flipstart except for the OS. Not cool, dudes.

OQO 02:

You can pick different units at different CPU speeds, more or less RAM, WWAN card or no WWAN card, OS, SSD hard drive, or other sized regular drives — very nice configurability.

Sony UX280P:

See, the Sony isn’t really that configurable, they just released so many damn models that you think they are. From the UX180 to the UX480, Sony has gone and tweaked specs as they went along. This seriously pissed off a lot of early adopters as if we recall correctly, the UX280P came out less than two months after the UX180 hit our shores. Not cool, Sony.

Price

Vulcan Flipstart:

$1,499 – $1,899 depending on OS.

OQO 02:

$1,299 – $2,599 depending on OS, WWAN, hard drive, CPU, etc.

Sony UX280P:

Discontinued and replaced with UX490. $2,499

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