Review: Kohjinsha SA1F00A

Kohjimain Unlike in other industries, trends in technology rarely come full circle. The chances of, say, the MP3 player being replaced by the shoulder-sitting boombox are laughable at best. Yet it probably won’t be long before acid-wash jeans or bell bottoms are back on the racks (again).

Imagine my surprise, then, when the Kohjinsha SA series appeared in November 2006 looking just like the Handheld PC (H/PC) from 1996. I know it looks exactly like a regular laptop, too, but the H/PC is what immediately came to my mind. I had one in 1998 (the NEC MobilePro 750C) and have been a fan of mini clamshell designs ever since. It turned out to be an unfortunate preference because the form factor got bigger after the demise of the H/PC. Take Sony’s sub-subnotebooks, for example: Vaio PictureBook series (8.9" screen) –> TR series (10.6" screen) –> TX series (11.1" screen).

I’m glad that the heart wants what it wants because the compact clamshell is back, and it’s smaller than ever.

System specifications
Dimensions: 8.6” x 6.4” x 1.0”
Weight: 2.12 lbs.
Operating system: Windows XP Home
Processor: 500MHz AMD Geode LX800
Hard drive: 40GB (4200rpm)
Memory: 512MB
Display: 7” TFT LCD (800 x 480)

Box contents


Poor SA1F00A. Sent out into the world with just the bare essentials (and a mouthful of a name).

Kohji_access1 Kohji_access2


There’s supposed to be some sort of slipcase, too, but mine wasn’t included in the box. Tragic, really, as I love cases.

The SA1F00A sports a familiar or unique design, depending on how it’s classified. Smaller but average-looking convertible PC, gigantic Sharp Zaurus, or one-of-a-kind UMPC and handtop?


Personally, I don’t think it’s much to look at. Maybe if I didn’t have a Sony Vaio PictureBook in 2002, which (in case you were wondering) I eventually "sold" to a drug addict who "paid" with a fraudulent check from the "American Cancer Society" (true story), I would be more impressed with the SA1F00A’s small footprint, black and silver casing, and shiny elements. But I’m not.

Kohji_top Kohji_bottom

It’s certainly not unattractive, but it’s missing that extra oomph that makes me say "Wow!" The bulbous battery sticking out from the back gives the device an unbalanced look and the nubbins on the top of the closed unit make it look upside down.


Kohji_batt1 Kohji_batt2

On the front are a memory card (SD and MS) expansion slot, headphone and microphone jacks, and LED indicators.


The DC-in port, covered USB 2.0 and ethernet ports, volume rocker, spring-loaded power switch, and power LED indicator (steady blue = on, blinking blue = standby) are on the left side.



And on the right are a Compact Flash slot, VGA-out port, Kensington lock slot, and another USB 2.0 port.


Surrounding the display are well-positioned controls designed for use when the SA1F00A is in slate/UMPC mode: brightness buttons and a pointer (track stick) on the left, scroll and mouse buttons on the right.

Kohji_scrnleft Kohji_scrnright

The device is sturdy and lightweight, though a bit lopsided because of the battery.

You can see from the following chart why the SA1F00A reminded me of the H/PC. It may not seem fair to include the MobilePro 750C since it ran Windows CE, but physical characteristics are the actual basis of the comparison. The Toshiba and Fujitsu subnotebooks are listed just to give the Kohjinsha unit some modern context.

Model Display Dimensions Weight
NEC MobilePro 750C
(640 x 240)
9.6" x 5.4" x 1.4" 1.88 lbs.
Sony Vaio PictureBook C1MV
8.9" TFT
(1024 x 480)
  9.8" x 6.0" x 1.0" 2.2 lbs.
Toshiba Libretto U100
7.2" TFT
(1280 x 768)
8.3" x 5.7" x 1.2" 2.1 lbs.
Fujitsu P1510D
8.9" TFT
(1024 x 600)
9.3" x 6.6" x 1.4" 2.2 lbs.
Kohjinsha SA1F00A
7" TFT
(800 x 480)
8.6" x 6.4" x 1.0" 2.12 lbs.

If you’re a visual person, here’s the device next to a dollar bill and my 12-inch iBook.



It’s a really nice, travel-friendly size that fits right in with the handtops I have at home. (That’s the very cute iriver D26 on the right, which only looks like a computer.)


Without its keyboard, the SA1F00A is closest in size to my Samsung Q1P.


Kohji_q1p3 Kohji_q1p4


The 7-inch display is LED-backlit (yay) but not touch-enabled (boo). Not being able to interact with the screen makes the unit’s swiveling LCD kind of silly.

Kohji_swivel2 Kohji_openback

Being able to lay the screen flat like this encourages more traditional UMPC two-handed use.


But why would anyone ever do this?


Nonsense aside, the screen is bright and colorful and easy on the eyes. The 800 x 480 native resolution is not without problems, but it suits the display size and offers a nice balance between readability and clarity.


I had high hopes for this keyboard. High hopes. I knew I wouldn’t be able to type as I do on full-sized keyboards, but I expected the experience to be leaps and bounds beyond that of, say, the Sony UX180P or OQO Model 01+.

It was a reasonable expectation, given the size of the keyboard and the "regular-looking" keys.


But my god, was I wrong!

The problem isn’t the layout either, which is only slightly different from standard U.S. keyboards. Yes, some of the symbol and punctuation keys are in different places, but it doesn’t take long to get used to them.


The problem is the keyboard itself. It’s just not as good as it should be. Some of the keys require such deliberate jabs for the system to register them that it borders on keyboard abuse. Because of this, typing accuracy and speed are compromised.


Here’s a table I put together using results from that lists the percentages of how quickly I can type on a handtop in relation to a full-sized keyboard. Note that the SA1F00A is listed twice, once in UMPC mode (using keyboard as a thumboard) and once in laptop mode.

Handtop Percentage
of normal speed
DialKeys on Samsung Q1P 29% (25 wpm)
OQO Model 01+ 34% (29 wpm)
Kohjinsha SA1F00A
UMPC mode
36% (31 wpm)
Sony Vaio UX180P 37% (32 wpm)
Kohjinsha SA1F00A
laptop mode
51% (44 wpm)
Pepper Pad 3 54% (46 wpm)

Taking into consideration the layout and size of the other keyboards, it’s easy to understand why I’m so disappointed with the Kohjinsha keyboard.

I’ve mentioned time and again that 1) I’m not a power user, 2) I don’t know anything about benchmarking and read/write speeds, 3) my computer needs consist of a word processor, Web browser, and incredibly light photo/video editor, and 4) I don’t use my computer as a media center. So I won’t repeat any of that here.

Well, my rant about the keyboard pretty much rules out the possibility of using the SA1F00A to get a significant amount of work (i.e., writing) done.


The processor is the same one used in the Raon Digital Vega, so it’s a capable machine. Again, though, my requirements are weak and flimsy compared to hardcore techies who feel seconds the way most people feel minutes. Having said that, I didn’t notice any unusual lag time when launching applications. Not anything out of the ordinary anyway.

My primary computer is the UX180P hooked up to an external monitor, so I can easily see myself using the SAF100A in the same way. The unit can drive a monitor up to 1600 x 1200, which is more than enough for me and my little 17-incher, and the quality is fine.


The Web-browsing experience on the SA1F00A is pleasant, with the option to use either the trackpad below the keyboard or the controls surrounding the LCD for navigation. Both are responsive and easy enough to control. The pointer/track stick, in particular, is quite good.

Kohji_web1 Kohji_web2

Kohji_web3 Kohji_web4

The scroll buttons on the right side of the LCD are a bit clunky compared to the lovely scroll wheel on the Pepper Pad 3, but they’re good for getting through large chunks of material quickly.

Using a computer for multimedia entertainment doesn’t really fit into my gripe about convergence because I know that nearly everyone listens to music and watches movies on it, but I don’t. Not regularly, anyway, and not on my own accord. I’ll do it for testing purposes but that’s about it.


But if you’re so inclined, the SA1F00A does a fine job at performing its multimedia tasks. It runs Windows XP Home, so the sky’s basically the limit as far as codecs and Flash and DirectX are concerned.

Kohji_vid1 Kohji_vid2

There’s a lot of good information about video performance here.

The Fn key greatly improves general usability of the SA1F00A. Used in combination with the Esc and F1-F4 keys, the Fn key enables quick and easy access to resolution switching, Bluetooth, hibernation, LCD/external monitor switching, and Wi-Fi.


It’s fantastic because it’s like having dedicated hardware buttons for commonly used functions. The resolution and LCD/monitor switching functions require "press and hold" to work, but the others are almost instant. The Bluetooth and Wi-Fi indicators beneath the display glow green when the radios are on.


I don’t use a rating system in my reviews, but if I did, I’d give the SA1F00A a 6 out of 10 for comfort and ergonomics.


It’s sort of in a no-man’s land. The form factor begs for laptop-mode use, but the keyboard is too cramped and the device in general is too narrow for it. I can’t rest the unit on my lap or set it up on a table for even an hour before my forearms and fingers are aching. Using the keyboard as a thumboard is a masochistic activity, but I do like the responsive touchpad and mouse buttons below it.

UMPC mode doesn’t fare much better because of the lack of a touchscreen and the bulging battery that makes the handtop feel bottom-heavy. On a positive note, the controls flanking the display are well positioned and easy to reach.


Battery life
The standard 2600 mAh lithium-ion battery is rated at 5 hours of battery life, though under what conditions is unclear. I’m not keen to ever perform as many battery tests as I did for the UX180P, but based on regular use of the SA1F00A over the past month, I’d say that number is closer to about 3 hours with Wi-Fi on, Bluetooth off, and screen brightness at its middle setting.

I feel . . . conflicted about the Kohjinsha SA1F00A. On paper, it sounds great: convertible clamshell, super compact notebook, Windows XP, expansion options galore, attractive display, and instant access to commonly used features (via Fn key). The unit delivers on some of its promises and offers above-average battery life (compared to other handtops) to boot.

Unfortunately, it comes up short in other areas. The lack of a touchscreen and a subpar keyboard, for example, are major shortcomings. I can overlook the screen, but I really can’t get past the keyboard. It just doesn’t justify the bulk it adds to the $1K device. It’s obviously fine for short notes, user IDs, and passwords, but my god, even DialKeys is (sort of) acceptable for that.

Kohjinsha also offers an 80GB model in black (SAF100B) and white (SAF100D), but storage capacity isn’t the SAF100A’s Achilles’ heel.

This article is part of the Quick Takes series. Quick Takes are based on short-term usage of various gadgets provided by Dynamism, the best place to find next-generation notebooks and consumer electronics from Japan and around the world.

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Jenn K. Lee

Jenn K. Lee is the founder of Pocketables. She loves gadgets the way most women love shoes and purses. The pieces in her tech wardrobe that go with everything are currently the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Sony Tablet P, and Nexus 7, but there are still a couple of vintage UMPCs/MIDs in the back of her closet.

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26 thoughts on “Review: Kohjinsha SA1F00A

  • “Provided by Dynamism”? if thats implying what I think it is, then congrats on becoming recognized by them. Unless you meant you just bought it from them ^_^

  • No, this one is going back to them :)

    Everything tagged with “Quick Takes” is from Dynamism, who’s been generous enough to send things for me to review since last summer. I usually request devices I’m still on the fence about buying myself.

    BTW, congratulations are in order for you, too. I noticed your new status over at MPCT!

  • Could you please tell me the white clamshell machine on the right side of this photo above? It looks very nice, but I don’t know the name of it. Thank you!!

  • Ah, my husband mentioned that my text and photo placement might be backwards! The identifying information for the white clamshell is actually ABOVE the picture. I don’t know why, but it’s more natural for me to talk about something first and then show it second.

    Anyway, the device is the iriver D26. It’s the newest e-dictionary in iriver’s Dicple series.

  • Thank you for the reply Jenn! Does D26 have a word processing function? Can you make at least a text file on it and transfer it to a PC? It reminds me of Psion 5mx, which I used to have many years ago. I like the idea of having a ultra portable word processor. :-)

  • The entire GUI and the user’s guide are in Korean (which I can’t read) so I’m not 100% sure, but I don’t think there’s a way to create text files.

    When plugged into a computer’s USB port, the D26 appears as a device with removable storage. There is a text file in the “Text” folder, but it’s only for e-books. The device has various PDA functions, including a memo feature that allows you to type in English (without standard punctuation, though), but I haven’t found a way to retrieve or even see any of the memos on a PC.

    If you’re looking for something really portable with text capabilities, you may want to consider the Sony mylo or maybe even a smartphone.

  • How Much u were wanting for one or maybe even how much for a used one??

  • Avatar of RAYMUNDO ROJAS

    quiero un manual de la laptop KOHJINSHA

  • Is there a same model handtop that provides the same fuctions but have 100GB in white colour??
    i am confuse

  • Hi, I just need something small, light for me to check my mails on the go and also to do some short and simple presentation. do you think this machine is good enough? oh yes, i lso like the idea of having a GPS in it.

  • Avatar of bukhour

    where can i buy an english version
    of kohjinsha

  • Avatar of Melody

    Your review is detailed, but I feel that your review doesn’t take much into account that it is not a full service laptop and doesn’t command a price tag of a laptop. Maybe comparing it with HTC TyTN II or the Asus EEEE will be more accurate.

  • Thanks for your comment, Melody. Comparing the Kohjinsha to the TyTN II or Eee PC would actually be a mismatch because the Kohjinsha is a full computer running either full-blown XP or Vista, while the TyTN is a Windows Mobile smartphone and the Eee PC runs Xandros Linux.

    While not as expensive as, say, the Vaio TZ series or MacBooks, the Kohjinsha isn’t that cheap. Depending on the configuration, it’s about $1K. It can be purchased for a few hundred less as well, but that still falls into the average UMPC (which is what the Kohjinsha is) price range.

  • Avatar of

    Re the Asus EeePC, it can actually run XP. Asus just bundled Xandros to keep the price down, but it runs XP fine.

  • Very useful review. Thanks !
    I can find Kohjinsha’s at computer stores in Jakarta, a lot of people buy them, and the lowest model at the store (SA1F00KS) already support touch screen :)

  • Avatar of Kourosh

    Does it have any English user manual?

  • Avatar of Lasse

    I bought one now in February 2008 when I was in Korea.
    It was partitioned with a C and a D partition.
    I installed Swedish XP on the D partition. Download drivers from Kohjinsha and everything works well.

  • Avatar of

    How do you become a tester/reviewer of stuff? I like the idea:)

  • Hello.
    Thank you for the nice review. I will buy one kohjinsha.

    I have checked somes seller, and i found this cheap shop :

    I review the feedback, and look like serious.
    Someone already ordered from here ?
    Thank !

  • Avatar of MICHAEL CAMELI


  • Avatar of S. Korea

    I got one back in ’07. After about 10 minutes with the keyboard and squinting at the screen, I connected a Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse, and connected to my 17 inch monitor. Weeks later I barely was aware I was using such a small device. I began to carry it between work and home, with the same monitor/keyboard/mouse set up in both places. I never was able to get good video output from it, either from a resident avi or on youtube.
    Through its (usable) lifespan with me, I’d give it high marks: but after several XP updates the machine began to slow to an unacceptable pace, even with spybot scans, etc. Today it sits in a drawer awaiting Google Chrome OS to breathe new life into it!

  • Avatar of saito_najumi

    hi there, is kohjinsha upgradable, cause it’s pretty slow…

  • Good article and Information. It is definately going to help me and lots of others like me.

    nice post

  • Just tend to remember tthat there are more important things in life than them.
    Without a doubt, the jewelriees rom those huge brands are
    fantastic. People have risked their lives to journey to
    our country.

  • Masculine and virile, stainless steel jewelry (also known as inox jewelry) are now gettin into the mainstream of men’s fashion in many parts of the world.
    And in the worst case, it can ruin your look on the occasion completely.
    The trend’s picking up with men, as they find it masculine in comparison to gold or any other metal.


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