Willcom D4 UMPC early impressions

Willcom_d4_early_impressions

Now that it’s been a few days since I unboxed the beautiful Willcom D4 (Sharp WS016SH), I’d like to share some of early impressions and first thoughts about the Atom-based UMPC. A full review is in the works, as are a video demo and some additional write-ups, but here’s what I think of and have learned about the D4 so far.

Willcom_d4_imps_hand

I’ve organized my notes into "What I Do/Don’t Like" lists (pros and cons, basically) to keep all the good and bad points together.

What I Do Like

  1. Design. My HTC Shift has made me a huge fan of the slide-and-tilt form factor, so the fact that I’m infatuated with the D4’s smaller, glossier, lighter design is to be expected.
  2. Screen size and resolution. Though some may find a 1024 x 600 resolution on a 5-inch display to be uncomfortable, I really like it. It doesn’t tire my eyes the way the same resolution on the Vaio UX’s 4.5-inch screen does, and everything is sharp and easy to see. I haven’t had to increase the system font sizes or anything.
  3. Typing flexibility. By this I mean the various modes in which typing is fairly comfortable and usable.

    Willcom_d4_imps_thumbtype1

    Willcom_d4_imps_thumbtype2

    Given the length of the device, thumb typing is surprisingly more comfortable than I expected it to be. The keys are nicely sized and provide a good amount of tactile feedback.

    Willcom_d4_imps_handp

    So far, I’ve found the keys to be better suited for thumb typing because they don’t have quite enough travel (distance moved when pressed) for really comfortable touch- or hunt-and-peck typing. The Kohjinsha SC3 and Fujitsu U810 have better keyboards for the latter style of input because of their designs. Unlike what I showed you in my SC3 typing test video, I haven’t hunted-and-pecked on the D4 very much yet. Its size and weight make it more of a two-handed rather than a lap/table computer.

    Willcom_d4_imps_tt

    True touch typing on the D4 (which I’m only mentioning because of a reader’s interest in it) is incredibly uncomfortable for me, as squishing my fingers together and cramping my hands isn’t an ideal way to type.

  4. Backlit keyboard. I didn’t know the keyboard was backlit before I bought it, so this was a delightful surprise.

    Willcom_d4_imps_backlitkb

  5. Vista performance. Vista Home Premium on the D4 is more than satisfactory for me. The system isn’t a screamer, of course, but idling RAM usage is usually under 60% and Firefox 3 launches in under 5 seconds. I’ll put together a Vista-in-use video soon. Update: Video now available.

What I Don’t Like

  1. Battery life. Even though the paltry 1.5-hour runtime isn’t a surprise and the extended battery (good for up to 4.5 hours) is on its way, the D4’s standard battery life is still atrocious.
  2. Battery drain in sleep mode. I keep all of my Vista machines in sleep mode when not in use, first because it’s the default off state in Vista and second because the system awakens from sleep very quickly. Because of the D4’s puny battery, however, it can’t sleep for very long without draining to unusable levels. After 7 hours of being in sleep mode, for example, the battery was drained to 19%, which translates to barely 15 minutes of operating time. To put this into some context, my Vaio TZ and Kohjinsha SC3 woke up from 7 hours of rest with 88% and 90% left on their battery meters.
  3. Covered power port. Considering how often it needs to be uncovered, it’s a nuisance to have to deal with the rubber cover all the time. It doesn’t pop into place very easily either, which makes it that much more annoying. I may end up tearing it off.

    Willcom_d4_imps_powercover

  4. Touch pad. I’m actually kind of torn on this one. On the one hand, I love how large it is and how it glows red when touched.

    Willcom_d4_imps_touchpad

    But on the other hand, the glossy surface isn’t as smooth as a standard touch pad, making it a bit more difficult to use. How easy it is to glide across the area really depends on finger oil. The oilier your thumb, the harder it is to slide around the touch pad. More fingerprints are left behind too (just-washed or non-oily thumbs leave behind no evidence).

  5. Non-upgradeable RAM. Because my Kohjinsha SC3 has 2GB of RAM, I have first-hand experience of how much better Vista Home Premium can perform on a 1.33GHz Atom CPU than with just 1GB of RAM. As stated above, I don’t really have any complaints about how Vista runs on the D4, but knowing that it could run better with more RAM makes me annoyed that it isn’t upgradeable.
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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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