How do you define ultra portability?


The Samsung NC10 netbook I ordered for my husband’s birthday was delivered yesterday, and while he called it “tiny” and “smaller than expected” during his unboxing, I was much more interested in his reaction. How in the world could he think a 2.9-pound netbook with a 10.2-inch screen is tiny after using my 1.6-pound Fujitsu LifeBook U810 for nearly a month while we were traveling? “The U810,” he said, “is unusably small.”


While contemplating who to appoint as the new president of the Pocketables fanclub, I began to wonder what the commonly accepted definition of “ultra portable” was. At what point does something go from being portable to being ultra portable? Ultra mobile?


I’ve often referred to my Sony Vaio TZ as an ultraportable (one word) notebook; it has a larger screen than the NC10 (11.1″ vs 10.2″) but is actually 0.2 pounds lighter than the netbook. It’s also about five times more expensive, I know, but the TZ is one of the main reasons behind my general disinterest in netbooks. Since they offer no size advantage (and their designs are uninspired), I don’t really find them appealing.



Size, like so many other aspects of ultra mobile computing, is relative and personal. While the NC10 lightens the load my husband carries (see the size comparison pics in the forum), it would only weigh me down. If I’m going somewhere and I need to do some serious work, I’d take my TZ; for anything else, a UMPC or some other mobile gadget would suit me fine.

And that leads me to the question posed in the title of this post: How do you define ultra portability?



What strikes the perfect balance between usability and portability for you? Which mobile device is your ultimate travel companion?

Note: The Pocketables ban against gadgets with screens larger than 7 inches is still in effect here (though this post is pushing it), but the Samsung NC10 forum will continue to be fattened up as I sneak in some time with the netbook when my husband isn’t looking.

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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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15 thoughts on “How do you define ultra portability?

  • I’ve tested the limits of what I consider ultra portable a lot in the past year. At this point, I think I’ve nailed it down.

    In the past year, I’ve been through three netbooks. The corners cut on the original Eee Pc made it unusable for me. So, I had to ditch it. It was definitely ultraportable, but the things they did to make it so small are the very things that made it such a pain to use.

    From there I went to the HP Mini-Note. It’s best in class keyboard didn’t change the fact that it was too wide and heavy, for me, to be ultraportable. That, along with all of the other shortcomings of that computer, had me moving on within four months.

    At this point, I’ve settled on a Dell Inspiron Mini 9. It’s roughly the size of the original Eee Pc. However, the corners cut to make it this small didn’t make the machine unusable. The machine has good sized screen, usable keyboard, has a very small footprint and is a shade under 2.3 pounds.

    I think the Dell is as small as an ultra portable could go, for me, and remain usable. The 2133 proved to me that I know I don’t want to go any larger. So, I guess I’ve hit some sort of ultra portable Zen, here.

  • BTW. I’ve heard amazing things about that NC10. It really sounds like it’s the best netbook on the market.

    I’d probably own it if it wasn’t so huge.

  • For me the SC3 is the perfect mobile device for size. I do hope they release the drivers for it though. I have the U810, Nokia N800, M912 and a Macbook Pro for serious computing when needed.

    What really amaze me is the Sony TZ, or the newer one TT; with blueray, is that its just as small and thin as these Netbooks. Like Jenn said the only thing on the Sony is the price. You could be a few Netbooks for the price of a Sony.

  • Avatar of Joseph G. MItzen

    I’d have to say my ultimate nexus between diminutive size and mega power would be… Dennis Kucinich.

  • Avatar of maxmasa31

    Hmmm…I think my Acer Aspire One is pretty portable, but I don’t see it as ultra portable. I also own an iPod touch, and while it certainly fits the bill, I sacrifice too much with it (no flash browsing, no word processing, limited file support).

    For me, the Fujitsu U810 would be my ideal on-the-go gadget. I like the fact that it has a touch-sensitive screen AND keyboard (it’s not necessary, but like the option of being able to type), but can still handle all of my daily computing tasks (word processing, net surfing, listening to music, watching videos). Now if only I could find $900 around to buy it…

  • Avatar of Bush -- not related

    I love my eee (701, the “original” mentioned above). My typing’s only about 85% of max but that’s not bad on a keyboard that small. With virtual desktops and a full OS under the hood, it does everything I need it to. But “ultraportable”? Nope.

    My iPod Touch (iPT), however, will slip into just about any pocket (hopefully only my own…). I have full office system via either google docs or Zoho or can write to (and export from thanks to PhoneView) the notepad.

    Downside of the iPT is lack of useable keyboard. Here’s where my fantasy that soon a Belkin/Stowaway-type keyboard will soon appear. iPT lacks bluetooth so it will have to be a hard connection, but I’d be kool with that (esp if they could give it to me landscaped, baby!).

    Truly, an iPT/iPhone with Stowaway keyboard is ultraportable. And my current drool-inducing fantasy of choice.

  • Avatar of John in Norway

    I’m an old-fashioned kind of guy (no, the ‘fashioned’ part wasn’t put in by mistake). Ultraportable to me means being able to take it everywhere, anytime. Anything else is NOT ultraportable. If I was an angry person I would get very annoyed when people call 10″ devices ultraportable. They’re not, they’re just portable.
    There, you asked for my opinion and you got it. :)

  • Avatar of MiKeN

    I would say what strikes the perfect balance for me is a device like the OQO 02 or a Fujitsu U820/U810. I am not someone who needs a whole lot of power but for this item to be ultra portable, its gotta be small, and netbooks aren’t small enough. I like them to be discrete. Generally if I can put them in my “man bag” and it is not too heavy that I really notice it, then it would be fine for me.

  • For me an ultra-portable computer is a device I can take with me eveywhere even without knowing if I’ll really need to use it: just in case. Exactly the same way I take my mobile phone without knowing if I’m going to receive a call or need to call somebody.

    That means that I want one device which I can put in a pocket. I don’t like having to carry a bag everywhere, except when I know that I’ll really need its contents…

    Obviously I’m not expecting the same services from a pocketable device as from a portable computer. If I know that I’ll need to use some productivity application, I take my laptop – and would prefer a lighter one, let’s say a high-end netbook. But I wouldn’t name it ultra-portable, neither the so-called UMPC.

  • You make a point there to say “balance between usability and portability”, which I think is the entire point. To me, portability is dependent on usability which again is dependent on 50/50 size and battery life. A tiny device with 2 hours isnt portable for me since it’s completely useless without an AC adapter which both bulks up the package and you need to actually be near an AC outlet to use it. It has the same level of portability as an EEE box. With my acer aspire one i got about 7 hours battery out of it, which to me is portability. I carry a mouse and a 3G modem and thats still ultra portable to me because I can be away for a whole day and not have to rely on anything, not even wifi – and I don’t need a backpack to carry it. If something is portable to me, there isnt anything that binds it to any specific place. At such, a device like an ipod touch to me wouldnt be that portable because I’d need wifi, which means I need to be someplace with wifi, which again means its movable rather than portable. A lot of things are only movable, even if they claim to be portable. If you’re out for such a short period of time that 2 hours is enough battery life, you prob didn’t need to carry a device in the first place.

  • Avatar of psyrex

    My laptop is a Fujitsu Q2010, 0.8″ thick / 2.2lb, so weight isn’t such a big deal (I usually bring my laptop nearly everywhere). For me, ultraportable is to fill the niche where I can’t bring a laptop, which to me also precludes laptop style clamshell MID/UMPCs. I love the size and shape of the Gigabyte M528 (or any other incarnation of it), and I think that’s my ultimate idea of ultraportable. The OQO would be great, except the active digitizer doesn’t allow finger touch controls.

    hardcore computing: desktop
    portable computing: laptop
    ultraportable: goes where laptops can’t, more usable than smartphones
    last resport: smartphone

    (ever try fixing a freebsd mailserver through SSH typing on a regular phone keypad? not fun at all.)

  • Right now the Sharp Willcom D4 is the best UMPC for me but to mee the industry has completely missed the mark for the right size UMPC. What people want is the same functionality of their laptop but they want it small enough to carry in a large pocket.

    They do not want more than one computer nor do they want pen input or thumb input. If it is too large to carry in a large pocket no matter the size you might as well get a more powerful sub or standard laptop.

    What would be the perfect size is a UMPC a little like the D4 with the slider and clamshell but with better keyboard like a Psion 5mx, or just a clamshell like the Psion 5mx. What is needed is a touch type keyboard full PC that will fit in your pocket; yet there is not one device that fits that description.

  • Right now, ultra portability to me is my Everun Note. Powerful (dual core) yet fits into a jacket pocket. My only complaint is that the power brick is freaking huge. Kinda defeats the purpose of having a tiny laptop. Why can’t companies develop compact adapters like the original EeePC 701? Heat/fire issues?

  • Avatar of Dave P

    I suppose that if you wanted to define a category of notebook, ultra portable would be something less than a kilogram. But this definition points to the problem of using the term “ultra portable” for any notebook – what you are really getting is “ultra light” but not necessarily any more portable. You still need a bag to carry it and a table to work with it.

    I think the ne plus ultra of portability can be found no further than your URL. An ultra portable device should be pocketable. Anything much bigger than my OQO need not apply.

  • There are two issues here – What is Ultra Portable, and what is Usable.
    My ideal Ultra Portable will be under 1.0 lb in weight, with a size that can fit into a not over-large pocket (~5″ screen).
    For me, there are two levels of Usability – Media Consumption and Media Creation.
    Media Consumption has relatively minimal data entry. URLs, and short emails. Thumb keypads are fine for this if designed with large thumbs and/or fingernails in mind.
    Media Creation, on the other hand, requires a finger typeable (I don’t require touch typeable, but it would be nice) keyboard.
    There are several Media Consumption Ultra Portables available. I like my Wibrain.
    I have not found an all-in-one Media Creation Ultra Portable device, yet.
    By adding a USB or Bluetooth keyboard to a Media Consumption Device it becomes a Media Creation Device, but looses some portablility.
    An external battery (I like the tekkeon battery) adds hours, again at the cost of some portability.
    Netbooks are Media Creation Devices that are Portable, but not Ultra Portable.


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