Since spending a few hundred dollars of his own money on importing one of the first SmartQ 7 MIDs from China, Steve over at UMPC Portal has been promising a full review. That’s now online, and it’s a mixed bag; the SmartQ 7 ticks many ultraportable boxes - like decent battery life, solid 1mbps DivX playback and a browser that handles page formating well - but falls well short in other areas.
Video demo after the cut
Many of the shortcomings fall back on the low-power ARM11 processor, which isn’t up to loading streaming Flash video, full-fat webpages or decent-bitrate H.264 or WMV playback. Ironically, it’s that very processor which also gives the MID some of its key strengths, though, such as 6-12 hour runtime or up to three days of standby. The SmartQ 7 can handle internet radio streaming, runs rdesktop with no problems meaning that it can be used to remotely access another PC across the WiFi network, and the 8-inch 800 x 480 display, while not bright enough for outdoor use, is fine for reading websites with minimal zooming.
In the end, Steve suggests that the SmartQ MID makes most sense as an ebook reader, casual sofa-surfer web browser or emergency computing device for round the home or travel. More interestingly, he suggests, it’s a sign of things to come: packing smarter ARM-based processors, such as the Cortex with onboard video decoding, into a similar-sized device, with one of the newer Android, Maemo or Ubuntu ARM OSes keeping things cheap. Where that leaves this roughly $200 MID depends on how willing you are to live with its shortcomings; like the SmartQ 5 (and in fact like many MIDs in general) in its current form this is destined to remain a niche product.
SmartQ 7 MID applications overview: