The PsiXpda really does provide a PC that could fit in a pocket (just), and packs the equivalent specification of a netbook into a more compact format. The size limitations may mean that many users would be better off with the keyboard of a netbook, but if you have a need for a real PC that can be used while standing or moving about, the PsiXpda will fit the bill.
Weighs just 430g; runs standard Windows apps; Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity.
Relatively short battery life; small keyboard; screen may be too small for some users.
Intel Atom Z510 1.1GHz processor, 1GB DDR2 memory, 16GB Flash SSD storage, 5in 800 x 480 touch-screen display, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 3.6Mbit/s 3G broadband modem, 430g weight, Windows XP Pro SP3
The PsiXpda is a tiny computer that squeezes a full PC specification into a form factor small enough to fit into a large pocket, enabling buyers to have a Windows PC that can be carried and used almost anywhere, especially with its built-in 3G broadband.
Announced in December 2009 and available now, the PsiXpda is manufactured by a UK firm of the same name, and is perhaps best described as a netbook shrunk down to the size of an old-fashioned PDA, such as those marketed by Psion in the past.
Like a netbook, the PsiXpda is capable of running most Windows applications, although compromises made in slimming it down mean that it is impractical to run anything much more demanding than email, office applications and web browsing.
The small size also implies a small battery, which means that the PsiXpda is not going to run for any great length of time away from mains power, and this proved to be the case. But since the demise of OQO last year, this system is one of the few available choices for anyone wanting a full PC in as compact a package as possible.
However, unlike a netbook, the PsiXpda is probably not a good choice for newcomers to computers, as some features such as the 3G connection require the user to jump through a few hoops to get working.
At 17.4 x 18.4 x 2.5cm, the PsiXpda is similar in size to a portable media player when closed, and weighs 430g. This makes it just about small and light enough to fit into a large jacket pocket, although we would guess most buyers will carry it in a bag or briefcase for protection.
Our review model came with a fabric carrying pouch that encloses the device completely, but how effective this would be as protection against knocks is difficult to judge.
Straight out of the box, the PsiXpda looks rather like a large smartphone, as its 5in screen faces outwards when the unit is closed. This enables it to be operated as a slate-mode tablet device, using a small stylus stowed in a slot in the front edge, or the screen can be opened like a slider phone and tilted up into a familiar laptop configuration, exposing the full Qwerty keyboard.
In either mode, the Windows pointer can also be controlled by a touchpad area directly to the right of the screen, while two mouse buttons are provided on the left side. A VGA webcam is also located next to the screen, plus brightness up/down buttons.
The touchpad area looks just like a part of the screen bezel and is not marked out in any way. It worked just fine in our tests, and we found a thumb to be the most natural way of using it. Users not comfortable with this can always use the stylus, or plug in a standard mouse.
While the screen of the PsiXpda is small, we had no problems viewing the Windows XP desktop at its native 800x480 resolution. Some people may find text a little small to read, however, and we found that when viewing documents with a lot of white background, the image appeared a little mottled in appearance, possibly because of the touch-screen overlay.
No video output is provided from the PsiXpda, so it cannot be connected to an external display. The user manual, however, hints that a future dock or cradle product may provide this function. The manual itself must be downloaded as a PDF from the PsiXpda web site.
The PsiXpda keyboard has a full Qwerty layout that makes keying in text easy, although it is too small for touch typing and the keys are also quite stiff to operate.
However, a side effect of the PsiXpda being so small is that you can actuall y operate it while the device is cradled in your hands. We were able to type using thumbs with the device held like this, and could easily reach the touchpad and mouse buttons as well.
This may mean that the PsiXpda could find itself a niche with engineers or IT staff, who need a computer they can use while walking around, and it also means the system can be used while you are standing on a crowded train, unlike a laptop or netbook.
The PsiXpda hardware is based on an Intel 1.1GHz Atom Z510 processor with 1GB of DDR2 memory and storage provided by a 16GB SanDisk Flash SSD module.
This specification makes the system comparable with a netbook, and our experience of using the PsiXpda largely matched this. In fact, we were surprised by how responsive it felt, and we used it quite happily for creating documents, composing emails and surfing the web.
Unlike a netbook, the operating system is the full Pro version of Windows XP, which means the PsixPda can attach to a corporate domain, for example.
The PsiXpda is also similar to early netbooks in its battery life, lasting for two hours and 30 minutes in our tests using the Battery Eater Pro benchmark. However, this represents a period of continuous use, so users may see the batteries last a little longer in practice.