The Viliv S5 Premium UMPC is speedy and well connected, but disappointing 3G support and an awkward software keyboard make it less than ideal for everyday use.

In search of a handheld that bridges the gap between netbook and Apple iPhone? The Viliv S5 Premium strives mightily to straddle that divide - and it does so with some success - but some drawbacks (including an awkward software keyboard) will probably preclude mainstream acceptance.

Styled as a portable media player, the Viliv S5 Premium is a small but loaded touchscreen (tablet-style) Windows XP Home Edition UMPC. Based on a 1.3GHz Intel Atom processor (from the chip family that kick-started the netbook craze), the Viliv packs not only Wi-Fi and Bluetooth but also GPS, although you'll have to supply your own software to use it. And some models offer a slot that accepts a SIM card for a 3G cellular-data network.

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Viliv S5 Premium: Design

At first glance the Viliv S5 Premium looks a lot like a midrange GPS system for a car (and in fact you can buy a kit, with a charger and windscreen mount, to use it as such). Measuring 154x84x24.4mm and weighing about 445g, it's available in three configurations. A £499 model includes a 60GB hard drive but lacks the 3G slot. A £599 model swaps the 60GB hard drive for a 32GB solid-state drive but still omits the 3G slot. The model we tested, which sells for £629, provides both the 32GB solid-state drive and the 3G slot.

The 4.8in, 1024-by-600-pixel display is crisp and bright, and more responsive than most UMPC touchscreen displays we've tried (albeit prone to picking up fingerprints). And speaking of responsiveness, one of the more appealing aspects of the Viliv S5 Premium is its fast boot time. The XP desktop takes only about 20 seconds or so to appear after you power the device on.

You get a four-way joystick, but no mouse or keyboard - and on such a tiny Windows display, fingertip touches don't always land where you mean them to. Fortunately, the Viliv S5 Premium does provide help, although not in the form of a traditional stylus. Instead, you get something that looks like a guitar pick strung onto the handstrap. It works pretty well as a mouse substitute.

NEXT: keyboard concerns, and proprietary software

INDEX:

  1. Viliv S5 Premium: Design
  2. Viliv S5 Premium: Keyboard Concerns
  3. Viliv S5 Premium: Wireless Woes
  4. Viliv S5 Premium: Expert Verdict, Specifications and Images

The Viliv S5 Premium UMPC is speedy and well connected, but disappointing 3G support and an awkward software keyboard make it less than ideal for everyday use.

Viliv S5 Premium: Keyboard Concerns

But the keyboard workaround is less successful. The Viliv S5 Premium displays an on-screen software keyboard. To access it you press a hardware button on the right side of the bezel; that summons an icon at the lower right of the screen, which in turn toggles a translucent software qwerty keyboard that stretches across the entire width and halfway up the height of the display.

While that makes for large keys (supported by haptics feedback), the keyboard also often winds up on top of the field or line that you're typing. The Viliv S5 Premium doesn't resize the screen's contents to accommodate the keyboard; instead, the keyboard simply covers the lower half of what's on the screen.

Being able to (sort of) see through the keys helps, but sometimes the clutter prevents a clear view. (Alternatively, you can supply your own USB keyboard and connect it to the Viliv S5 Premium's USB port.)

As a result, we found ourselves frequently tapping the keyboard's "hide" key, which makes the keyboard go away but leaves the software toggle intact, so that we could see what we'd typed or move between fields. The Viliv S5 Premium's keyboard does not automatically appear when you're in an empty text box, and there's no predictive text entry to help you along.

This setup is not a great way to work, and it's the Viliv S5 Premium's biggest drawback. Even the iPhone, with its smaller screen, does a better job of ensuring that you see what you're working on and of allowing you to move through a series of text fields.

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Viliv S5 Premium: Proprietary Software

Viliv bundles proprietary software intended to give Windows and its utilities more user-friendly faces. Most notable of these is the CubeUI, a desktop alternative with sides consisting of three-by-three grids of round application icons (think T-Mobile Faves) in different categories: Entertainment, Internet, LBS (location-based services) and navigation, Productivity (a trial version of Microsoft Office is included), and My Group, which you can customise.

We were happier viewing the traditional XP desktop, mostly because we're familiar with it.

The same goes for the proprietary audio and video players: we found the unlabeled controls rather unintuitive, and we wound up using Windows Media Player. But music streaming from our Rhapsody library (using browser and Wi-Fi) sounded pretty darn good through the on-board speakers. The earbud headset bundled with the device also produced decent sound, although not as good as you'd get from a quality third-party headset. Fortunately, if you have your own headset, you can use it through the standard jack.

The Viliv S5 Premium also lives up to its portable media player moniker with the Hulu and YouTube videos we streamed through Internet Explorer over Wi-Fi; aside from some dropped frames (probably due to an overcrowded Wi-Fi channel), they looked great. We particularly liked the fact that media playback did not seem to overly heat up the snap-in battery, which makes up the rear case.

NEXT: wireless woes

INDEX:

  1. Viliv S5 Premium: Design
  2. Viliv S5 Premium: Keyboard Concerns
  3. Viliv S5 Premium: Wireless Woes
  4. Viliv S5 Premium: Expert Verdict, Specifications and Images

The Viliv S5 Premium UMPC is speedy and well connected, but disappointing 3G support and an awkward software keyboard make it less than ideal for everyday use.

Viliv S5 Premium: Wireless Woes

But even with the slide-out antenna extended, the Viliv S5 Premium's 3G support wasn't great. For full disclosure, we were testing in the US, where the Viliv S5 Premium is more readily available.

When we slid an unlocked T-Mobile SIM card with a smartphone data plan into the slot, located under the battery, nothing happened. A T-Mobile spokesperson says the company does not support data on devices that aren't sold by T-Mobile or one of its retail partners.

Dynamism, which is the only US outlet for the Viliv S5, recommends using an unlocked AT&T SIM card with a data plan, and when we obtained one, we were able to hook up quickly through an included applet. It would have been nice to have a choice, though. Also, while the Viliv was fast enough when connected, in our tests it frequently dropped the connection completely in the midst of various tasks such as checking a Gmail account or watching a YouTube video. Even when the unit was connected, the YouTube video was unwatchable on the phone network, with frequent complete stops for buffering.

There's a USB slot, of course, so you could always use a 3G dongle in the UK.

Battery life seemed surprisingly good (although we did not formally test it); Viliv says the Viliv S5 Premium can support up to 6 hours of video playback and 4.5 hours of streaming video. Viliv sells an extra battery and a charging cradle (the latter requires an AC adaptor, and if you don't want to use the one that comes with the Viliv you can buy another). Other optional accessories include VGA and component-video cables for sending the video to a monitor or TV.

Documentation for getting started was alarmingly skimpy: we saw no 3G or GPS setup support (and you did have to deal with some settings), and nothing about potential problems with non-AT&T carriers. The final documentation wasn't yet ready at the time of our review, and the product is not yet officially available in the UK, so perhaps that will address the shortcomings.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

INDEX:

  1. Viliv S5 Premium: Design
  2. Viliv S5 Premium: Keyboard Concerns
  3. Viliv S5 Premium: Wireless Woes
  4. Viliv S5 Premium: Expert Verdict, Specifications and Images

PCWorld.com

Viliv S5 Premium: Specs

  • Intel Atom Silverthorne 1.33GHz (Z520)
  • 4.8in WSVGA (1024 x 600) Touch Screen LCD
  • WWAN (3G): HSDPA
  • GPS (Global Positioning System): Sirf Star 3(Maps not included)
  • viliv CUBE interface
  • Windows XP Home Edition
  • DDRII 1GB onboard RAM
  • 32GB SSD
  • viliv Vitual Haptic Keyboard
  • Built-in WiFi IEEE802.11b/g
  • Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR
  • 6200mA Lithium Battery
  • Headphone Jack (3.5mm), USB (both Link & Host), Multi IO
  • 154x84x24.4mm
  • 445g
  • Intel Atom Silverthorne 1.33GHz (Z520)
  • 4.8in WSVGA (1024 x 600) Touch Screen LCD
  • WWAN (3G): HSDPA
  • GPS (Global Positioning System): Sirf Star 3(Maps not included)
  • viliv CUBE interface
  • Windows XP Home Edition
  • DDRII 1GB onboard RAM
  • 32GB SSD
  • viliv Vitual Haptic Keyboard
  • Built-in WiFi IEEE802.11b/g
  • Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR
  • 6200mA Lithium Battery
  • Headphone Jack (3.5mm), USB (both Link & Host), Multi IO
  • 154x84x24.4mm
  • 445g

OUR VERDICT

As UMPCs go, the Viliv S5 Premium delivers on many of its promises, although the disappointing 3G performance will deter some people and the software keyboard makes it a poor choice for anyone who frequently wrangles Office documents. For this price, you can get a nice, lightweight netbook or even notebook. We recommend checking out the Viliv S5 Premium only if you absolutely must have a 500g Windows PC that works well with Wi-Fi, and you're not expecting to do a lot of typing. Although as the Viliv S5 Premium becomes more readily available in the UK, you can expect the price to drop.

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