The buzz at Germany's Cebit show on Thursday, the event's opening day, was all about Samsung Electronics' 's Q1. The device is based on the Origami platform from Microsoft Corp. and is the first of a new class of machine that has been dubbed "ultramobile PC."

At 9 a.m., just as the show opened, I got a chance to play with the Q1 at Samsung's booth. The Q1 is finished with the same sort of shiny black plastic that is used in the PlayStation Portable and the few devices on show were already collecting lots of fingerprints. It's going to be one of those products that requires lots of shining!

In my hands it didn't feel too bad. It's quite light at 779 grams and wasn't too thick to make it difficult to hold.

Buttons take up both sides of the display and can be operated with thumbs. The right hand side has "enter" and "menu" buttons and a user-defined 4-way button while the left side has a joystick and button for the auto-scaler. This latter function automatically scales content to match the Q1's 800 pixel by 480 pixel (Widescreen VGA) resolution display.

Along with the buttons, interaction with the Q1 is through its touchscreen display. There's a conventional QWERTY keyboard that can be brought up on screen but much more interesting is the dial keyboard. This appears in the bottom right and left corners of the screen as two quarter-circles and is a keyboard that can be operated with thumbs while holding the Q1. It's going to take users a little bit of getting used to but it's certainly a good option for such devices.

There isn't much too much to report about what's on screen. The Windows XP version running on the Q1 looks just like Windows XP on your desktop so it immediately feels very comfortable to operate.

One of the nicer features of the Q1 is instant-on for multimedia files. This involves booting up a second operating system - Samsung wouldn't say what it is - and in about 10 seconds you can play videos, listen to music or look at pictures.

On the negative side the screen resolution is perhaps a little low. Browsing the Web at WVGA resolution means lots of scrolling will be involved. Battery life could also be better. When watching a DVD using an external drive the battery life is given as 1.7 hours by Samsung. That works out to about 1 hour and 40 minutes so you'd better check carefully the running time of DVDs.

Perhaps more important in determining whether the Q1 stands a chance of success is its price and here it looks quite expensive. Samsung said it will go on sale in Europe for €1,000 (US$1,190), which is at the very top end of the $500 to $1,000 price range we first heard about when Microsoft began talking about Origami.

In terms of specifications, the Q1 is based on an Intel Celeron M processor running at 900MHz. It has 512 Mbyte of memory and a 40 Gbyte hard disk drive. There is a wired and wireless LAN adapter, Bluetooth and a Compact Flash card slot that could be used for other types of modem. It measures 22.7 cn by 13.9 cm by 26.5 cm and weighs 779 grams.

OUR VERDICT

You can't buy this yet, but when you can, it looks like it will be rather expensive for something that doesn't have a very long battery life.