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Not surprisingly, Intel is making processors small enough to ensure the UMPCs can retain their small form factor without compromising on their performance. The company's new Atom processor proposed for UMPCs and other new mobile devices is the smallest chip ever produced by Intel. "This is our smallest processor built with the world's smallest transistors. This small wonder is a fundamental new shift in design-small yet powerful enough to enable a big Internet experience on these new devices," says Sean Maloney, executive vice president, Intel. The company says that the new chip measuring just 25mm is based on a new micro-architecture and will be able to execute the same instruction sets as standard Intel Core 2 Duo processors, packing all the functionality of a desktop into a small package. This chip also consumes very little power-between 0.6 and 2.5 watts compared to the mainstream Core 2 Duo chip, which falls in the 35 watt range. The fastest model in the series is expected to be around 1.8 GHz.
VIA Technologies' VIA C7-MULV processor designed for UMPCs also reduces power consumption to a mere 3.5 watts. The smallest CPU package on the market, it measures a mere 21 mm X 21 mm, enabling designs with thinner and smaller components. The processor comes with the VIA Padlock Security engine, which provides high protection to the data, while delivering x86 performance per watt. VIA also has a motherboard for UMPCs-the EPIA PX 10000, which measures just 10 cm x 7.2 cm, while providing a number of multimedia and connectivity options.
Packing a punch
New designs of UMPCs are also offering significant improvements in performance, wireless networking and ergonomics. OQO's e2 runs on a 1.6GHz CPU, has 1 GB RAM, and a storage capacity of up to 120 GB. The eo v7110 has a 1.0 GHz processor and can accommodate up to 1 GB of RAM.
Fujitsu's mobile companion-Lifebook U1010-packs in 800 MHz of processing power, and has support for 3.5G, allowing the user to access wireless broadband without adding any hardware accessories.
Audio quality is improving too. OQO's e2 has an AC97 compatible sound system and high-definition audio support. Panasonic's new Toughbook, the CF-U1, comes with Intel's high definition audio compliant, integrated speaker as well as convenient keyboard volume and mute controls. Samsung's Q1 Ultra has audio H/P out, an array microphone and stereo speakers (2 W x 2).
When it comes to connectivity, most UMPCs come with built-in Wi-Fi and higher Bluetooth, as well as options for embedded 3G, HSDPA, UMTS, and WWAN capabilities.
A big future for a small wonder
The second generation of UMPCs seems set to make its presence felt. And work is already underway on the next generation. Manufacturers are planning to integrate high quality voice and streaming multimedia, as well as further improving input methods. But for UMPCs to become really popular, their prices would need to drop dramatically.
Experts, however, are optimistic that UMPCs are sure to get more pocket-friendly in the coming days, making them mass rather than niche products. If that happens, the future of computing could well belong to these small, but extremely powerful, wonders!