Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/912



The Grid Compass

The design of the notebook has changed little since its inception over twenty years ago. Arguably the first laptop, the Grid Compass which was designed in 1979, shares many similarities with the notebooks of today. Both systems feature fold-down screens which hide and protect the keyboard and system. Both systems can be used on a lap but prefer to be parked on a desk. Both systems even feature batteries for mobile use. The design of the modern laptop is certainly proven, but is it best?

This question has been debated for almost as long as the laptop has been around. Occasionally, companies have tried to tweak, modify, and sometimes even drastically change the concept of how a notebook should be built. As the market today shows, the vast majority of these design changes have been met with little success. Store shelves still find themselves stocked with Compass-esque looking laptops.

A startup company based in Taiwan hopes to change this by forcing us to rethink the concept of a notebook. Going by the name of PaceBlade, their solution, the PaceBook, is touted as a 3-in-1 computer. As a result of a radical new design, the PaceBook is able to act as a notebook, LCD desktop, and tablet PC all in one. PaceBlade is hoping to succeed where others have failed. Will the PaceBook design take off and become the design of the future? Let's take an in-depth look at what could be the next generation of laptops and see if the PaceBook has the goods necessary to survive in the cutthroat portable computer market.



Construction - Build, Appearance, Size

Exactly how a portable computer can act as a notebook, an LCD desktop, and a tablet PC all in one probably needs a bit of explanation. So forget about what you know about notebooks and get ready to see portable systems the PaceBlade way.

The PaceBook actually consists of two separate and distinct parts: a display/system unit and a keyboard. To begin, let's take a look at the display/system unit.

The display and system of the PaceBook are integrated into one component which many may recognize as a tablet style PC. In its tablet form, the PaceBook operates very similar to how any other tablet PC operates. The system's 12.1" XGA LCD display is actually touch sensitive so user input can be provided by the stylus that finds its home in the upper left of the unit.

Because the PaceBook is actually a fully functional x86 machine, in it's tablet form the unit includes all the ports and accessories necessary for operation. Let's get more familiar with the system by taking a look around the tablet.

By default the system runs in landscape mode with a 1024x768 resolution. As mentioned earlier, the XGA screen is touch sensitive. Because of this, the units screen incorporates 2mm of glass above the LCD, creating a durable surface for writing and also giving the LCD a layer of protection. The screen's writing surface is very similar to the touch screens used on touch sensitive PDAs such as PocketPC and Palm systems. The distance between the screen's plastic surface and the touch sensitive layer was very small and required very little effort or pressure to make contact with the touch screen.

Located above and below the screen are two speakers. In landscape mode, the bottom speaker acts as the left speaker and the top as the right when outputting stereo sound.

To the left of the LCD screen are 3 buttons, two LEDs, and a built-in microphone. The microphone is located on the bottom left side of the unit, fairly close to the user's mouth when used on a lap or in the hands. The microphone consists of two holes: one for the microphone itself and another, smaller hole, that helps to cancel out ambient noise in the area.

Above these set of holes is the portrait/landscape button. This button allows the system to be switched from the default landscape configuration into a portrait (768x1024) using the included Pivot software. Hitting this button in Windows rotates the screen 90 degrees clockwise, putting the buttons on the top of the display and the IR port on the bottom. Because switching of the display is done in software, the button only works when in Windows with the proper drivers installed.

The power button lies in the middle of the left side of the system. Above the power button are two LEDs. The LED on the closest to the system's bottom indicates battery charge: it glows orange when the battery is charging, flashes when trickle charging, and glows solid green when on and charged. The upper LED is a power and hard drive activity light. The LED grows solid green when on and flashes during hard drive activity.

The final button on the front left of the PaceBook is the menu button. Like the portrait/landscape button, the menu button works only within Windows with the proper software installed. The button is mapped to run PaceBlade's own "menu" utility. Basically, the menu program provides quick access to the PaceBook's settings and programs, but more on this in the Software section. These LEDs and buttons relocate to the top of the system when used in portrait mode.

The other item on the PaceBook's front is the IR port, located on the right of the system when in landscape mode or the bottom of the system when in portrait mode. Besides that, the only other items visible from the PaceBook's top are the two speaker ports. Remember how the bottom speaker acted as the left speaker and the top one acted as the right speaker? Well, rotating the display ninety degrees places the speakers in their proper left/right orientation.


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The other items of interest on the PaceBook's display/system unit are located on the left and top of the system when in landscape mode. This seemingly unimportant characteristic of the PaceBook is actually a design trait that PaceBlade spent some time on. The reason that it was important to only have connections and controls on the system's left and top sides: because the left and top of the system quickly become the top and right sides when rotated for portrait mode. By placing connections and controls on the system's left and top side when in landscape mode the controls and ports are easily accessible when used in either landscape or portrait mode. In either configuration connections and controls are never on the bottom side of the system. It is clear that PaceBlade put some thought into designing the PaceBook for all types of use.

There are five ports located on the system's left side (top side in portrait mode). The first of these, on the bottom left, is the PaceBook's single PCMCIA slot. The system can accept one PCMCIA type II that is inserted label side down into the computer. Above the PCMCIA slot and directly in the center middle of the PaceBook's left side lies PaceBlade's unique round USB port. The port is the same a a standard USB v1.1 port except in shape. In order to make the port useful for items mounted on the top or side of the PaceBook, this USB port is round. The current PaceBook accessory that fits in this port is a USB CCD camera for teleconferencing and picture/movie capture. By fitting in the round USB port, the camera can be swiveled 360 degrees. Future accessories may include IrDA adapters and bar code scanners. Because it is a standard USB port at heart, the system comes with a dongle that converts the round USB port to a standard one. Like mounting all the controls in a location where they will never be on the bottom of the system, the use of a round USB port was a thoughtful design adaptation that suits the PaceBook ideally.

Above the round USB port are three more I/O connections, all covered by a rubber flap. Opening the flap reveals an ethernet port, a modem port, and a VGA-out port. Both an ethernet cable and a phone cord can be plugged directly into the system, while the VGA-out port requires the use of an included dongle.


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The remainder of the PaceBook's I/O ports are located on the top (right) side of the system. Located in the top left side of the laptop, towards the back of the system, is the system's stylus. The stylus fits in a special slot which keeps it conveniently close at hand. The stylus collapses to fit in the slot but telescopes out to become the size of a standard pen. Slightly above and to the right of the stylus slot are the audio connections for the PaceBook: one for headphones out and one for microphone in.

The next three ports are covered by a rubber flap just like the one covering the I/O ports on the left side. Under this flap live a USB port (a standard one, not a round one), a DC-out port, and a 4-pin unpowered IEEE-1394 firewire port. The USB and firewire ports are self explanatory, but why would PaceBlade include a DC-out port on the system? The reason is because the DC-out is used to provide power for firewire devices needing it. In the case of our unit, which came with an external firewire DVD drive, the DC-out was used to provide power to the device which communicated to the PC via the unpowered 4-pin firewire port. Why PaceBlade chose to produce this unique solution instead of just implementing a 6-pin powered firewire connection is anyone's guess but it does get the job done for PaceBlade components. One step over from the set of three connections is the power-in port.

The final item on the PaceBook's top side is the "any key" and scroll wheel. The "any key" acts as an enter key and is for use when a key must be pressed to continue. PaceBlade gave it the name "any key" because it solved the problem of having to hit a key during a blue screen. The screen, which sometimes reads "Hit any key to continue" can only be removed by hitting a key on a keyboard, which is difficult to do on a keyboard-less tablet PC. The "any key" button solves that problem. To the left of the "any key" is a scroll wheel which can be used for navigation up and down. The scroll wheel can also be clicked to simulate a right mouse click. This solves the problem of registering a right click on a touch screen, although it was a bit awkward to use because the item to be right clicked must first be selected using a single click of the stylus. It would have been more comfortable and natural if PaceBlade chose to place a button on the stylus that could be held down when the user wishes to right click.


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The other items of interest are located on the PaceBook's bottom. The system's bottom holds expansion slot covers that allow for easy access to many system components. The large trapezoidal cover on the system's right can be removed by unscrewing two screws. Under this panel lies the system's memory expansion slot. The PaceBook can accept one PC-133 SODIMM in addition to the built in 128MBs of system memory. Our unit, which came outfitted with 256MB of memory, shipped with this slot populated with a stick of 128MB PC-133 memory.

Interestingly enough, the circular panel below the memory expansion panel provides access to the PaceBook's CMOS battery. When designing the PaceBook, PaceBlade decided that they wanted their product to be used for years to come. Although it may serve as a business machine today, PaceBlade foresees the PaceBook acting as the children's PC or LCD television years down the road. Since CMOS batteries occasionally die, the company decided to make their CMOS battery easily replaceable. Unlike other notebooks, where the CMOS battery is non-removable or very hard to access, replacing the PaceBook's CMOS battery should prove to be no problem when the time comes.

In almost the center of the laptop is a threaded hole. This hole allows the PaceBook to be mounted almost anywhere in almost any position. PaceBlade is currently working on an office stand for the PaceBook that uses this mounting hole to attach itself to a stand. Options for car, truck, and wall mounting are in the works as well

The battery on the PaceBook is also easily removed by sliding the release lever down. Once out, a screw for a panel that covers the system's hard drive is visible. Removing this screw pops the hard drive cover off and provides easy access to the system's internal 9.5mm hard drive.


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The system's case is fully magnesium and as a tablet PC the system measures a rather unwieldy 9.7"x13.0"x1.1" and weighs 3.95 pounds; rather bulky for handheld use.

So that is the PaceBook as a tablet PC. The system can be held in the hand, used on the lap, or slung around the shoulder with the upcoming tablet bag accessory. It is important to note that PaceBlade was recently named a Microsoft Tablet PC partner. This means that PaceBlade will be working closely with Microsoft in adapting the PaceBook to work with and benefit from the upcoming Windows XP for Tablets operating system. But exactly how does it act as a notebook and desktop system as well?



Let's take a look at the notebook solution first. Since the system/display unit of the PaceBook contains all components necessary for the system to operate as a true computer, all that needed to be added to make the PaceBook a notebook was a keyboard. PaceBlade chose to implement a wireless keyboard solution into the PaceBook to make it more functional. The result: a wireless keyboard powered by 4 AAA batteries that communicates via the system/display unit via commercial IR. PaceBlade shied away from RF when designing the keyboard because using RF would prevent use of a PaceBook on an airplane although it would give the keyboard better range..

PaceBlade claims that the IR keyboard will work up to 15 meters away from the system. To prevent the problem of having more than one PaceBook in the same room, each system can be set to look for IR input on a unique channel (1 to 255). This means that, in theory, up to 255 PaceBooks in a room at the same time working away on keyboards wirelessly. The keyboard's buttons are generously large and were a pleasure to type on but apparently the IR communication is not yet up to par: even when the keyboard and system were relatively close to one another the PaceBook occasionally did not recognize keystrokes. The keyboard's touchpad, located below the keys, also seemed to have a problem with the IR communication, as the touchpad occasionally got jumpy. The keyboard includes an on/off switch but goes to sleep automatically when not used for a specified amount of time. Although it did save battery life, this feature did prove to be somewhat annoying when working because using the touchpad does not wake the keyboard up. Instead, a key must be hit first before the touchpad can be used.

To perfect the notebook design of the PaceBook, something had to be done to position the screen and the keyboard at a ninety degree angle from one another like a conventional notebook. This is setup is made possible by the PaceBook's case. The case of the PaceBook opens like a laptop and has space for a keyboard on the bottom and the unit on top. The wireless keyboard is held in place with three Velcro dots on the bottom of the keyboard. The heavier system and display unit is held in place via rubber clips on the top and bottom of the case. The system and display unit can easily be popped in or out depending on what function is desired. On the outside of the case is a flap panel that holds the system/display unit up when in "notebook" configuration. The flap can be adjusted to a variety of heights, allowing the user to position the screen where he or she wishes. When not in use the flap folds down and becomes a part of the case.

The PaceBook notebook solution proved to be a good one while on a hard surface such as a desk. When set up, the system really felt no different from any other notebook. One complaint we did have was that the notebook can not easily be used in locations other than a desk or a table. Because the system is held in place by the flap on the back of the case, the system was almost impossible to use on a lap, especially comfortably. The best solution to this problem would have been to make a "hard" case that had hinge support for the screen/display like typical notebook computers do, but this would likely increase price of the system. Perhaps a hard case accessory is in order.

When on a desk, the PaceBook's display can also be rotated 90 degrees to put the system in portrait mode. In this configuration the system/display unit does not clip into the case.

The final setup option for the PaceBook is the LCD system configuration. This configuration is achieved by removing the keyboard and folding the bottom half of the soft case behind the unit. Now the unit can be propped up using the integrated stand on the back of the case and the keyboard can be placed anywhere. In this configuration the PaceBook reassembles a desktop PC. For increased desktop functionality PaceBlade is working on an office stand that mounts the PaceBook on a tripod of sorts.

So what they say is true. The PaceBook is, in fact, a 3-in-1 system able to act as a tablet PC, a notebook PC, and a desktop PC. But what hardware lies behind the PaceBook's unique exterior?



Construction - Under the Hood

Behind the PaceBook's magnesium shell lives some interesting hardware including a 600MHz Transmeta Crusoe processor, 256MB of memory, a Lynx3DM video chip, and a 20GB hard drive.

The PaceBook was refreshingly easy to disassemble. With the removal of quite a few screws, the back panel on the system just lifted off, providing a view of many of the system's vital components. Perhaps the most prominent item on the back of the PaceBook's motherboard is the Transmeta Crusoe TM5600 600MHz CPU.

Transmeta earned a name for themselves a few years back with the announcement of the Transmeta CPU which promised to provide high performance computing with low power consumption. The x86 compatible processor was to combine hardware and "code morphing" software to allow the VLIW (Very Long Instruction Word) Crusoe to understand x86 commands. The benefits: a smaller CPU package that consumed up to 70 percent less power than competing chips.

Transmeta CPUs have been used in portable computers for some time now and are the processor of choice for ultra-portable systems because of their low power consumption. We will have to wait until we get to the benchmarks before we see what is compromised for the low power consumption.

The flip-chip Crusoe TM5600 is mounted directly on the PaceBook's motherboard and is not available in a socketed configuration. As you may recall, the Crusoe TM5600 includes 64K of 8-way set associative L1 instruction cache, 64K of 16-way set associative L1 data cache, and 512K of 4-way set associative write back L2 cache. The chip also includes an integrated northbridge, providing DDR or SDR SDRAM support as well as a PCI controller and a southbridge interface.


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PaceBlade currently has PaceBook systems running on new Crusoe TM5800 chips and the company hopes to bring PaceBooks with speed up to 1.0GHz to market soon.

As you may have noticed when we took a look around the PaceBook system, the PaceBook has no holes or openings of any sorts. PaceBlade lists this as a feature, as it prevents dust from getting inside the system, but at the same time it means that no air is getting into or out of the system. Cooling for the Crusoe processor is provided by a passive heatsink with fairly few fins on it. The CPU core is not bonded to the heatsink: instead the core sits in a small indentation on the heatsink's surface. As a result of the passive cooling method in a sealed case, the PaceBook gets quite toasty under stressful use. We were able to get our PaceBook up to 118.5 degrees Fahrenheit (48.1 degrees Celsius). This extreme temperature was not limited to only one area of the system: the whole left side of the system, top, bottom, and side, consistently measured well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius).

For a southbridge, PaceBlade turned to ALi who supplied them with the M1535 southbridge. The southbridge offers ATA/66 support as well as an integrated software modem, software sound, and integrated super I/O interface.


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Located to the right of the ALi southbridge are two Mitsubishi ROM chips that the CPU uses to store the code morphing software.

The other items present on the back of the PaceBook's motherboard are the system memory and expansion memory, the modem card (to the left of the memory) and the PCMCIA connection.


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The back of the CPU is home to the graphic chip, the firewire controller, the LAN chip and the PCMCIA controller.

Video for the PaceBook is provided by a Silicon Motion Lynx3DM8 graphics chip. The chip, which came out over a year ago, offers 2D and 3D support, although it is not meant to be a gaming chip and is akin to mobile integrated graphics controllers. The chip in our system included 8MB of integrated video memory and also includes hardware rotation, allowing the system to change from landscape to portrait mode, as well as fairly good power management technology. Again, although the Lynx3DM8 supports 3D, it is certainly not happy running it as even the animated Windows XP screens ran a bit slow and jumpy.


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Firewire support for the 4-pin unpowered firewire connection is provided by an Agere FW323-05 controller.


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Since the ALi southbridge does not include an ethernet controller, ethernet support for the built-in ethernet port is provided by a Realtek RTL8139CL ethernet controller.


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The PaceBook that we received came outfitted with a 20GB Fujitsu MHN2200AT hard drive. This drive is very similar to the hard drives we have seen in other mobile products, as it features a 12ms access time and a 4,200RPM rotation speed.


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The two speakers on the PaceBook sounded fairly good considering their size. Like other notebooks, distortion became a problem when the volume was cranked up.


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When away from the desk, the PaceBook uses a 6-cell lithium-ion battery that provides 30Wh. This battery is significantly less powerful than some of the other batteries we have seen in conventional notebooks, such as the WinBook N4's battery which outputs 59.2W/h.



Features - Software

The PaceBook ships with Windows XP Home, a good choice for the majority of laptop owners out there. Also included in the base install are the UPDD touch screen drivers, the PaceBook Menu program, and Pivot Software.

The UPDD touch screen drivers and the Pivot Software are fairly basic programs that allow for a small degree of customization. It is the PaceBook menu program that is special.

Launched by hitting the menu button on the side of the system, the Menu program provides quick access to a number of settings and programs. It is through this program that the touchpad is calibrated, the keyboard channel set, and the backlight level adjusted. The user can also add any number of applications to the quick run section of the program, where programs can be run just by clicking on them. Although we did find ourselves using the program a lot, especially to adjust the PaceBook' settings, we were rather frustrated when it came to exiting the program. Any program that is run internal to the PaceBook Menu program, for example the brightness control, the touchpad calibration, the keyboard configuration, ect, loads inside the PaceBook Menu program. Because of this, once the desired setting is adjusted, the PaceBook Menu remains on the screen. The only way to exit the program and return to the Windows desktop: by running a program. We were found hitting the calculator button and loading calc.exe more times than we care to count in an effort to escape from the PaceBook Menu program.


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Perhaps the biggest limitation with the PaceBook actually comes in the form of software. The PaceBook ships with no handwriting recognition software, making text input when in tablet PC mode excruciating. PaceBlade suggests you use Microsoft Office XP for handwriting and voice dictation support but chose not to include the software package by default. Although the Office XP handwriting support proved to work well, installing it will leave users out another couple hundred of dollars as well as an additional headache. Because the handwriting support is for Office XP, the screen can only be written on when in an Office XP application. This means that any typing you wish to do outside of an Office application must first be done within Office and then copied and pasted into the desired application. This left us either constantly switching applications in an attempt to type a web address into Internet Explorer or tapping away at the extremely hard to use on screen keyboard (an built in Windows accessibility function which even Microsoft claims "provides a minimum level of functionality... users will need a utility program with higher functionality for daily use").

PlaceBlade claims that they are working with a 3rd party software company to provide handwriting support out of the box. When PaceBooks will begin shipping with this software is still unknown but the lack of handwriting software is a major thorn in the PaceBook's side.



The Test

Windows XP Professional Test System

Hardware

 
PaceBlade PaceBook
Sony PictureBook C1VN
Desktop Testbed
CPU(s)
Transmeta Crusoe TM5600 600MHz
Transmeta Crusoe TM5600 600MHz
433MHz/533MHz Intel Celeron
Motherboard(s)
PaceBlade SDR
Sony SDR
ASUS CUBX
Memory
256MB PC133
256MB PC133
256MB PC133 SDRAM
Hard Drive
20GB Fujitsu MHN2200AT

20GB IBM Travelstar 30GN

IBM Deskstar DPTA-372050 20.5GB 7200 RPM Ultra ATA 66
CDROM
Toshiba DVD

None

Phillips 48X
Video Card(s)
Silicon Motion Lynx3DM8
ATI Rage Mobility
NVIDIA GeForce2 MX 200
Ethernet
Realtek 10/100 Ethernet Adapter

None

Linksys LNE100TX 100Mbit PCI Ethernet Adapter

Software

Operating System

Windows XP Professional

Video Drivers
XP Drivers 5.1.2001.0
ATI 6.13.10.6071
Detonator version 28.32

Benchmarking Applications

Bapco SysMark 2001
ZDM BatteryMark 2001

To make a fair comparison, we tested the PaceBlade PaceBook against another Crusoe based system, an older Sony PictureBook C1VN, and two fairly slow desktop systems based on old Intel Celerons.

Note that we were forced to remove Content Creation Winstone 2002 from our benchmarking application list because the PaceBook system would not complete the test. Each time the test was run on the PaceBook, the benchmark would fail to complete due to a time-out error while running Adobe Premiere The same problem plagued us with the other Crusoe system we tested, the Sony PictureBook C1VN.



Performance - SYSMark 2002

As mentioned in the test section, we were not able to get our PaceBook to complete the Content Creation Winstone 2002 tests. Let's move on to SYSMark 2002.

Content Creation Performance
Internet Content Creation SYSMark 2002
PaceBlade PaceBook 600MHz

Sony PictureBook 600MHz

Desktop Celeron 533MHz

Desktop Celeron 433MHz

43

42

37

31

|
0
|
9
|
17
|
26
|
34
|
43
|
52

The first of SYSMark 2002's tests, the Internet Content Creation benchmark, puts the Crusoe based laptops above the desktop Celerons of a slower speed, but not by much. The PaceBook is able to slightly outdo the Sony PictureBook and was able to outperform the desktop Celeron system at 533MHz by 16%.

As you can probably tell by the desktop speeds that the Crusoe based PictureBook compares to, the 600MHz TM5600 Crusoe is not a CPU powerhouse. Remember how we hinted that the CPU's low power consumption may cause sacrifices elsewhere? Well, it seems that it causes speed sacrifices. The PaceBook, for example, performed over four times slower than the fastest notebook we have seen in this benchmark, the Compaq Presario 2800T. The slow performance is not something that this particular benchmark exaggerates: as our own personal use suggested and the rest of the benchmarks proved, the TM5600 Crusoe at 600MHz is not a fast machine.

Office Performance
Office Productivity SYSMark 2002
Desktop Celeron 533MHz

Desktop Celeron 433MHz

PaceBlade PaceBook 600MHz

Sony PictureBook 600MHz

48

41

35

32

|
0
|
10
|
19
|
29
|
38
|
48
|
58

The Crusoe based laptops fared even poorer in the Office Productivity portion of SYSMark 2002. In this case, the PaceBook was left performing 17% slower than the desktop Celeron computer running at 433MHz. Again, the system's slow performance was certainly noticed during product use: even surfing the web seemed to take longer on the PaceBook. For comparisons sake, the fastest laptop in this test, again the Compaq Presario 2800T 1.7GHz, was about 2.5 times faster than the PaceBook.

Overall Performance
SYSMark 2002
Desktop Celeron 533MHz

PaceBlade PaceBook 600MHz

Sony PictureBook 600MHz

Desktop Celeron 433MHz

42

39

37

36

|
0
|
8
|
17
|
25
|
34
|
42
|
50

Finally we come to the overall SYSMark 2002 score. With a comparatively high Internet Content Creation score and a comparatively low Office Productivity score, the PaceBlade PaceBook finds itself in the middle of the overall SYSMark 2002 scores. The system scored 7% slower than the desktop Celeron 533MHz system and 8% faster than the desktop Celeron 433MHz system. The difference between the two Crusoe 600MHz laptops was essentially nonexistent, scoring within 5% of each other Again, the 39 that the PaceBook got in SYSMark 2002 is a few orders of magnitude slower than our current highest performing mobile product, the Compaq Presario 2800T.



Performance - BatteryMark 2001

Battery Life (minutes)
Toshiba 1905-S277 1.6GHz

Compaq Presario 2800T 1.7GHz

PaceBlade PaceBook 600MHz

WinBook N4 1.8GHz

ASUS T9400 900MHz

239

178

167

155

153

|
0
|
48
|
96
|
143
|
191
|
239
|
287

Even with its battery saving CPU, the PaceBook is not able to out do much of the notebook competition when it comes to power. Because the PaceBook does not have the luxury of including a larger, heavier battery (for size and weight reasons), the system's battery only powered the PaceBook for two hours and forty-seven minutes. This put the battery life of the PaceBook in the middle of the pack and not dominating the competition as we would have expected it to.

Performance - Startup Times

Boot Time (seconds)
Compaq Presario 2800T 1.7GHz

ASUS T9400 900MHz

Toshiba 1905-S277 1.6GHz

WinBook N4 1.8GHz

PaceBlade PaceBook 600MHz

31

34

36

37

84

|
0
|
17
|
34
|
50
|
67
|
84
|
101

As the benchmarks proved, the PaceBook system is slow and this is reflected in the system's boot time. It took 84 seconds, one minute and twenty-four seconds, to go from a black screen into Windows XP Professional. This was significantly longer than it took for any of the other laptops we have seen to boot.

Out of Standby Time (seconds)
WinBook N4 1.8GHz

Toshiba 1905-S277 1.6GHz

Compaq Presario 2800T 1.7GHz

PaceBlade PaceBook 600MHz

6

6

7

11

|
0
|
2
|
4
|
7
|
9
|
11
|
13

Like one would expect, the time it took for the PaceBook to come out of standby mode was again the longest of all mobile systems we have seen. It took the PaceBook 11 seconds to return from standby, whereas the WinBook and Toshiba systems took only 6 seconds to do the same thing.

Out of Hibernate Time (seconds)
WinBook N4 1.8GHz

Toshiba 1905-S277 1.6GHz

Compaq Presario 2800T 1.7GHz

PaceBlade PaceBook 600MHz

16

17

19

41

|
0
|
8
|
16
|
25
|
33
|
41
|
49

Coming out of hibernation is similar to performing a cold boot and we should therefore not be surprised that the PaceBook took significantly longer than the other mobile systems to return form hibernate mode.



Conclusion

The PaceBook's design is certainly revolutionary. Combining the design of a tablet PC, a notebook, and a LCD desktop, PaceBlade has drastically changed the concept of a PC. But does it work, is the real question. Will the PaceBook, in its current form, replace notebooks as we know them today? Because the PaceBook has problems in each of its three configuration modes, the answer is likely no.

Of all the three modes, the system most resembles a tablet PC no matter the use. The tablet design of the PaceBook is flawed in some aspects, however. At just barely under four pounds, the PaceBook can be a bit unwieldy at times. The system feels bulky in the hands and at over an inch thick it kind of is. It was rather difficult to hold the tablet in one hand and use the other for input: it was much more convenient to use the tablet while it rested on the lap or a table.

The design gripe is small, however, when compared to the software gripe we have about the PaceBook when in tablet mode. Tablet mode means that no keyboard unit is present. As a result, one would suspect that the unit would have some form of handwriting recognition to allow for quick input when in tablet mode. This is not the case. Instead of any sort of character recognizing software, the PaceBook makes use of Microsoft's on screen keyboard to provide text input. Typing web addresses, let alone sentences with the on screen keyboard is painful at best. Even PaceBlade's recommendation, that the Office XP handwriting support be used, proves not to do the job. Since handwriting input can only be done within an Office XP application, text has to constantly be copied and pasted from Office XP to the desired program, such as Internet Explorer. Handwriting software would certainly elevate the PaceBook to the next level of usefulness as a tablet PC.

As a notebook, the PaceBook also falls short. PaceBlade's idea is a good one and the included carrying case does get one by when using the machine as a laptop. The inherent problem with the case is that it will not stand up on non-flat surfaces since the support flap must be firmly upon a surface. This makes using the PaceBook on ones lap, as the name laptop implies, almost impossible. To sit on a couch or in a chair without a desk and use the PaceBook it almost exclusively has to be in tablet mode, a mode where we run into the problems mentioned above.

The final mode, the LCD desktop mode, is perhaps the mode that performs most as advertised. With the unit propped up and the keyboard any distance away, the desktop configuration felt very similar to a real desktop machine with a small screen. The only problem with the PaceBook pretending to be a desktop is that it is significantly under powered to do anything that a typical desktop would do. As the benchmarks show, the 600MHz Crusoe in the PaceBook performs like a 533MHz Celeron processor. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who considers a 533MHz Celeron desktop system fast today in comparison to what is out there.

The PaceBook is not without positives, however. Although we had some problems with the design, the idea is very enticing and clearly took a lot of development to get in its current state. The system's battery life was fairly good and the overall layout of the PaceBook was exceptional: with no connections ever finding their way to the bottom side of the system and buttons conveniently located for almost every need. The screen's 12.1" XGA display was also fairly generous for tablet PCs. The system is also positioned very well for the vertical market, where PaceBlade foresees law enforcement and medical professionals using the PaceBlade to run custom software on the go.

For a consumer product, however, the PaceBook system still needs some tweaking before it is ready to replace laptops. Almost everyone who saw the PaceBook while we had it commented "cool" upon first glance. The problem is that being cool does not sell a notebook, tablet, or desktop; being useful does. Although a good concept, PaceBook is a bit before its time. Hopefully Windows XP for Tablet PCs will change that.

The PaceBlade PaceBook starts at $2,095.00 and comes with a 600MHz Transmeta Crusoe processor, a 20GB hard drive, 128MB of memory, and a DVD-ROM drive. Each PaceBook sold also comes with the carrying case, a 3M screen cleaning cloth, and a microphone headset for voice dictation. Systems are available now through PaceBlade's online store.

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