I received my new Viliv N5 at about 10:30 Monday morning. I was excited!
After days of installing stuff and trying it all out, I’ve gotten a handle on what I’ve just bought. Originally, I was looking for something to replace my netbook and my DS as “the thing I carry around.” As it turns out, the netbook is simply better at some things—Keyboard, ethernet cables (LAN), and touch-pad navigation (I’ve gotten good enough to play Diablo II on it).
It turns out there’s also a really big difference: Wi-Fi range. The N5 can’t see access points my HP Mini can, which is a breaking-point.
Long story short, the N5 simply cannot replace my netbook. I’ll use the Mini at home and pack it in my bags when I go places.
Meanwhile, I’m finally able to carry a PC in my pocket wherever I go, no matter where that might be (besides the sea-floor).
Since 2008, I’ve been carrying a Nintendo DS as my pocket-thing. It’s served me well, and it has let me play music, view re-encoded video, or play a couple games while I was on the go. It’s fairly limited, however, and has no good text-editing capabilities. Its touch screen is only 256 x 192, and the second screen isn’t touch-sensitive. It has only 4 MB of RAM, and the two processors are 33 MHz and 66 MHz.
All in all, the N5 blows the DS out of the water. Not only does it emulate most of the games I’d play on the DS (though DS games play a bit slow on an emulator), it doesn’t require me to re-transcode video and will play 720p. The storage space is tremendously larger, too. I’ve found a program called GMapCatcher that lets me save Google Maps offline, so that replaces the mapping program I’d used in my DS.
The DS is slightly smaller and has controls suited to gaming, but that’s about it. I can make due.
A good netbook can, for all intents and purposes, replace a desktop machine. The Viliv N5, though, can’t replace your main system. The wi-fi is too weak, the keyboard is borderline crappy, and the navigation methods slow you down too much (unless you’ve got a good stylus).
So, my original intent was to replace my DS and my netbook. What would I need?
Basically: something about two inches longer (the real killer is that some keys are smaller than others, because they couldn’t fit everything), with slightly-better battery life, strong wi-fi, and a more responsive touch screen.
I’m disappointed that the Viliv N5 isn’t absolutely perfect, but it’s still a good machine. I’ll be using it a lot in the next few years (until Medfield devices start coming out)!
There are a few things the N5 does fantastically:
- An infra-red nub for mousing, rather than some sort of capacitive bit. Also, resistive-touch screen. Those two combined means I’ll be able to use the device perfectly while wearing gloves in the winter.
- Deliciously high resolution. I’m getting iPhone 4 syndrome, where I look at my regular monitor and do a double-take at all the blocks everywhere.
- Those tiny keys are actually almost perfect for playing games. I can nearly use the W/A/S/D keys as a directional pad, with my thumbs. I’ve been playing NES games.
- The form factor is a joy to hold. It’s not glossy, so you need to be pretty greasy before fingerprints start showing up. The screen is sheer plastic, though, so I have to keep my hands off the front of it. (I usually use a fingernail for the touch-screen.)
There are a couple things I’d have changed, if I were them. First, there’s no ‘context menu’ button on the keyboard, so you have to get the cursor to an item and right-click. The rest of the keyboard makes enough sense. Also, the thing cost over $700, so does it really have to come with Windows 7 Starter? You can’t even change the desktop wallpaper. I futzed around with the settings and services and performance options enough that I somehow ended up with a much-more-compact classic look (Win98-ish).
Final recommendation: It’s a nice device, but it competes more with smartphones than with laptops and netbooks. It can do nearly everything you want, but it’s weaker in some areas. Meanwhile, it also has far less battery life than a smartphone, and doesn’t generally take calls, so you’ve got to carry some sort of phone around anyway.
This is best for someone who’s out and about a lot. There’s nothing better than being out of the office and still being able to do everything you’d usually do with a laptop (albeit more slowly).