So it’s been a bit over two months now with my shiny new Viliv S5. The question of the day is, is it still shiny?
Well, the thing is … it wasn’t entirely shiny to begin with. And thus here is my two month review:
As I pointed out in a previous blog entry, the Viliv S5 experience is rather hindered by some bad design when it comes to its onscreen keyboard. For starters, without a fingerprint scanner and with a software keyboard that only loads after Windows boots up, there’s no way to actually secure your Viliv S5 properly. For a guy who likes to remind folks to be secure with their PCs, that’s pretty bad.
They keyboard app however has many additional woes:
Woe 0 ) Security, security, security!
Woe 1 ) If you actually use the keyboard for a short length of time it begins to have permanent rendering problems. No doubt it has some kind of memory leak or as I’ve recently run into elsewhere, a possible bitmap handle reference limit.
Woe 2 ) The keyboard really isn’t very responsive. You really have to press down on the keys some times to get them to register. Or maybe the software just lags. It’s probably more the latter when I think about it, since the touchscreen itself isn’t so bad.
Woe 3 ) The “haptic” keyboard experience actually causes problems. The keyboard becomes even less responsive when you have the vibration turned on. And just as bad, the darn thing vibrates – telling you that you’ve pressed a key – even though the software sometimes doesn’t register the keypress. So by all means you think that you’ve typed something, but you haven’t. And because your thumbs cover the screen while trying to type on such a little bugger, you really can’t see that your keypress wasn’t registered. So blithely on you type.
Woe 4 ) There’s a lot of real estate wasted by padding between the keys. Having written a few on-screen keyboard apps myself that is such a no-no. You do not waste space. And on such a small screen, it’s actually a lot of waste.
Woe 5 ) I’ve noticed that for some kind of international character support (even though I’ve set it to English – American) the keyboard software interprets single-quote ‘ and double-quote ” characters as the start of a markup system for vowels so that you can make Á or Ä with ease. Except that for American English users who don’t use those characters, it’s really annoying when you type a ‘ or ” and nothing happens. And it takes you a while to figure out what is going on. And then longer yet to work out a workaround that if you want your ‘ or ” you have to type that and then a space to get what you typed to actually work!
Woe 6 ) The visual indicator that you’ve pressed a key is just not obvious enough. When the button itself is smaller than your finger you really can’t see that it changes to a darker color and shifts up a couple of pixels. It really needs something much more intrusive to be clear that you’ve pressed a key. Especially since haptic is both broken and better turned off if you’re using that onscreen keyboard.
Woe 7 ) The keyboard just doesn’t resize. What if you move your taskbar to the side, for example? The onscreen keyboard just doesn’t even try to handle things like this correctly. So much for dynamic sizing.
So that’s the keyboard woes. If you plan on using it for, well, any kind of typing, you best get yourself a real keyboard. While plenty of other touchscreen devices (like an iPhone) can manage okay without a hardware keyboard, the Viliv S5 does not.
Now, in theory, Viliv can fix all of these onscreen keyboard problems on the S5 easily with a software update. Wouldn’t that be nice? It is just software after all. So then … where’s my update? I haven’t seen any software updates from Viliv yet. And considering how unpolished the S5 is once you get down to using it, that’s pretty bad.
Well hell, while we’re listing problems with the Viliv S5, let’s add a few more general ones:
Woe 8 ) The Atom processor lags. It just does. Yeah, I know, it’s a tiny crappy little netbook / UMPC. But honestly some of the time this thing is quite adequate in speed, and some of the time it isn’t. And that’s doing all the same apps over and over. It’s random whether or not it’ll act slow today. All that I can figure is that it’s somehow the processor. And that’s running WinXP. I just can’t even imagine trying to run Windows 7 on this little bugger! Nuh-uh. Lag-o-matic!
Woe 9 ) Where’s my damn mic? Seriously, why would it come with no microphone built in or a microphone jack? It has built in speakers and a headphone jack. It has plenty of room. I don’t know why this one bugs me so much, but it does. I’d really like to be able to use a simple internet headset to Skype away, but on the Viliv S5 you have to kluge your way through some unsavory solutions.
Woe 10 ) My right-click button no longer works. Well, okay, sometimes if I press really hard it anemically tries. The button looks fine, but I’m betting if I were to crack open the case (and maybe I will one day when my warranty runs out) I bet I’d find something about it is broken. Which is a shame because the Viliv S5 certainly feels solid enough. The construction quality appears good. But I’ve already lost my second-most used button. Fortunately I’ve found that prolonged pressing of the screen simulates a right-click. And there’s a right-click button on the onscreen keyboard. I have workarounds. Just none quite as handy as the button itself.
Woe 11 ) The stylus just plain sucks. It looked stupid when I first saw it, and it hasn’t gotten any better. Oh no. Why is there a guitar pick on the end of a wrist strap for a stylus? A simple docking pen like most PDAs have would have been an infinitely better choice. But not only is it just dumb as hell, it’s also already breaking down. The plastic is eroding at the tip from my constant use of it because, let’s face it, Windows itself just isn’t designed to run on a screen so small. My finger is waaaaay larger than most buttons. Let’s not even bring up the nightmare of software with radio buttons!
Woe 12 ) Cube UI blows. It seemed cute at first. But the more you try to use it, the more annoying it is. Simple behaviors that you’d expect to have like reordering your icons, drag-and-drop, creating your own categories … all hosed. As is the attempt to change your city for getting weather information if you happen to live in a city name that other cities also used as a name, as most do. There’s no way to specify a state, let alone a country! What, did no one ever try to use it? The only good thing about it is that you can turn it off! So much potential, so much wasted potential. Although, again, theoretically a future software update could fix it. If Viliv ever felt like giving us one!
Woe 13 ) The screen resolution is just too small. So many computer programmers have forgotten that real estate is not always a given. So many apps just don’t size well to this little bugger. For example, Word Press (which I use for this blog) likes to make things really challenging by putting the “publish” window floating around on top of other very important things. Fortunately you can minimize it. But for some reason you can’t just freaking dock it. And plenty of other apps will give you windows that pop up sized too large for your small screen. Some try to do it right, by sizing to the total desktop resolution, but they never take into account that darned taskbar.
So there. That’s enough ripping on the Viliv S5. What does it do right then?
Well, for starters, it’s highly portable. I throw the thing into my pocket all the time. And while Windows may take forever to start up, the hibernate feature works just wonderfully. It takes nary a moment to bring it back to life, and lasts quite a long time on its little battery while hibernated. You almost never bother shutting it down all the way, unless you really have to.
It also runs plenty of apps quite well, all considered. I’ve even edited images using GIMP on it just fine. Not to mention surf the web, run my blog, check my email, etc.
Garmin MobilePC has turned the Viliv S5 into a lovely replacement for my annoying old GPS.
And the Viliv S5 makes a heck of a nice music player. Now if I could just find a Winamp skin that actually worked all right on fullscreen without introducing all sorts of crap…
So there really is a lot to love about the Viliv S5.
There’s just unfortunately also a lot to hate.
But of all that there is to hate, most of it comes back to the crappy software Viliv writes. If they’d just issue a few software updates to fix these issues, you’d actually have a wonderful little UMPC in your hands instead of a bag of mixed feelings.