- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2007

Running through the Washington Convention Center to catch up with a newsmaker, I was suddenly glad the computer I toted weighed 1.5 pounds. Yes, it is the very same computer I had pilloried two days earlier in print.

I was wrong about the FlipStart, the $1,999 Windows XP-running microsized, ultra-portable PC. At least, I was mostly wrong in my original, somewhat snarky assessment. Please indulge me as I reconsider the merits of this machine.

As I discovered during three days of commuting to and working at the 2007 edition of the Federal Office Systems Exposition, lightness is a plus. I had abandoned my car for the Metrorail; schlepping a briefcase and portable computer wasn’t my idea of a good time. Not even the only-4.5-pound HP Pavilion tx 1000 notebook/tablet PC.

While that system is quite enjoyable, the extra 3 pounds wouldn’t have been that much fun on the go.

So I decided to tough it out, slinging the carrying pouch for the computer around my neck, stuffing an external keyboard in one pocket and the power adapter in another. The wireless external mouse slipped in the FlipStart carrying case.

And I was off to the races. Each day of the FOSE event, I was responsible for attending various presentations and writing news reports, which had to quickly get back to Defense News, an industry newspaper published in Springfield.

The FlipStart unit I was testing had both Microsoft Office 2003 installed and a built-in, wireless broadband data connection.

Even in the bowels of the Washington Convention Center, or at least the lower exhibition area, the broadband service worked well.

That let me link up to e-mail and the Internet with ease. There were extra electrical outlets in the press room, so I could keep the FlipStart’s battery charged. Almost all of my time there, I was online and the computer was powered up.

Three intensive days of working on the road changed my appreciation for the FlipStart. It’s not a rugged computer, but it can take demanding use well. The battery life is good, but it’s better to have electricity handy. When functioning properly, which it did about 95 percent of the time, the zoom feature on the 5.6-inch screen is a tremendous help.

But I’m still not thrilled with the built-in FlipStart keyboard. Had I not had the ThinkOutside Stowaway keyboard, I don’t know if I’d have written one-fifth of what I did. The external Stowaway mouse was great, until I mislaid it. Both the Stowaway keyboard and mouse are options, which add about $230 to the retail price.

Despite these hassles, the FlipStart proved itself where it counts. It gave me the productivity I would find in a regular desktop or notebook PC, without the additional weight. Those who consider a computer as an extension of their hands will know how valuable such performance can be while traveling.

Call me a flip-flopper: In this case, you would be right. To paraphrase a well-known politician, I was against the FlipStart before I was for it.

True road warriors may find they need this machine as much as I did while loping through an airport or an exhibition.

Read Mark Kellner’s Tech Blog at www.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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