Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Dialogue Flybook VM
The flyest notebook in town
- Rising and tilting screen is useful, good build quality, comfortable to use, built-in DVD burner
- Has only two USB ports, no SD card reader, can't accommodate a larger battery
The Flybook VM's lifting screen is very useful and the unit is comfortable to use overall. It has enough power for typical office applications and even Photoshop, and its screen produced rich colours. We wish it had at least one more USB port and an SD card reader. Apart from that, we think this is a great choice for anyone after a comfortable ultraportable unit.
Price$ 3,200.00 (AUD)
The Flybook VM is definitely one of the most intriguing ultraportable laptops on the market. It has a 12.1in screen that can be lifted, swung forward and tilted to bring it closer to you as you type, or to make it easier to watch videos while you're on a plane. It's a novel design that actually makes typing in cramped spaces much easier. Of course you can also leave the screen in a traditional position when you aren't on the road.
Typing on the Flybook VM while the screen was elevated was a very comfortable experience; we preferred it compared to the traditional position of the screen. All keys were still visible below the screen and there was plenty of space between the screen and the keyboard, so our hands didn't hit the screen. The screen itself is very vivid, producing rich colours and possessing wide horizontal viewing angles.
However, typing with the screen in an extended position means that it's vulnerable to rocking up and down slightly, which can become annoying if in a moving vehicle. The keyboard has slightly small keys, and the delete key is not in the top-right corner, but the keys have good travel and responsiveness. The Flybook's touchpad was responsive, although a little sticky in our tests. Meanwhile, for listening to music you can either plug in headphones at the front of the unit, or made do with the built-in stereo speakers that reside above the keyboard — they are pretty good speakers for an ultraportable.
The screen can be brought down all the way over the keyboard, so you can watch movies on a plane comfortably even if the person in front of you has their seat reclined. The vertical viewing angle isn't great in this position, and you will see a lot of backlight seepage if you don't tilt the screen upwards and keep it slightly elevated off the base of the laptop. Bringing the screen down like this is also a more comfortable way to use the laptop while you're at the office and have an external keyboard plugged in.
For an ultraportable unit with a unique hinge design and a built-in DVD burner, it's very light. It weighs only 1.75kg, yet its build quality feels very solid. Its base is very rigid, as is the screen, but we're not sure how the hinge will hold up — or indeed the screen's bezel — after repeated extending and retracting. It feels a little scary to be pulling the screen up to an extended position, as you have to pull it from the top bezel or from the sides.
It's important to note that the screen doesn't swivel; we found it tempting to move the screen left and right on some occasions, but obviously couldn't. It doesn't matter much though, as the side viewing angles are very good; even though the screen is glossy, reflections aren't a problem. However, we do wish the hinge had a pivot feature, so that we could view documents in portrait mode.
On the inside, the Flybook has a 1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600 ultra low voltage CPU, so it will be good at multitasking your typical office and e-mail applications, and it will also allow you to do some photo editing. Our test unit ran Windows XP very comfortably, but the unit also ships with Windows Vista Business. You get 2GB of DDR2 RAM, graphics are handled by the Intel 945 Express chipset, and it has an 80GB, 1.8in hard drive. This is enough space for storing stacks of photos and office files, as well as videos and music for when you want to unwind.
Most importantly, the Flybook features built-in 3.5G antennas and a SIM card reader (which is located in the battery compartment) so you can get online easily while on the move, send messages via SMS and even conduct calls through the laptop. Furthermore, you get 802.11a/b/g networking, Bluetooth and Gigabit Ethernet. The 3.5G module supports tri-band UMTS (HSDPA), and quad-band EDGE/GPRS/GSM modes.
Other features include a built-in webcam, two USB ports, a D-Sub port, an ExpressCard/54 slot, and a fingerprint reader for log-in security and data encryption. The unit feels a little warm after it has been running office applications for a few hours, so you might not want to use it on your lap.
The Flybook ships with a small 3-cell battery, which has a rating of 7800mAh (milliamp hours). In our DVD rundown test, with the screen's brightness all the way up, the laptop lasted for 1hr 35mins, which is enough for most movies. You should be able to get more out of it if you enable a sensible power management plan, too. There isn't an option for a larger battery, as the screen's hinge is designed to rest over the back of the laptop, but you might want to consider purchasing a second battery for long trips.
The adjustable screen height and extra tilting capability make the Flybook an enjoyable laptop to use, and the built-in DVD burner offers convenience when installing programs. However, it could use one more USB 2.0 port and an SD memory card reader. As it stands, to transfer photos from your digital camera you have to use the camera's USB cable.
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