Kohjinsha SH6 Ultramobile PC (UMPC) - Review

Kohjinsha SH6 Ultramobile PC (UMPC) - Review

Intel A100 processor 600MHz; 512MB RAM

The Kohjinsha SH6 is an update from the SA1 model, which made news being one of the first UMPC to go for under S$1,000 (US$657.89). Unlike its predecessor, which used an AMD Geode processor, the SH6 is based on the latest Intel Mobile chip which is found in other UMPCs like the Fujitsu LifeBook U1010. Besides the updated processor, the Kohjinsha SH6 has other small but important improvements which make this a worthwhile upgrade from the SA1 if you can live with the Vista operating system on a low-spec machine.

Design of the Kohjinsha SH6

The SH6 is a convertible tablet with a touchscreen. Though the design looks similar to the SA1, the new model certainly has a better feel as the edges have been given sexy curves. However, we are still of two minds about the design of the battery compartment which juts out from the back. It adds significantly to the footprint of the device, but in return can be used as a handle when the screen is rotated in tablet mode. Overall, the build quality is surprisingly good despite its low price.

A nice touch is the addition of a safety button on the external power switch. This prevents accidental power-ups. A dedicated wireless switch is now available to turn off the Wi-Fi radio. The large border around the screen is not wasted, as a thumbpad, scroll rocker switch and mouse click buttons are located on the flanks.

The Kohjinsha has quite a number of dedicated controls, most of them used to replicate a mouse. Next to the screen is a directional stick as well as discrete buttons for clicking and scrolling. We found the brightness controls useful, especially when we were transiting from daylight to shade. Instead of keys, the SH6 goes with a volume jog dial that can be clicked to mute the speakers. The indicator lights show charging, battery, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi status. A very welcome addition is the rotation button, which finally allows the unit to work like a real tablet when the screen is turned outward. Display rotation was disabled in the previous model and this caused some grief from Kohjinsha SA1 users.

Features of the Kohjinsha SH6

Running Windows Vista Basic on an Intel 600MHz processor and 512MB of memory is spiffy, provided all you do is open Internet browsers and email applications. Frankly, we feel that with these specifications the SH6 should have gone with Windows XP instead. The fact that the SH6 can accept up to 2GB of RAM helps matters a little, though currently one is likely to find only 1GB sticks in the market.

Unlike the previous iteration, there is now a dedicated button next to the screen to rotate the display. This greatly increases its usability in tablet mode (the SA1 fixes the screen orientation in one direction only). There is even an ambient light sensor to determine the best compromise between screen brightness and battery consumption. A Webcam sits above the screen and can be activated with a touch of a button.

At this time, LED-backlit screens tend to be found on high-end machines and offer brighter, more even lighting while reducing power consumption. Hence, we were pleasantly surprised that the Kohjinsha SH6 uses this technology on its 7-inch LCD. Even at the lowest setting, it is usable under indoor lights, while the brightest mode makes the UMPC readable outdoors. The underlying graphics engine is not fantastic for 3D rendering, though it is now based on the Intel Graphics Media Accelerator which is competent for video rendering. The screen is still a 7-inch widescreen display, but there is one important difference from the SA1. The native resolution is now 1,024 x 600 pixels. This means the LCD can now render almost all Web pages without having to scroll left and right, making the new model a lot more Internet-friendly.

The improvement which really got us excited is the keyboard. The SA1 keypad was a hit-and-miss affair… You can hit the keys, but the system may miss registering it. The SH6 keyboard has been redesigned and is a lot more reliable. Touch-typing is still not possible, but our typing speed was definitely faster on the new keypad. The mini-touchpad under the keyboard is responsive and quite useable despite its small size.

Though it’s no powerhouse, the Kohjinsha has enough connectivity options for the average user. It can connect to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Ethernet networks, while two USB 2.0 ports are available for external peripherals. A CF card slot and SD/MMC card reader are present. A single VGA output streams video signals to an external display.

Music is piped out from a pair of stereo speakers under the screen. Honestly, the output is barely serviceable for voice and not good enough for your music collection. Fortunately, audio from the earphone jack is much better. Alternatively, you can pair the UMPC with a set of Bluetooth stereo headphones as the SH6 supports the A2DP profile.

Performance And Battery Life of the Kohjinsha SH6

As mentioned, the 600MHz Intel processor and 512MB of memory are barely sufficient to run Windows Vista Basic Edition. Even after upgrading the RAM, the S$1,399 (US$920.39) Kohjinsha is best used as a surfing and email machine, with third-party applications restricted to simple productivity tools. There is a faster version, the white SH8, which holds an 800MHz Intel processor but costs over S$200 (US$131.58) more. Both versions hold a 120GB harddisk which is generous enough even for multimedia hogs.

Good news for those who surf video blogs and sites. Unlike its predecessor, the SH6 can now run YouTube and other streaming videos smoothly even at high quality. Flash games are also compatible, opening a world of free titles as long as you are connected to the Internet. Battery life is quite good, though not as lengthy as the Kohjinsha SA1. It lasted around 3 hours with Wi-Fi turned on. For word processing we expect the battery to last around an hour or so.

After-Sales Service And Support for the Kohjinsha SH6

The Kohjinsha has little to offer in terms of support, with only system drivers available for download at the Web site. There are no phone helpline or technical support email, and any hardware issues will have to be resolved by the distributor. Sadly for some, Linux drivers are not available for this new version.