HP Compaq AirLife 100: Netbook design, smartphone technology
One of the most interesting gadgets shown at Mobile World Congress is the HP Compaq AirLife 100, which melds smartphone technology with netbook usability. Powered by a 1-Ghz Snapdragon processor, this super-portable smartbook boasts a 10.1-inch AMOLED touchscreen, an almost full-sized keyboard, and version 1.6 of the Android OS. It also has 3G, Wi-Fi, and GPS connectivity, as well as a front-facing 0.3-megapixel VGA webcam.
I got some hands-on time with the AirLife at the show and was impressed by its ease of use and responsiveness. The AirLife will be sold exclusively through Telefonica and is is expected to be available in Spring 2010 in select countries. Pricing has not been announced.
Custom Android User Interface
The AirLife 100 runs Android 1.6 (Donut) with some interface tweaks from HP. Along the bottom of the display, there's a launch strip with your most frequently used applications. You'll also find the familiar Android app drawer on the right side of the display, which gives you access to all of your apps. The AirLife 100 comes preloaded with Ebuddy instant messaging client, NDrive navigation software, and RoadSync for Outlook synchronization. You can view your Office Word docs or Excel files on the AirLife 100, but there's currently no option for editing them.
The AirLife 100 is not Google-certified, however, so users won't have access to the Android Marketplace. HP says that carrier partner Telefonica will provide a mobile store so users can download more applications.
When you have multiple sites open, the AirLife's browser opens them in tabs, so switching between Web pages requires just a tap of the finger. You can also tap-to-zoom into pages as well. The Airlife 100 supports Flash Lite so you can watch all the YouTube you could possibly desire.
Almost Full-Sized Keyboard
According to HP, the AirLife 100's keyboard is 92 percent full-sized. In my brief hands-on demo of the AirLife, I was able to comfortably type out a few sentences. The experience was certainly better than a few netbooks I've tested; my hands didn't feel cramped and I didn't make any errors. The keys were nicely spaced and had a solid clickiness to them as well. I can definitely see the AirLife being useful for taking notes in class or writing up quick blog posts on the fly. One of the reasons why the AirLife's keyboard felt roomier than other netbooks is because HP removed the entire row of F keys. Android doesn't utilize these keys so keeping them on the keyboard is unnecessary.
Built for Android
Unlike many of the netbooks and tablets that run Android, the AirLife is built for the Android operating system--not Windows, not Linux. In place of the Windows F keys, HP placed Android-specific keys on the keyboard. In the lower left corner, you'll find two buttons familiar to Android users: Menu and Google Search. There's also a shortcut key for launching the Web browser.
Super Portable and Always On
Measuring only 10.4 by 6.6 by 0.9-inches, the AirLife is extremely portable and fits easily into a handbag or backpack. It is also quite light, weighing just 2.2 pounds. I could see the AirLife 100 being particularly useful for students or frequent travelers not just because of its small size, but because it is always on. When you shut the Airlife 100, it goes to sleep; open it and you're up and running in seconds. If you only have a few minutes to spare between flights to send a few e-mails, waiting for your netbook to boot up can be incredibly frustrating.
Large, Responsive Trackpad
The AirLife 100 has a touchscreen, but you also can navigate though the device's menus using the large trackpad. In my hands-on tests, I found it to be very responsive to touch. You'll also find another Menu key as well as Home and Back buttons (also familiar to Android users).
Long Battery Life
According to HP, the Airlife 100 offers up to 12 hours of battery life in active use and 10 days of standby time. The AirLife doesn't require a fan, so it won't get hot on your lap if you're using it for a long time.
The AirLife 100 has a standard 3.5-mm stereo headphone jack, a micro-USB port, and an AC adapter charger.
The AirLife has 16 GB of solid state internal storage as well as an SD card slot. I take a lot of photos when I travel so being able to easily sideload my photos while on the go is incredibly appealing.