Viliv N5 as a HPLX successor

This product is not sold or supported by hermocom anymore and this article may be outdated.






alt

This review is written from the point of view of a former HP 200LX power user, who has found a successor for the 200LX in the Viliv N5.

Also, since I have used a UMID mbook M1 (see my M1 review) for a few months, I will also compare some aspects of the Viliv N5 with the UMID M1.

If you have questions how I did certain things in detail, please ask
or have a look at my Viliv N5 setup guide, which describes my own optimized Viliv N5 setup in much detail.

This Viliv N5 review is much shorter than the UMID mbook M1 review, because I have written two documents now, which were combined in the UMID mbook M1 review in one document:
- This review and
- a separate configuration guide

You may also read the Viliv N5 review on pocketables.net.
1. Introduction / What is the Viliv N5?
This review is about the Viliv N5.
The Viliv N5 is a UMPC, an Ultra-Mobile Personal Computer.

For me, it's finally a really worthwhile successor for the HP 200LX Palmtop, after a relatively short excursion to the UMID mbook M1, which turned out to have a bit too many teething troubles, being the first UMPC of that size and power and form factor. The Viliv N5 has quite some advantages over the UMID M1, but also a few slight disadvantages, explained later on.

My Viliv N5 is the model with 32GB of SSD space and with a 3G modem.
There are several other configurations available:
- 32GB SSD without a 3G modem and
- 64GB SSD with a 3G modem
I think there are also variants with and without GPS. Mine is a unit with GPS.

The Viliv N5 usually comes with Windows 7 Starter preloaded.
I have heard of a low-end model which has Windows XP preloaded.

The Viliv N5 is basically a "mini netbook", i.e. it has mostly the technical specifications of a modern low-cost netbook, but is much smaller. It has approximately the phsyical size of the HP 200LX. It is little bit larger in footprint (about 15mm wider), in the other dimensions it has almost the same size as the HP 200LX, making it fit most of the old HP 200LX carrying cases nicely.

The Viliv N5 has a 1.33 GHz Intel ATOM Z520 processor and 1GB of RAM.

With a few optimization steps, it is possible to make the N5 a good substitute for a "large" PC, even at home, using some external accessories.

Unlike the UMID mbook M1 (see my review here), the Viliv N5 is equipped with standard port connectors for USB and audio, so USB peripherals and headphones can be connected without using an adapter.
2. Direct comparison between HP 200LX and Viliv N5
In the following you will find some photos with the HP 200LX and the Viliv N5 side by side.

The form factor and size of both devices is very similar.
The case feeling is not: The Viliv N5 has a rubberized surface, which makes for an excellent grip. The HP 200LX has the grooves on top instead.

The weight is somewhat similar, although the Viliv N5 is a little heavier.

The keyboards and screens are very different. If better or worse mainly depends on your requirements and what you are used to.

Different keyboards are always annoying: If you are used to type quickly on one kind of keyboard, a new kind of keyboard will slow you down significantly. But it's a learning curve. For me, learning to type on the Viliv N5 keyboard is not that easy, but it seems that it won't take a long time until I learn to type really fast on that keyboard. The N5 keyboard is much more similar to a regular laptop keyboard than the HP 200LX's keyboard is. The keyboard of the N5 is maybe comparable to the keyboard of one of the premium Psion Palmtop models (5MX etc.)

The screen of the Viliv N5 is a color backlit TFT screen with 1024x600 pixels.
The brightness is by default a bit weak, even on highest adjustable level.
However, you can "boost" the brightness with a newer version ov vilivManager or with my AutoHotKey script (Shift-Ctrl-G). With that boosting enabled, the screen is also well readable in bright surrounding, but probably not in direct sunlight. It's winter and rainy here currently, while writing this review, so I could not test that yet.
The screen is very sharp and has good contrast. However, I recommend that you do not apply a screen protector, at least not an anti-glare one, because this reduces redability of small fonts significantly.
In order to protect the screen, rather force mouse and keybaord usage and cease usage of the touchscreen as much as possible.

For me, the Viliv N5 is the first and currently the only UMPC which I feel kind of "at home" as a former HP 200LX power user.


alt

alt

alt

alt
3. Adapt your thinking!
Before reading on, please consider the following:

The Viliv N5 is a normal Intel ATOM based netbook, running a normal version of Windows 7.
That means, you can do almost anything with it which you do with your Windows desktop computer as well, and you can even do most of it the same way as you do it with your desktop PC.

For me, it took some time to realize this for myself, having struggled with the various limitations of ultramobile platforms such as the 200LX; the Zaurus etc.
And even now I sometimes forget about it and begin to think much too complicated about "how to do XY with the N5". Most of the times it's just as easy as on your PC. Look for the right software or hardware for your purpose, download / buy it, and use it.
The most difficult part of it most of the times is to find the best solution out of the many possibilities which exist for such a platform.
Sometimes it may be desireable to adapt the configuration to the UMPC's properties or to make a new program better operable by keyboard, using its own configuration features, or using third-party software such as AutoHotKey.
4. Interfaces, accessories
The Viliv N5's main door to the outside world is certainly the USB connector.
It has just one of them, but you can connect more than one device using a USB hub.

The USB port is powered with 5V / 500mA as the USB standard stipulates.
So it is no problem to use e.g. an external keyboard, an external mouse, a USB LAN adapter and a USB VGA adapter at one unpowered 4-port USB hub.

The Viliv N5 has space for one microSD card, making it possible to enhance storage capacity. I have a 16GB Sandisk microSD card in use in the N5.

The N5 also has WiFi and Bluetooth built-in, as well as a GPS module.

As accessories, delivered from UMID with the N5, there is only the AC adapter and a wrist strap with a plectrum-shaped touchscreen stylus attached to it, and of course the battery.

alt alt
5. The user interface
The hardware user interface (touchscreen, keyboard) of the N5 is very good.

The touchscreen displays a crispy, bright image of 1024x600 pixels, touchscreen responsiveness is not as excellent as on the UMID mbook M1, though, but the N5 has an additional pointing device built-in, which works similar to a trackball, but without a ball. Or take it as similar to a very small touchpad, which reacts on the movement of your fingertip.
This pointing device works astonishing well. You can quickly and accurately move the mouse pointer with it.
The mouse buttons are part of the keyboard: On the left side there are two keys for the left and the right mouse button.

alt

alt

alt


The keyboard is well sized. The keys have a little less tactile feedback than the 200LX keys, but need more vertical movement, so it is easy to distinghuish by the finger feeling if the key has been pressed or not. The keys are not as well distinguishable by finger touch from each other as the 200LX keys. This makes it a bit more difficult to learn fast multi-finger writing on the N5's keyboard.
But as soon as you have used the N5 for a few days consecutively, you will have the necxessary experience to write quite quickly on te N5 keyboard.
The keys are larger than those of the UMID mbook M1. For people who are used to laptop keyboards, this is certainly an advantage.
For people who have learned to write very quickly on the HP 200LX it may be a slight disadvantage.

The keyboard of the N5 is basically a US keyboard. The US keyboard layout driver is used. However, the layout is slightly different, especially that of keys with special characters.

alt
6. Overall quality
Unlike the UMID mbook M1, the case build quality of the Viliv N5 is excellent.
It seems to be very sturdy, also the hinge is trustworthy (some may have lost trust in the HP 200LX hinge due to the famous hinge crack, which happens more and more as time goes by).

Also unlike the UMID M1, the surface of the case is slightly rubberized, making it harder for the N5 to slip out of the hand and fall down.

Also, the keyboard, the touchscreen and the optical pointing device seem to be very sturdy and well desinged. Very appealing for a power user!

The only slight problem I found was that it's not as easy to open up the N5. There is no handle for the finger to grip the lid, and there is only little optical lead to know what's back and what's front, so in dark environment you may find yourself trying to open the N5's lid at the back where the hinges are.
7. The OS (Windows 7 Starter)
The Viliv N5 comes with Windows 7 Starter edition.
This is a good choice, although in the default configuration, Windows 7 does not work with optimal performance.

See my N5 Windows 7 setup guide to read how I modified the default setup in order to make Windows 7 much more performant and easier to use on the N5.
After applying a lot of tweaks and installing some third-party helper programs, I am very happy with the result.

Probably the N5 would be a bit snappier with an optimized Windows XP installation, but I like the advantages of Windows 7 over Windows XP, so I decided to keep Windows 7.
8. Linux?
alt

Although Jolicloud Linux is said to be compatible with the N5 (at least the N5 is listed on Jolicloud's compatibility list), it does not work out of the box.

Jolicloud says after successful installation and after first successful boot that it needs an Internet connection to continue, but there is no way to establish an Internet connection.
WiFi doesn't seem to work out of the box: When activating WiFi with Fn-S, the NetworkManager does not list any network.

I will have to investigate further here.


Another option could be Ubuntu Netbook edition 10.04, which can be made compatible with Poulsbo (Intel GMA500) graphics, which the N5 uses, by installing a dedicated driver. It should be possible to fix also the problems with WiFi and sound somehow. I have not invested much time here, but when I do, I'll write a Linux setup guide, too.

In the meantime, have a look at:

- Linux thread on UMPCPortal.com
- Linux thread on pocketables.net
9. Performance
The N5 has impressive technical specifications for its size. However, for Windows 7 they are not far from the lower limit.

Hence it is really worthwhile to take care how to strip down the entire system in order to save ressources.
Have a look at my N5 setup guide.

With an optimized system you get very good response from the system in normal operation. You should still take care not to open too many programs at once. You probalby won't use too ressource-hungry programs anyway (video editing is no task for an UMPC!).

Even without an SSD booster, such as FlashFire or Microsoft's SteadyState (which is acutally not meant as an SSD booster, but has a similar effect, if used in discard mode), SSD access is fast enough so that the system responds quickly and wakes up within 5 seconds from standby so that it is usable.
Maybe an SSD booster will raise the performance a bit, but I don't know if it is worth the risk of file system corruption. I may try that later.


Comparison of the performance to the performance of the HP 200LX Palmtop is difficult, because these devices are so different.
In some aspects the N5 is much faster than the LX, in some it isn't.
in the following I compare my double-speed 200LX with an N5 with my tweaked Windows 7 system:

For example: The 200LX is almost instantly ready when you press the "On" key (instant-on feature), whereas the N5 needs about 5 seconds to come up to be ready from standby.
If you are used to have instant-on and want to quickly write down some notes, 5 seconds can be a long time.
Overall system response is comparable on both devices. They are both not as fast as a desktop PC, but fast enough to work relativley fluently.
CPU-intensive tasks are generally much faster on the N5, e.g. sorting data, searching, navigating through larger documents, encoding/decoding of data etc.

And there is something which the N5 is also much faster in than the 200LX:
Depleting its battery.

The N5 can be used between 3 and 6 hours on one battery charge, dependent on what you do, how bright the screen is and which hardware components are switched on and used.

Technically the N5 must be compared to a notebook or netbook rather than to the 200LX, so this battery running time is quite good for such a device.
There are only very few UMPCs which have significantly more time on battery.

Also, don't compare the N5 with the OpenPandora, which runs 10h on one battery. This is not a PC platform (Intel ATOM), but a PDA platform (TI OMAP CPU), which generally needs much less power than an Intel processor. It's not that powerful on the other hand, when it comes to calculation.
10. Internet access
The N5 comes with Bluetooth and WiFi built-in.
There is also a model with a 3G (UMTS HSDPA) modem.
USB 2.0 is also available.

So there are many ways to access the Internet.

Using WiFi to connect to any available access point (WEP and WPA / WPA-2 supported of course).

Using Bluetooth to connect for example to a mobile phone which acts as a modem to the mobile phone network.

Using the 3G modem directly with a SIM card to connect to the Internet.

Using USB to connect a mobile phone, or an USB LAN adapter, or a 3G USB interface ("Surf stick").
11. Keyboard-only usage / The nice special keys of the LX keyboard
We are used to operate the Palmtop with the keyboard only, as the LX does not have a mouse or touchscreen.
The N5, running Windows 7, is not meant for keyboard-only usage.
However, there are ways to make keyboard-only usage possible and even convenient.

The most useful keys which are LX-specific are, in my opinion, the blue application keys and the Date and Time keys, which insert the current date / time into the currently open SysMgr application.

Using the AutoHotKey tool I have rebuilt those keys on the N5.
This is described in my N5 setup guide.

It is not necessary to rebuild the keys for cut, copy and paste, as these functions are available in almost all Windows applications using Ctrl-X, Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V anyway.

Other useful keyboard shortcuts in Windows, which I use frequently on the N5, are:

Alt-Tab: Switch to other open programs.
Alt-F4: Close current program
Alt: Activate menu
Ctrl-W: close window
etc.

And of course the BIOS-driven hotkeys for hardware components, e.g. switching on/of WiFi, Bluetooth, adjusting display brightness and speaker volume.
12. The HP Connectivity Pack on the Viliv N5
Basically it is possible to use the Connectivity Pack on the N5.
There are some problems, or at least it is "optimizable".
I have published a dedicated page on my website for that topic.
It describes how the Connectivity Pack can be installed on the UMID mbook M1 with Windows XP.
This is also applicable to the Viliv N5 with Windows 7, in the same way.

See here:
http://www.hermocom.com/knowledgebase/hplx/cpackm1
13. How to continue with... (HPLX Applications)
This section describes some options for you to continue your work on the N5, which you did with the 200LX by now.
I have taken over most parts of this from my UMID mbook M1 review, as there is not much difference in this regard between the two devices.


13.1. MindMap/LX
My personal recommendation:
NoteCase Pro.

NoteCase Pro is an outliner with outstanding capabilities.
As you may know, I have continued the development of MindMap/LX, after Andreas Garzotto quit LX development.
In 2005 I looked for a Linux-based outliner to replace MindMap/LX for me.
I came across NoteCase, immediately contacted the author and since then I use NoteCase (Pro) for my own purposes and I submit a lot of feature ideas, many of them I have also implemented in MindMap/LX before.
Almost weekly I discuss new features with the author, he asks me for my opinion on many changes in Notecase and so on.

BTW: NoteCase also has an import filter for MindMap/LX and NDB (HP Palmtop note taker application) files, so migration to NoteCase is very easy for these kinds of data.

And NoteCase Pro features strong file encryption. That way, your NoteCase notes are safe in case your M1 gets lost or stolen.

If you are ready to switch from Mindmapping to Outlining in general (which makes sense, especially on a small screen in my opinion, since an Outliner cam make much more efficient use of the screen area), NoteCase would probably be a good choice for you.
It's free for basic use. You'd have to buy a license if you want to use some advanced features such as task management, text formatting, edit multiple documents at once, document synchronisation, flat list view (e.g. for search result listing) etc.

(By the way: This document you are currently reading is also generated using NoteCase Pro.)

There are of course other options than NoteCase, such as ScribblePapers.
There are also Mindmapping programs for Windows XP, such as MindManager (costs money), Freemind (freeware, but Java-based and hence not optimal performance), and probably many others.

In case you want or need to continue to use MindMap/LX, you could even do so by installing Palrun 2.0 and starting MM/LX under Palrun. Maybe it makes sense to run Palrun with MM/LX inside a Dosbox virtual machine. Dosbox is a DOS PC emulator for Windows (and Linux, Mac).
13.2. Notes database (NDB)
NoteCase Pro has an import filter for NDB files, so migration of notes to NoteCase Pro is very easy.

You might think that the other database formats of the 200LX can also easily be imported into NoteCase Pro then, but this isn't the case.
You can indeed import the phone database to some extent, but this doesn't make much sense, as NoteCase Pro is probably not the right tool to maintain a phone database (although in theory it can be used for that purpose, too).

See the above "MindMap/LX" section for details about NoteCase Pro.
13.3. Lotus 1-2-3
On the N5 you can use any flavor of MS Excel, OpenOffice, Softmaker PlanMaker, Gnumeric etc.
Some of these programs have Lotus 1-2-3 import filters.

Spreadsheet data is imported nicely in most cases. this includes formatting, formulas, graphs and of course the actual data.
However, if you built complicated 1-2-3 spreadsheets with macros and menus, none of these import filters will help you. Lotus 1-2-3 macros and menus won't be imported at all.

You'll have to rebuild any macros in the target application's own macro language.

If you are looking for an MS Excel compatible solution which is completely free, take OpenOffice.
There is also Softmaker Office with its PlanMaker spreadsheet. It is said to be the most MS-compatible spreadsheet application available, and it costs much less than MS Excel.
Personally I have very good experiences with Softmaker Office.
13.4. TimeTracker/LX
Currently I have a small AutoHotKey script integrated in my global AHK script which does a very simple time tracking job, writing "Come" and "Go" times into a text file, triggered by a hotkey.

If you need more time tracking power, you could use TimeTracker/LX under Palrun (maybe under Dosbox), or any Windows-based time tracker.
I have no experiences with Windows based time tracking software, though.

There is also a PHP- and MySQL-based time tracker called Kimai, which is quite powerful.
If you have a web server and your N5 accesses the Internet (or at least that server) continuously, or if you install a web server locally on your N5, you may also use that one. It has approximately the same functionality as TimeTracker/LX, including report generation, and is convenient to use.
13.5. Post/LX, WWW/LX....
Well, WWW/LX with HV is easily replaced by a web browser of your choice and an Internet connection method of your choice (see section about Internet connection above)
No matter if IE8, Opera 10, Firefox, Safari, they all work nicely.
I prefer Opera, because it is lean, flexible and - for my feeling - the quickest of all the options.
Google Chrome is also a good choice for performance.

Attention: In case you use Google Mail - I don't know if also other Google web applications are affected - I absolutely recommend to use Google Chrome. GMail was quite slow, i.e. had "choppy" mouse movement under Opera. With Google Chrome it works very smoothly.

Regarding Email in Post/LX, well, there are quite some good Email clients for Windows. But i have not found one yet which fulfills only these two of my needs out of the box:

- Full IMAP offline synchronisation with Google Mail (to have all my Email with me all the time)
- encryption of the email data files on the M1 (so no one will be able to read my mail if the M1 is lost or stolen)


MS Outlook has been recommended to me to fulfill my needs, but honestly I don't really want to use that for Email. I use it only for calendar and contact data.

So I have installed Thunderbird Portable on the Truecrypt drive directly, so the program and its data files (incl. the files which contain all the Emails, as well as the settings files containing account passwords) reside inside the encrypted drive.
Having also the program on the encrypted drive makes sure that I cannot unmount the encrypted drive while Thunderbird is running, and it makes sure that really everything related to my email is always encrypted on my disk.
13.6. PIM
PIM = Personal Information Management
(which means: Appointment book, Contacts database, Todo list, notes)

There is no PIM functionality preinstalled on the N5. The N5 is a real PC, no PDA.
The 200LX was kind of a hybrid.

Of course there is PIM software which can be installed on the N5. E.g. Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, or leaner packages, such as KDEPIM/PI and uncountable others.
What none of those are capable to do, is to fire alarms for appointments, while the N5 is switched off (again: the N5 is not a PDA).

Since I have switched my PIM to Outlook on the PC at work and to my mobile phone (synchronized to Outlook), when I am not at work, long ago, this is not a problem for me. One of those will always fire an alarm, and I have the mobile phone with me all the time.

So, for PIM I use Outlook 2003 (same Outlook version as I use at work). In my Viliv N5 setup guide there is a section which describes my setup with synchronisation between the two Outlooks.

If you like task management à la "Getting Things Done": see my GTD setup using NoteCase Pro, making use of NoteCase's task management features, its flexible search feature generating flat lists of search results, and heavily using note tags and keyboard shortcuts.


If you have used FlexPad for your PIM on the LX:
Flexpad is said to work under Windows, too:
http://www.flexpad.net/flexpaddl.html

Also, PIM/PE should be usable under Windows, using Palrun.
13.7. HPCalc
The calculator on the HPLX is often considered superior to any available software calculator available now.

You can continue to use it on the N5 using Connectivity Pack under DOSBox or PocketDOS.

Or you'll have to find a Windows-based replacement.
Not being an expert on this field, I recommend that you begin evaluating the "Power Toy Calculator" which is delivered by Microsoft as part of the Powertoys package.

There are also Windows-based and Java-based emulations of HP financial and scientific calculators, which may be worth a look.

And don't forget about the heavy algebraic systems such as Derive, Maple or Mathematica, which should also be usable on the N5 under Windows.

The lack of a separated numeric keypad on the N5 may be a problem when you often use a calculator or often work with spreadsheets. There are numeric keypads which can be connected to the USB port, though. You may consider one of those if you often have to enter numbers.
13.8. Programming the Palmtop
If you are one of those users who need to adjust the behavior of their Palmtop by quickly writing their own little programs and tools, or if you even work on larger software projects for the Palmtop, you may want to have a decent programming environment on the N5 as well.

For small tools, AutoHotKey is a decent scripting language which lets you program small tools easily. It comes with a great onboard help file, describing all functions in detail.
It helps you in programming GUI-interactive tools, file handling tools etc. Check the website and help file!

Also, if you deal a lot with textual information, you may consider to use NoteCase Pro and its great LUA scripting capability, which opens great ways to process information.
An example for this scripting power is my NoteCase Pro productivity script package.

Of course you can install any Windows-based or even DOS-based IDE for programming in Basic, Forth, Pascal, C, C++, Delphi, C#, .NET, Java, whatever.
I have no experiences about performance of those environments, though.

If you had, like me, a setup with a Borland C compliler and a text editor for programming on the 200LX, also that should be possible without a problem on the N5. Just remember that you cannot just use your self-written PAL programs (programs using the PAL library for the HP Palmtops) on the N5 directly. You will need a Palmtop graphics emulator such as Palrun or a DOS emulation with built-in Palmtop graphics emulator (such as PocketDOS, which also comes in a Windows version).
14. LX user questions
These are questions people had for my UMID mbok M1 review. Since the M1 and the N5 are quite similar, I quote them here, too. The answers differ a bit, though.

In this section I answer some questions of HPLX users which are not or not exactly covered yet by the above review.

"HPLX Appointmentbook No really "beep beep" now it is a meeting.
But I use it as a note to myself what I am supposed to do and what I did.
Todo's is also used. "


MS Outlook has a calendar, journal and todo list.
However, there are alternatives of course, which may be much better.


"Norwegian characters. Daniel how do you solve this on you machine? Not norwegian of course. But umlaut or what's it called."

It was not that difficult, once I discovered a good general solution:
I use AutoHotKey for that. Typing 3x a ("aaa") produces ä, 3x A produces Ä, 3x s produces ß and so on. That way, you can generate every possible character using any possible hotkey or key sequence.
It is also possible to assign hotkeys with a modifier key.
The N5 has a spare modifier key which is usually unused:
This is the "RightAlt" modifier key (not AltGr! RightAlt is not present on most standard German keyboards. I don't know about other countries...). It's the Alt key on the right of the spacebar.
This RightAlt key can be used to assign hotkeys, too. But I prefer the "3x character" solution, because it's easier to thumb-type and in most cases faster than searching for the modifier key first.


"Can you address the comfort-factor of writing short programs and using the command-line? I used to do this quite often on the 200LX, and surprisingly found it very comfortable and convenient.  I had a suite of DOS unix-like commands.  Of course, if we get Linux up and running, I'll have actual commands!"

See the section about programming. I have not programmed much on the N5 yet, so I cannot comment about this that much.
Regarding the unix-like commands: You can install Cygwin on the N5, or there may be some native Windows builds of unix-like command collections. I don't know.

Linux should run quite well on the N5. Probably the best options for Linux distributions are Ubuntu Netbook Edition and Jolicloud.

This document has been created using the NoteCase Pro outliner.