Vadem Clio 1050

New model is a speed demon (December 1999 issue)


Let's spill the beans right upfront: the Clio isn't slow anymore. A radical overhaul in the engine compartment has turned the Clio from a leisurely performer into the second fastest Windows CE computer we have ever tested. Yes, the new Clio even beat the two Hitachi SH-4 machines and finished just a heartbeat behind the all-time performance benchmark record set by a Sharp Mobilon Pro pre-production model, the one with that mysterious, nowhere-else-seen 128MHz version of the MIPS 3900 processor. So anyone who's fallen in love with the Clio's gorgeous design but didn't think it was fast enough can now go ahead and place an order. You will not be disappointed.

To be honest, we only had the new Clio 1050 in our office for a couple of days, right before this issue's deadline. After a lot of begging and pleading, Vadem's Public Relations Manager Charles Var had agreed to part ways with one of the very few available units and it arrived with the message "you are officially the first member of the press-in the world-to see the Clio C-1050." Thanks, Charles! We really appreciate it, and so do our readers!
On the outside, the Clio 1050 is identical to the original Clio C-1000, down to the last detail. Which is no surprise. Some designs are perfect and cannot be improved, and the Clio is one of them. It is a work of art. You could argue that there are some aspects of the Clio that could be improved without impacting the basic design, and we would have to agree. The keyboard, for example, looks great but isn't terribly easy to type on with its marginal key pitch of just 16.6 mm. A minor redesign would yield the same 18.0 mm key pitch featured on the 95%-scale keyboards of the IBM WorkPad z50 and the Compaq Aero 8000. And then there's that dreadful travel dock/clip-on. Other than that, we can't think of a single thing that Vadem could have changed on the Clio's exterior.

Which is why they concentrated on the inside where all was not well. We had told Vadem from the start that as much as we loved the Clio, the 80MHz NEC VR4121 simply wasn't up to the task and that they'd probably get plenty of flak over the Clio's performance. Turns out we were right.

Much to Vadem's credit, they didn't just pull a Philips and drop the whole thing. No, they grabbed the bull by the horns and engineered perhaps the most radical single step performance upgrade we have ever witnessed in a handheld PC. What they did was a) replace the 80MHz VR4111 with a 168MHz version of the VR4121 chip, and b) ditch the old video processor that was never up to the task of moving pixels on a 640 x 480 screen with a much improved version. These two performance upgrades completely change the entire personality of the Clio. Whereas the original model benchmarked barely faster than first generation handhelds (and actually felt slower), the new model screams. Most benchmarks almost doubled and the crucial Graphstone benchmark more than tripled.

But that's not all. The Clio 1050 also has a much improved screen that can display 65,000 colors. The screen is visibly brighter and you can toggle back and forth between 256 and 65,000 colors through a new "Clio Settings" control panel that also lets you rotate the screen by 180 degrees. 90 and 270 degree rotation is, for some reason, available to developers only. The 180 rotation is great for making presentations; 90 and 270 will allow using the Clio in portrait mode. One thing that hasn't changed, unfortunately, is the Clio screen's tendency towards "spiking," i.e. when you place your palm on the screen while writing on it, the Clio interprets the pressure of the palm as a pen move and sends the cursor scurrying.

Other changes include a new 56k V.90 hardware modem, an Internet connection wizard, a control panel that lets you finetune every aspect of CalliGrapher, and plug-and-play capability with a number of wireless network cards. Our unit also came with 32MB of RAM instead of the 1000's 16MB, the ICA CE Remote Application Manager, JETCET Print, and a number of bSquare applications. The exact configuration and software bundling of shipping units may be different.

With the 1050, Vadem has finally given the Clio performance that is as commanding and spectacular as the unit's looks. Awesome, excellent job. And all for US$999. -

Conrad H. Blickenstorfer

Processor NEC VR4121 168MHz
OS Windows CE 2.12
Memory 32MB RAM, 24MB ROM
Display 9.4" 640 x 480 65k-color DSTN
Digitizer Pressure-sensitive panel
Storage Internal RAM or via PC Card or CF card slots
Size 11.2 x 8.8 x 0.9 inches
Weight 3.2 lbs (base unit including battery pack)
Power Li-Ion (10 hours)
Interface Serial, audio, IrDA, AC/DC
Options Carry case, desk dock
Price US$999
Contact Vadem www.vadem.com


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