Review: Phoenix HyperSpace - Page 2

By Joseph Moran
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Easy and Speedy But Limited

HyperSpace presents you with an extremely simple and easy-to-use environment that imposes no learning curve. When the OS starts up it immediately launches a Web browser that looks a lot like Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 but is actually based on Mozilla Firefox 3.0. The browser loads quickly, is very responsive when switching between Web sites, and does everything a standard PC browser does these days such as tabbed browsing, bookmarks and history, and plug-in support. We had no problems accessing an Exchange e-mail server via Outlook Web Access.

Along the left edge of the HyperSpace desktop is a strip of buttons that gives you quick access to a handful of popular Net-based services: Google's Gmail, Meebo instant messaging, YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, Amazon.com, The Weather Channel, and Orbitz. Selecting any of these items automatically opens the appropriate site in a new browser tab, so it doesn't disturb what you're already doing.

HyperSpace's simplicity limits customization options, though. You can't delete any of the preconfigured buttons, nor can you substitute or add any of your own. Also, since HyperSpace's button strip is locked in place and can't be hidden, the browser window is also of fixed size and can't be maximized to utilize the entire screen.

Other controls within HyperSpace's button strip let you reboot the system into Windows (on Hybrid machines you can switch to Windows by pressing F4) and access rudimentary system functions such as networking and battery settings, speaker volume, and mouse cursor speed. Speaking of mouse performance, we found that HyperSpace made the D600's trackpad response very jittery, which frequently caused us to click on links unintentionally. Fortunately the D600 also has a pointing stick, which worked fine.

HyperSpace is a browsing-only environment that can only run Web-based applications such as Zoho, Google Docs, or Force.com. To view a document or photo, play an MP3 or DVD, or otherwise access a file on the Windows partition, you need to switch to Windows (in HyperSpace Hybrid) or reboot (in HyperSpace Dual). Phoenix plans to add some native multimedia and communication apps in future.

One thing's for certain-- HyperSpace can get a notebook up and running a lot quicker than Windows can. We found that HyperSpace consistently loaded in about 10 seconds from the boot menu, just a fraction of the time it took to get into Win XP, even from hibernation mode (and this was on a system relatively unburdened with Windows startup applications).

Shutting down HyperSpace was also quite speedy -- it took an average of 5 seconds or less, again much faster than Windows was able to wrap things up. Of course, using Windows' standby mode will get you in and out of that OS relatively quickly -- maybe as fast as HyperSpace -- but using it will drain your battery even when the notebook is sitting unused in your bag.

The Bottom Line

Although HyperSpace is extremely easy to use and can get you online and off again more efficiently than Windows, we can't recommend it due to its extremely limited hardware support and capabilities.

Also, even if it works fine for you, there's the matter of cost: Phoenix charges $39.95 for HyperSpace Dual or $59.95 for Hybrid, and those are annual license fees rather than one-time purchase prices. Though you can get a relative discount by opting for a three-year license ($99 for Dual, $149.95 for Hybrid), we still think it's far too pricey given HyperSpace's severe limitations.

While HyperSpace has the potential to be a compelling product once it's had more time in the oven (a one-time license fee wouldn't hurt either), for now notebook users are better off steering clear.

Joe Moran spent six years as an editor and analyst with Ziff-Davis Publishing and several more as a freelance product reviewer. He's also worked in technology public relations and as a corporate IT manager, and he's currently principal of Neighborhood Techs, a technology service firm in Naples, Fla. He holds several industry certifications, including Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA).

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This article was originally published on February 23, 2009
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