by Deborah Cusa
Slightly larger than a yellow legal pad with the horsepower of a desktop machine, the Qbe Cirrus is one neat solution for mobile professionals. What immediately grabbed our attention was the unique design, which Aqcess calls a personal computing tablet. It operates either by the included touch pen (and My-T-Touch software), mouse, or keyboard. Its silver alloy case houses a vivid, 13.3-inch active matrix display and the sleek, modern shape make this one eye-catching piece of hardware.
The Qbe is a powerful machine — configured with a Pentium II processor starting at 400MHz — that is chock full of features not found on most laptop or desktop machines. A modem/Ethernet mini-PCI card, a CD-ROM drive, Smartcard (reader/writer), and magnetic reader also come as part of the package. A hot-swappable device bay, USB and Firewire ports, and two Type II PCMCIA slots (or one Type III) allow for peripheral attachments, including wireless and cellular modems.
The beauty of this 14 x 10 x 1.6-inch, 6.3 pound device is it may be used any time, anywhere. Its flexible design makes it perfect, not only for traditional business users, but factory workers, insurance agents, and doctors as well.
Cirrus users also receive the Porticle, a port replicator that contains serial, parallel, PS/2, USB, and docking ports to recreate the feel of a desktop machine. The Porticle also doubles as an easel-stand for easy viewing, as well as for working on the go.
The first problem encountered was upon startup. We could hear the fan going but the screen remained black. It was addressed in the troubleshooting section of the manual and after a few tries it worked. We also had some difficulty with the touchpen. The cursor movements were not in sync with the pen, causing some awkward motion. We wound up switching between the pen and the mouse to initiate actions.
We liked the on-screen keyboard (a program called My-T-Touch) and found it better than carrying an actual keyboard. Another handy feature is the detachable digital camera and Qshot software. There is also an optional barcode reader available for stock room use. Bundled with the Cirrus is handwriting and speech recognition software for easy transcriptions.
The Qbe Cirrus represents a refreshing alternative to laptops for mobile workers. It has the capacity of a desktop machine, but it is the built-in Smartcard reader and hand and speech recognition software that make it stand apart from the pack
MANUFACTURER: Aqcess Technologies, Inc.; 888-818-0055-; www.qbenet.com
CONFIGURATION: Pentium II processor starting at 400MHz (up to 600MHz); 128MB memory expandable to 512K; 12GB HD; internal 56K modem/Ethernet; CD-ROM drive; internal microphone; stereo speakers; Smartcard (reader/writer); magnetic reader; detachable 270K pixel color CCD camera; lithium ion battery (2 to 4 hours of life); optional docking station for accommodating extra peripherals
SOFTWARE: Windows 98 Second Edition; Voice Xpress Professional for speech recognition; PenOffice for handwriting recognition
PROS: Great design; chock full of features
CONS: A little heavy to carry around; a bit pricey