This post provides a user review and comparison of the Samsung Q1EX versus the Fujitsu P1610 UMPCs. This review focuses on the user interface and screen performance in an aircraft cockpit environment running the Anywhere Map Pro aviation GPS navigation software created and sold by Control Vision Corporation. This is not a formal review but rather my personal observations as an experienced user of the AWM Pro system on a variety of tablet PCs.
Why do this? When I read about Samsung’s release of the Q1EX, it looked to me like a great match for this software as well as sized to fit well in a small aircraft cockpit. I bought one as an “upgrade” to my existing Fujitsu P1610. To test my decision, I (temporarily) loaded AWM Pro on both units and flew with them in my Grumman Tiger to get a good side-by-side comparison. Made sense to me to share the results with you.
Samsung Q1EX tablet. 7″ WSVGA screen, 1024 x 600, LED backlit. Max 300 nits screen brightness. 2GB RAM, 60GB HDD. VIA Nano CPU. Wifi and Bluetooth. SDHC slot. Windows XP Tablet Edition. Stock with no mods (yet).
Fujitsu P1610 Lifebook convertible PC(rotating screen to tablet). 8.9″ screen, set to 1024 x 600 (native resolution is 1280 x 768 but that was too small for my eyes). Intel Core Solo CPU @ 1.2 Ghz. Wifi and Bluetooth. SDHC and PC Card slots. Windows XP Tablet Edition. Upgraded with 1GB RAM and 32GB Samsung SSD.
Flight conditions were clear, sunny day and relatively smooth air. The Grumman Tiger has great visibility which makes for a bright cockpit even when oriented away from the sun, so it’s a good test for how these devices perform. Both units were set to maximum screen brightness.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll let the photos below do most of the talking. They show the side-by-side comparison of the Fujitsu P-1610 (on the left, mounted to the yoke) and the Samsung Q1EX (on the right, holding it in my hand). The Fuji is linked by Bluetooth to the GPS, and the Samsung had AWM Pro in simulation mode. Tried my best to hold the Samsung so it shows a fair comparison of the screen displays. Normal aircraft vibration and holding the Samsung free-hand made for some variability on the screen angles to the camera and sun, but I think these photos are pretty representative for comparison. I’ll provide my summary and some additional thoughts about usability at the end of the post.
First two photos are with the cockpit shading from direct sunlight. They show the basic AWM Pro program (first photo) and then the optional Pocket Plates 3 program (geo-referenced IFR approach plates) with also-optional ULTRATAWS high-resolution terrain overlay).
Next two photos are with the units in direct sunlight. They show the basic AWM Pro program again, and then the optional MAXNAV chart service (geo-referenced VFR sectional charts) as an overlay on the AWM Pro mapping.
Screen Visibility: My overall impressions of screen visibility was that the Samsung is brighter than the Fujitsu in all conditions and had sharper detail. The latter may be due to the Samsung having a native screen resolution of 1024 x 600 while the Fujitsu has to scale its resolution down to get to 1024 x 600. While the Samsung has a physically smaller screen, I didn’t find it difficult to use at all. Both screens are reflective, but the Fujitsu seems to be much more so, as seen in the photos.
Other thoughts on Usability: It’s all about trade-offs.
Size: The Samsung is noticeably smaller in all dimensions and lighter than the Fujitsu. It will fit more easily in the tight yoke configuration of the Tiger and the shorter length will provide improved visibility to the aircraft panel and instruments. But the screen is also smaller (7″ versus 8.9″) so more scrolling will be needed depending on your zoom settings. I think the screen on the Samsung is “crisper” than the Fujitsu which makes up for the size difference.
Hardware Buttons: The Samsung has no hardware buttons except for the scroll wheel which also provides access to the basic operations menu (screen brightness, screen rotation, sound volume, etc). This is a limitation for me because I programmed the Fujitsu hardware buttons for things like switching between open program windows. In addition to AWM Pro and Pocket Plates, I run the Windows StickyPad utility to write quick notes (like ATIS) and also run ListPro from Ilium Software with my Tiger checklists. So I will have to use the Samsung taskbar to switch between applications. Another option is a free utility called Quick Buttons. This utility allows you to create a task bar of buttons that provide instant access to programs or functions like zooming or screen rotation or switching between programs. I’ve used this utility successfully in the past. So the Fujitsu has easier access in some cases with its programmable hardware buttons. But you can achieve close to the same functionality on the Samsung with on-screen options and utilities and using the scroll wheel.
Keyboard: The Samsung has no hardware keyboard. It is a pure tablet. But there are effective solutions for this. Control Vision has included a very good on-screen keyboard that is invoked whenever you need to enter text or numbers in the AWM Pro or Pocket Plates 3 programs. For other programs and for short text entry such as web browsing, I use a free utility from Ilium called InScribe that provides instant access to a customizable on-screen keyboard that works with any program where character entry is needed. For bigger text/data entry needs, Samsung sells an “Organizer” accessory for the Q1EX that provides a docking station and near full size keyboard, as well as protection for the main Q1EX unit. This will be a nice feature to store and use the Q1EX when not mounted to the yoke. The Fujitsu has a built-in keyboard (not accessible in tablet mode), so the keyboard is there in laptop mode for large text/data entry. But the extra size and weight of that hardware keyboard is there all the time with the Fujitsu. With the Samsung Organizer, detach the keyboard for mounting at the aircraft yoke, reducing size and weight on the yoke.
Modifications:I had to do a lot of software tweaking on the Fujitsu to do what should be simple things like getting the portrait orientation I needed to use it on the yoke (hardware buttons on the left). For some unexplained reason, Fujitsu only allows 2 screen display rotation options in its display driver using the hardware buttons, rather than all 4 rotation options provided by most manufacturers. I had to find and install a new display driver directly from Intel to allow 4-way screen rotation! Also had to program the Fujitsu hardware buttons for incremental screen brightness changes. The Samsung has quick access to these functions via the scroll wheel menu. On the other hand, the Fujitsu uses software utilities that in my opinion give you easier access to a wider range of options to personalize your tablet and screen preferences (if you are willing to go “under the hood” and venture into the Registry). The Samsung has more limited access (at least so far, the utilities are not as intuitive and I haven’t seen tweaks posted on message boards yet). But out of the box, the Samsung to me is easier to adjust screen and display functions for aircraft use. One hardware mod I will have on the Samsung (if I keep it) is replacing the HDD with a SSD to avoid issues at altitudes above 10,000 feet. I did that switch on the Fujitsu (32BG SSD) and it went relatively smoothly. Unfortunately the Samsung HDD uses a ZIF connector, so will have to get a different SSD. Haven’t cracked the case on the Samsung and there is no online discussion yet about doing mods, so will have to do some more research before looking at replacing the Samsung HDD.
Availability: The Fujitsu 1610 is discontinued but available as a refurb and as USED through the usual channels. The latest version of this unit, the Fujitsu P1630 is their current model and readily available, although at or above about $2,000 equipped with a HDD. Switching to a SSD will add a couple hundred dollars if you do the switch yourself. Accessories are readily available for the Fujitsu (although expensive) from many sources including Fujistu. As I write this review, the Samsung Q1EX is just spreading through the on-line retailer network. The online pricing is running about the list price of $749 (with a 60GB HDD). Accessories for the Q1EX are pretty scarce so far, with few vendor options. Even Samsung Corp has very few accessories listed for the Q1EX; I had to email them for the model number of the Organizer. The auto power supply is the same model as used for other Q1 models so should be pretty available. Q1EX-only items like the Organizer will take longer to get. Control Vision is working on their yoke mount for the Q1EX but it is also not available yet. Such are the burdens of early adopters!
Overall Summary: In my opinion, the Samsung Q1EX will be an excellent platform for GPS-based aviation navigation systems like the Control Vision Anywhere Map Pro system. I suspect you will see it offered in the future as a hardware option or at least recommended hardware from the vendors of these systems. It’s still a relatively new product so tweaks, reviews and accessories are still few and far between. But that should change as more units become available and are sold. On the other hand, the Fujitsu P1610 is a solid performer and extremely well suited to run the AWM Pro suite as currently configured. So which one am I going to keep? Good question…