What Is Antelope Modular Computing Core
The folks at Antelope had a great idea. Cram a full-size computer into a case the size of a sardine can, then make a set of shells that you can slip the sardine can into. That way you’ll be able to use the computer as either a handheld or desktop while the computer itself remains the same. Unfortunately, the Antelope Modular Computing Core (MCC) is a great idea whose implementation needs a lot of work.
About the size of a desktop hard drive, the MCC lives in a bronze box with black, heat-dissipating fins on the back. The 5.1 x 2.9 x 0.7-inch case really does look like a sardine can, and it’s packed like one, with a 1GHz Transmeta Crusoe TM5800 processor, 256MB of RAM, a sound processor, and a graphics chipset all crammed into a 9-ounce block. By itself, the brick is powerless, but Antelope offers both a handheld and desktop shell to house and power the unit. With both options, the Antelope costs nearly $4,000.
The handheld shell is a rugged black case that’s about the size of a hardcover book, with a 6.3-inch, 1,024 x 768-pixel touchscreen. Though designed to be carried around, the mobile case has a number of ports: three USB 1.1 ports, a VGA-out, audio jacks, and a PC card slot. The unit has a battery, but it can run off of an AC adapter if you are stationary. By handheld standards, this 8.5 x 4.7 x 1.9-inch shell is enormous. You’ll never get it into your jacket pocket.
Slip the core into a docking station and you have a desktop system. The dock has all the ports and slots of the mobile shell, but it also has two PS/2 ports for the older varieties of keyboards and mice.
The Antelope works like any desktop machine, but — unlike an actual antelope — it’s a bit slow, owing to its low-speed processor. In its handheld shell, we ran into a few problems. The desktop dock’s fan keeps the unit cool, but it runs hotter than Georgia asphalt in the handheld getup. We also noticed that the battery meter stayed pegged at 100 percent no matter what the charge, so the system can shut down unexpectedly. Finally, the unit is designed to be held with the left hand and tapped with the right. Though the screen can be rotated, southpaws will have a hard time hitting the mouse buttons at the side of the display.
We like the touch screen, particularly since you don’t need a special stylus to use it. It’s a bit hard to see small text and icons at its native resolution, but you can lower it to 800 x 600 pixels for better readability. We noticed some intermittent flickering on the handheld’s screen, though this might not happen with all the units.
With the OS and preinstalled programs on the device, there is little room left for adding applications and data. Our test unit had about 4.5GB of free space — not exactly a warehouse in these days of gigantic applications. Fortunately, Antelope says it will sell all future MCCs with a 20GB hard drive.
Neither of our performance benchmarks would run on the unit. There wasn’t enough room for Sysmark to install, and the Unreal benchmark was beyond the capabilities of the MCC’s graphics system. We were able to run our battery benchmark, where the handheld survived for just over two hours before shutting down.
At a whopping $3,970, we can’t see who would prefer the Antelope MCC over either a tablet PC or a high-end PDA. In its handheld casing, the 2.3-pound MCC is lighter than a slate tablet but can’t match its performance. A tablet with all the fixings (such as the Fujitsu Stylistic ST5000D, which includes a docking station and wireless keyboard) can handily outrun the MCC — and cost a grand less. -Roger Hibbert
Best Feature: One versatile core works with handheld or desktop cases
Worst Feature: Runs incredibly hot in handheld
Antelope Modular Computing Core
Weight: 9 ounces (core only)
Size: 5.1 x 2.9 x 0.7 inches (core only)
Specs: 1GHz Transmeta Crusoe TM5800; 256MB of RAM; 10GB hard drive; integrated graphics; 1,024 x 768-pixel, 6.3-inch touch screen TFT; 802.11g PC card; Windows XP Professional
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