Datawind Ubisurfer review

Price when reviewed

We take fast computers, laptops, broadband and mobile internet access for granted these days, but it’s easy to forget that getting online is an expensive and complicated business for anyone who’s never done it before. It’s just these types of people the Datawind UbiSurfer is aimed at.

For your money you not only get a small, light netbook-style device equipped with a web browser, basic office suite software and email client, but also mobile internet access for a whole year and 50GB of online storage. Once your 12 months of access is up you can sign up for another year for just £30 inc VAT, or upgrade straight away for £80 for three years unlimited internet.

It’s worth noting this is limited to 30 hours per month – extending that to unlimited use costs £6 per month – while roaming will set you back 5p a minute in the US and Europe, and 25p per minute elsewhere.

It sounds like a fantastic deal, especially when you consider that even the cheapest netbook equipped with a 3G dongle and network contract will cost a bare minimum of £300 over the first year, and then around £120 minimum per year thereafter.

And for occasional email checkers – your Nan and Grandad perhaps – it could be all they need, especially as it’s pretty simple to use and works straight out of the box. But beware: if you’re expecting an experience to rival that of a full-blown netbook, laptop or PC you’re going to be disappointed with the Windows CE-based UbiSurfer.

We’ll start with the device’s performance. It’s powered by an ARM 9 processor and 128MB of RAM, but it doesn’t appear to be beefy enough. There’s no other way to say it – the UbiSurfer feels slow and sluggish to use. The cursor lags ever so slightly behind what you’re typing. Scrolling through web pages happens, but so slowly you can see the screen redraw itself, block by block.

Datawind Ubisurfer

Web pages do initially load up quickly, with Datawind’s proxy servers compressing bandwidth-hungry elements such as graphics to speed things along. We found the BBC website hoved into view in under 20 seconds, for example, but navigating around doesn’t feel responsive at all.

This wouldn’t be such a problem if its 7in 800 x 480 screen didn’t feel so small, but pages didn’t often fit widthways and scrolling and panning to get to offscreen elements quickly became tiresome. The UbiSurfer didn’t perform at all well with the Acid3 standards test, failing to render it anything like accurately, and it doesn’t support Flash content either.

There are elements of the physical design that are appealing: it’s compact and light (weighing a mere 700g), the soft-touch finish to the chassis means it feels nice to hold, and it boasts a surprising range of connectivity. You get two USB sockets on the right-hand edge, an SD card slot on the left, an Ethernet port and even 802.11bg Wi-Fi. Battery life isn’t too bad either, considering the tiny size of the battery. Sitting idle at the desktop, the UbiSurfer lasted just over four hours before giving up the ghost.

But again, we’re not convinced by the rest of the design. The keyboard is tiny and rattly and we found it uncomfortable to type on. And the fit and finish is suspect to say the least. During our time with the UbiSurfer, we noticed one of the plastic hinge covers had come slightly away from the main chassis, and we also spotted on the left-hand edge, next to the 3.5mm headphone socket, a small circular sticker covering the hole where a microphone socket would be. Slick it is not.

Physical specifications

Dimensions222 x 165 x 30mm (WDH)

Processor and memory

RAM capacity0.13GB
SODIMM sockets freeN/A
SODIMM sockets totalN/A

Screen and video

Screen size7.0in
Resolution screen horizontal800
Resolution screen vertical480
Resolution800 x 480
VGA (D-SUB) outputs0
HDMI outputs0
S-Video outputs0
DVI-I outputs0
DVI-D outputs0
DisplayPort outputs0


Replacement battery price inc VAT£0


Wired adapter speed100Mbits/sec
802.11a supportno
802.11b supportyes
802.11g supportyes
802.11 draft-n supportno
Integrated 3G adapterno
Bluetooth supportno

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switchno
Wireless key-combination switchno
ExpressCard34 slots0
ExpressCard54 slots0
PC Card slots0
USB ports (downstream)2
FireWire ports0
PS/2 mouse portno
9-pin serial ports0
Parallel ports0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports0
3.5mm audio jacks1
SD card readeryes
Memory Stick readerno
MMC (multimedia card) readerno
Compact Flash readerno
xD-card readerno
Pointing device typeTouchpad
Speaker locationScreen, sides
Hardware volume control?no
Integrated microphone?no
Integrated webcam?no
Camera megapixel ratingN/A
Fingerprint readerno
Smartcard readerno
Carry caseno

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use4hrs 5min

Operating system and software

Operating systemWindows Embedded CE 6.0
OS familyWindows Embedded
Recovery methodN/A
Software suppliedSoftMaker Office 2008

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