back to article We wanted a camera, they gave us the eye of Gemini – and an eSIM

The plucky little PDA that could is getting some upgrades. El Reg popped into Planet Computing's London office to get cosy with some of the new Gemini toys due to launch in the not-too-distant future. I spent some time earlier this month in the company of the Psion-inspired Gemini and came away impressed, but had a few …

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  2. Neil Brown
    Happy

    "The keyboard, while marginally improved, still takes getting used to."

    Nicely done :)

  3. Steve Goodey

    Hinge ok.

    I must say I've been using mine for approx. 6 weeks now and the hinge is excellent. It stays open in use and snaps shut when closing with a crisp clunk. Very impressed.

    1. silks

      Re: Hinge ok.

      Can't we take a working hinge as a given these days in modern mobile computing?

      1. James 51 Silver badge

        Re: Hinge ok.

        Given how important the hinge was to the orginal, no. It does need to be discussed.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hinge ok.

        "Can't we take a working hinge as a given these days in modern mobile computing?"

        It's not your average hinge, but a stand to prop up the keyboard into a more angled typing position when open.

    2. wovoja

      Re: Hinge ok.

      I can confirm with my Gemini from the first charge a quite good and stable hinge, the mechanics and "standing" is comparable to my Psions 5MXPro but really less weight and size. I also have the luck with a good keyboard, only the space bar has to be pressed in its midst and sometimes prints two spaces.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    there continues to be nothing quite like the Gemini.

    So the Gemini doesn't have a twin...the irony of this is not lost on me

    1. Semtex451 Silver badge
      Holmes

      It is the twin of the Psion S5. So nothing <extent> quite like the Gemini

      1. Anonymous Coward
    2. steelpillow Silver badge
      Joke

      So the Gemini doesn't have a twin...the irony of this is not lost on me

      Since any twin would be a load of Pollux, I for one am quite grateful.

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
        Coat

        Castor your puns elsewhere.

  5. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    The iPad Pro 10.5" is another European device with a eSIM.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      A device, yes, but it's not a 'phone' as the Gemini is. The cellular iPads can't make normal phone calls, even with a valid SIM (either it's embedded SIM, a programmable Apple SIM or a normal SIM). Well, okay, the cellular iPad hardware is a 'phone' - and it can make emergency calls if needs be without a SIM as all other phones can - but iOS won't let it be a phone you can use normally.

      What the iPad can do, voice-wise, is call other iOS owners using Facetime (or presumably WhatsApp et al). An iPad can also be used to make and take normal calls using an iPhone if it's on the same network. But it won't work as a phone in its own right - unless you need to make an emergency call.

  6. Dr_N Silver badge

    eSIM

    Meh.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Full retail price versus crowdfunder price

    I am still (eagerly) waiting for my Gemini to arrive, bought during the crowdfunding period. At that price, I'm sure it will be a fair price, even if, as a version 1 device, it might have a few niggles.

    However, seeing the full retail price in cold black text does seem a little on the high side. Obviously Planet Computers have to recoup their initial costs, and sell enough Geminis, and make enough profit, for their to be an improved version 2 at some point, but although crowdfunded sale numbers are obviously very encouraging, I wonder whether the full retail price might be maybe just a little bit too high to sell many?

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Full retail price versus crowdfunder price

      However, seeing the full retail price in cold black text does seem a little on the high side.

      If they get the niggles* sorted then the price is fine for anyone who needs a notebook this small. Costs are automatically higher as soon as you enter the retail market but then you suddenly have a whole lot more people trying to sell the device.

      * Apart from having to reset it if I reboot, my keyboard is fine as is the hinge but I find the sound to be unbearably hissy and tinny.

    2. rmason Silver badge

      Re: Full retail price versus crowdfunder price

      Agree with AC.

      It's 600 sheets for something with multiple "niggles".

      LOVE the concept, company seem great, but can't help thinking that *if* there is a large enough market, our friends in asia will knock out a far superior version at the same price point. For 600 i'd want a decent camera (I don't take many pictures, but that would drop to zero with a poor camera/no flash, and i'd want a keyboard with no issues.

      600 quid would get me an unbelievable choice of either phones or laptops (one of each for some users!). agreed that there's nothing quite like this available, but then this isn't quite ready to be available either, IMHO.

      1. Paul

        Re: Sounds like many sites will publish enough hints

        £600 is the starting price for off-contract/unlocked upper mid range smartphones.

        It's about half the price of the top spec iPhoneX at £1150 (which has 256GB of storage, but a microSD card in the Gemini will close that gap).

  8. silks

    Fail

    This product will fail. It will fail to achieve volume sales and will go bust in months leaving buyers with no support. PDA is so 1990's.

    1. Uffish

      Re: Fail

      Flounce all you like, I like it and am saving up. The reason is that smartphones are too fiddly and laptops are too big. I have a smallish tablet that is perfect except that it doesn't have a keyboard.

      1. James 51 Silver badge

        Re: Fail

        I do have to admit, if I could get it on contract I would be tempted but I suspect I'd be using my bluetooth earphones to make calls.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Fail

      I am past my sysadmin days. If it was still doing that it would have been an immediate buy.

      I may still buy it if I have to start dealing with field demos once again. You cannot set-up a network without something which has keyboard, screen, Ethernet and for the worst offenders - serial.

      It should be capable of recognizing a USB-C Ethernet and/or Serial dongles when running its Debian personality which is "exactly what the doctor ordered" for that use case.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Fail

        It should be capable of recognizing a USB-C Ethernet

        The "connectivity kit" comes with an USB-C dongle which includes an Ethernet port, though sadly not an HDMI connection but it looks like a standard USB-C dongle so hopefully drivers should be a bit easier to get than for the Mediatek SoC.

  9. Avatar of They
    Happy

    Christmas Pressie for me.

    Not bothered about camera, want a smooth back, not bothered about 4g as I have a phone but everything else looking good.

    Just need to save the pennies.

  10. Ian 7

    Dr Janko Mrsic-Flogel

    Is the Planet CEO Dr Janko Mrsic-Flogel the same Dr Janko Mrsic-Flogel who is CTO of the ZX Spectrum mob Retro Computers Ltd? Or, you know, a completely different Dr Janko Mrsic-Flogel?

    Powerful on a Scrabble board, he is!

    1. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: Dr Janko Mrsic-Flogel

      Same one, ISTR. However the team as a whole is a lot stronger and one gaffe is forgiveable.*

      .

      .

      .

      .

      .

      .

      .

      .

      * except when playing Scrabble, of course.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Dr Janko Mrsic-Flogel

      I just got a campaign update from the Vega+ lot saying the first batch of devices would ship in May. I’m very excited to receive mine, and no, I don’t want to buy a bridge.

      “It is with enormous pride that we can confirm shipments of the first batch of ZX Vega+s.

      Initial Shipments are scheduled between the 8th and 12th May 2018.”

      Paris - because, why not?

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Go

    Key point. Not perfect at first availability but *improving*

    No back camera

    Now a back camera

    Hinge a bit Mehh

    Getting better.

    Battery life not all that

    Battery pack available.

    Mayben not 100% at launch, but moving in the right direction. Cautious optimism.

    1. Paul

      Re: Key point. Not perfect at first availability but *improving*

      it's an indiegogo project. if you want 100% certainty of the final feature set and availability, simply wait until it's finished and in retail stores like Clove.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why

    The article doesn't say why on Earth you want a rear facing camera?

    Can anyone fill me in? A front facing camera for video calls, sure. But I'm lost as to why a rear cam was the big focus of this article.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Why

      For taking pictures of receipts and documents etc, scanning bar codes and sending photos off to a recipient on one of the messaging / video apps.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Why

        A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say. However, I can imagine a lot of buyers of this Gemini will carry it as a second device, in addition to their standard smartphone - hence the optional nature of the Gemini camera.

    2. rmason Silver badge

      Re: Why

      @Jeremy 3

      They're marketing it as a phone replacement.

      Ask the overwhelming majority of phone users if they'd consider one without a camera, and you'll have your answer.

      Reg readers often aren't your typical user, if they don't shift units, they will vanish, again.

  13. 89724905708169238590784I930567034974309673434677347864785234986359235564854499631485_this_long_baby Bronze badge

    I'm struggling to see the point of this new Gemini, all of a sudden, after a year of technolust.

    I'll stick to my (tiny-like) Sony VAIO P running Linux, VOIP until I'm convinced Gemini is worth the price - which is crazy high by the way. An all aluminium-clad GPD Mini could also run linux, a little larger, sure, but small enough at about £200 less. The VAIO Ps can still be had on ebay for around £220, mine has inbuilt HSDPA and the keyboard is great, as is the screen. Mini USB (2 ports) camera if needed can be clipped on. Extended battery gives me 12 careful hours use, 5 full pelt. The only problem is that it's getting long in the tooth and various super-fine cable slithers displace very occasionally during travel jostles, requiring a quick disassemble and jiggle and poke. Plus the graphics chip can't play youtube videos terribly well, but the damn thing is there for work, not play.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: I'm struggling to see the point of this new Gemini, all of a sudden, after a year of technolust.

      I miss crazy Sony.

  14. 89724905708169238590784I93056703497430967343467734786478523498635923556485449963148571485_THIS_LONG Bronze badge

    "Inspired" by PSION

    The PSION 5MX would run for weeks on two AA batteries, had an exellent keyboard, was genuinely useful. How is this overcomplicated gizmo inspired by that exactly? They should have kept it simple with cellphone connectivity, black and white or coliur e-ink screen (so it could run for weeks), massive capacity battery or the ability to run off the swiftly swapped and ubiquitous AAs, a simple version of Linux and they should have focused on the productivity software. And a heck of a lot thinner, smaller, added a couple of micro usb ports for useful addon modules. And made it cheap!

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      How is this overcomplicated gizmo inspired by that exactly?

      I guess by having the same designer that did the 5MX, Martin Riddiford, do the magic on the new one.

      And having the very same David Potter as honourary chairman.

      And the same agenda app.

      I'd say that they are doing OK with 5 active people.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: "Inspired" by PSION

      I never used the original, and I also don't really want to buy this in its current form, but how exactly did you intend them to create a system like the one most of us want and have it run forever. I can build you a system like this that runs for a long time on convenient batteries. With some design help, it will be nice to look at, as my hardware design knowledge is flaky. The device will do next to nothing. A bit of typing, some calendar perhaps.

      That's not what we want. We mostly want to run our applications on the Linux side, with all the requirements those have. The most important one is connectivity. Some people are fine with just WiFi, while others want the convenience of cellular, as they will be taking this with them most of the time. That takes a lot of power. From what I've seen online, the original psion devices had connectivity in physical ports that were almost certainly disconnected most of the time. Also, I assume it was a bit larger to account for the RS-232 port, but I've never seen one, so I could be wrong. We probably also want the screen to be better, as there is a lot more video and images about these days. Sometimes we do need that. The wikipedia article also states that it ran about 20 hours use on the batteries. I admit that's quite a lot, and that it probably had great performance when it was off for a while, but you could just turn it off if you don't want background tasks.

      I would like to see a keyboard that doesn't get at best indifferent reviews, as I'd be using the thing for typing. Either the typing must be great or I must have my punctuation for coding and terminal use in semi-normal positions on physical keys. Having neither makes this a no-go for me. However, I have hope for the next addition, and I don't see why this is such a letdown for the many psion-owners here.

    3. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: "Inspired" by PSION

      Because most of the market doesn't want black-and-white or E-ink or a massive capacity (and thus size) battery. Heck of a lot thinner and smaller? Really, on something that needs to be typed on AND with a larger battery AND with added micro USB ports? The intended audience wants enough screen real estate to get things done. You need at least a certain size for that. It seems you want a laptop the size of a small smartphone. At the very least you have very unrealistic expectation of the laws of physics or the size of electronic components.

      I find it impressive they've managed to cram all the functionality they have now into as small a package as they have managed.

  15. Benchops

    Any chance of some sample photos with the rear camera?

    Hi El Reg!

    What would be really useful are some sample photos taken on the rear facing camera add-on.

    I'm a backer and very excited to get my Gemini some time May or June (especially as my LG G3 is starting to pack up). I'd like to see the focus of the camera add-on to see if it's worth getting. Some 5MP camera can't even take a decent photo of a receipt because they can't focus.

    Pretty please? ;)

  16. Emyr

    Tempting, but the camera needs to be better.

    Thanks to some very speedy bandwagon jumping last year, I received my Gemini 2018-03-01. Given my jump was on 2017-02-27, it's been quite tough to suppress the schadenfreude when reading rants from people suffering the agony of a mere few months wait...

    When plans for the camera add-on were announced, I didn't properly consider how much I would notice the absence of a camera.

    The built-in "selfie" 5MP camera does a very good impression of a 2MP camera, thanks to a lens diameter about 0.5mm and a sensor worthy of a spy's stealthy camera.

    My previous phone, a bargain Wileyfox Swift 2X, had a 16MP Samsung sensor which produced reasonably good photos. Prior to that I had a ZTE Blade S6 with a 13MP Sony Exmor IMX214 sensor, which replaced a Moto X 2014 (sadly drowned after only 9 months) having a 13MP Sony IMX135 sensor which received middling reviews for its photo quality.

    The add-on camera's 5MP camera falls well short of those fitted to other "enthusiast" Android phones.

    Even the Raspberry Pi Camera Module v2, released April 2016, has an 8MP Sony IMX219 sensor and only costs £26.

    £40 is too much for a 5MP camera module.

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