Asus will begin selling its first UMPC (ultramobile PC), the R2H, worldwide by the end of this month, while Samsung is readying one that eschews Intel microprocessors in favour of Via chips.

Asus's UMPC is designed with all the functions of a laptop, including a folding typing pad, as well as other devices, such as a GPS (global positioning system) so it can sit on the dashboard of a user's car to map the way home.

The R2H runs Microsoft's Windows XP Tablet Edition OS (operating system) on a 900MHz Intel Celeron M microprocessor. It measures 234x133mm, about half the size of a laptop, and weighs 870g. The OS allows touch navigation with a stylus on its 7in screen, but the models on display today at a news conference in Taipei were difficult to use. Company representatives said the display models were for testing only, the reason for the sluggish performance.

Like most UMPCs, the R2H is an internet device, connecting through 802.11b/g WLAN (wireless LAN), and supports Bluetooth. For security, Asustek added an infrared fingerprint identification system to keep users' data safe from thieves.

Although the suggested retail price of the R2H bound for the Taiwan market is TW$36,800 (about £600), it will come in different configurations users can choose from, so prices will be flexible. Asus will offer models with different-sized hard drives, ranging from 20GB to 60GB in capacity. The standard edition will come with just a two-cell battery, for about two hours of use before needing a recharge. Users will be able to select a four-cell battery as well, at an added cost.

The device is Windows Vista-compatible.

The company also launched a tablet PC, the R1F, and expects to produce a total of 3,000 units of the two devices each month, said Benson Lin, head of sales in the Asia Pacific for Asus, at a news conference in Taipei.

Samsung is readying an UMPC with a 7in screen that uses a 1.0GHz Via C7 microprocessor, but hasn't set a launch date.

The device, called the Q1B, will come with 40GB of storage space, WLAN and Bluetooth, and will weigh 3.7kg, according to Samsung's website.

The Q1B will come with a better battery than the R2H, a three-cell battery offering up to five hours of life before needing a recharge. Samsung is offering an upgrade to a six-cell battery at an additional charge.

The company is also offering additional peripherals similar to Asus's, such as an organiser bag, optical disc drive and typing pad.