back to article Netbooks and Mini-Laptops

Since Asus launched the Eee PC 701 in October 2007, many notebook makers have hopped on the Small, Cheap Computer bandwagon, a fair few of them pushing the limits of the format's size and price in the process. The arrival of Intel's Atom N270 processor in June this year kickstarted this profusion of SCCs, and it remains the CPU …

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you kept us waiting til the end there

but it was worth it :)

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Sam

Careful now

More of this sort of thing!

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Anonymous Coward

So near, yet so far

If only you'd included the battery life figures into your table, it would have been a great article...

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Great article

I have the Eee PC 701 and 901 and they're both good.

The 901 overcomes all the short-comings of the 701 - good screen, RAM, 'disk' space and battery life - plus it has bluetooth. It's as useful as an expensive laptop but smaller and cheaper.

Thanks for the great round-up.

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Bronze badge

Thanks Tony

Great round-up and really appreciate the comparison matrix.

Any chance of adding battery specifications to that?

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re. Battery Life

I did consider including a battery life column. However, we haven't tested all the configurations listed, so there would be gaps. And while we could have listed manufacturers' claims, we all know how accurately they reflect real-world usage.

I did start compiling battery capacity ratings, but then found that not all vendors quote these, preferring the decidedly more vague battery cell count, which doesn't tell you anything beyond vendor A's six-cell battery has twice the capacity of its three-cell battery.

How does that compare to vendor B's four-cell battery? No one can say.

The web has plenty of reviews - some of them Reg Hardware's - of the many configurations listed.

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How much are Dell paying you?

You haven't even reviewed it yet, but the Dell gets 1st place? WTF!

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LPF

Hmmmm

May I'm missing something, but how can the acer with bigger hardrive and screen, and costing a lot less, yet you recommend an Asus over it???

I mean, serously, on a train your not going to be far from a power point, unless your travel standard class, and unless you spend most of your time surfing in starbucks, 2 hours is more than enought ime I've found! and thats with 10 years of doinf the traveling with laptop rubbish!

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I was all ready to jump...

I am having a hard time resisting the AA1... It calls to me from the Best Buy near my house, where, surprisingly for BB it really is a good deal. 120gb hd XP 1gb RAM version for $349. The only thing anchoring my wallet is the desire for an Atom Dual core SCC and gigabit. But then, I doubt I'd get it for $349.

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(Written by Reg staff)

@AC

The Dell didn't come first, the Eee did. It's not a 1-2-3 positioning. If it were, the Dell would be in third place.

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IT Angle

Spec sheet

Is there an error on the spec sheet?

The Advent 4211 is just a rebadged MSI wind, but according to the spec sheet has a 0.3meg webcam, compared to the Wind's 1.3meg camera. Did they really change the camera, but keep all the other hardware the same?

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(Written by Reg staff)

@LPF

The Acer doesn't have a bigger screen, and I don't think a big hard drive is a key feature in a netbook. But I do think battery life is for a lot of people.

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Anonymous Coward

@LPF

"I mean, serously, on a train your not going to be far from a power point, unless your travel standard class,"

Think about what you're saying will you? If you are buying a small CHEAP computer, it is unlikely you are flying business or first class.

Most places I want to use my eee PC 701 don't have accessible power, so yes battery life is one of the most important factors. Trust me, if I could afford to upgrade to the eee PC 901, I would. Had I known that was around the corner when I bought the 701, I'd have held off and saved up a bit more.

Sadly I have to think about whether or not I can eak the battery life out before finding the next recharge as I fly/train cattle class like most people.

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What's MIPS compatible?

MIPS is a farely widespread chipset - my wireless router runs linux on MIPS and the Sony PSP is also MIPS based.

Linux has MIPS compatibility, so you shouldn't have much problem with a distro like debian, which has full MIPS support.

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Linux

Which LCD's readable in sunlight?

If I go out on a moonless night, I can normally read the LCD when on battery power - if I stay away from street lamps. Manufacturers seem to think their is some value in dimming the backlight to increase the battery life. In the real world, there is no point having a long battery life if you cannot see what you are doing.

Next time, get vulture central to spring for a <strike>holiday in the sun</strike> business trip to properly test the SCC's.

BTW - PVR cards often contain an MIPS core for mpeg encoding. If you have a background in embedded systems, (or LOTS of determination), you can set up a cross compiler and build even the most obscure open source software for your MIPS CPU. Most of it ports easily between CPU's.

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Maplin Miniboot == Elonex OneT == Alpha 400

They're all the same (as are others available around the world) so you can fill in the blanks in the Maplin spec. Not that it matters because you wouldn't want to buy one. I got a OneT+ for my seven year old and she likes the drawing software and the fact that it's pink and the keyboard suits her fingers but the implementation of Flash won't run Cbeebies games so it doesn't score highly in her view. The wordprocessor and spreadsheet aren't too bad but the rest of the Linos UI is dreadful, the advertised games aren't there and you have to go hacking around in the console to allow it to install a printer. If I hadn't got a free upgrade from an early Elonex One order I'd have sent it back and bought an Eee 701 instead. In fact I still might.

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Anonymous Coward

AA1

One of the problems with the AA1 is that I am hearing the restore disc is faulty. I own one and I certainly have a faulty disc.

Unfortunately for me my AA1 has also just died for no reason whatsoever. I needed to reboot due to a kernel upgrade (running Fedora 9 on it) and nothing. On/off light working, fans going, nothing on the screen. I have also read a few reports of these dying as well so I hope we are not seeing X-Box 360 Mk II.

Apart from that, it is an excellent little machine.

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where did you get your info?

As far as i can tell the elonex onet and the maplin offering are identical, also the same offering is available from scan.

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No fan in the Dell???

I have an Eee 901, which I'm happy with; in particular it has a significantly larger battery (46 Wh) than most. The other day I tried out an Acer Aspire One, and it really does have a much better keyboard - but the battery is only 26 Wh. Then there's the HP with its better screen; I saw one of those going cheap: but it doesn't have an SSD option.

But now you tell me that the Dell doesn't have a fan! Now that is really interesting news. I run my Eee 901 at 800 MHz and the fan runs continuously but very slowly; it's the only moving part in anything on my desk (except the keyboard). I'm quite tempted to disconnect it and see what happens!

Thanks for the excellent table.

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Heart

Snap

El Editor came to the same conclusion as me. I have my pretty little 901 sitting here. Luvs it!

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Happy

harddrive or not

Having both the eee 701 and the advent I have to say that solid state disks are absolutely rubbish - too small and too slow.

The advent is essentially what a laptop should be and I can't really see the point of lugging a desktop replacement round when one of these can do just about everything (and if it can't I can remote desktop to the quad-core with 4gb at the office via my mobile thanks to the bluetooth)

As to the EEE it's little more than a childs toy and utterly useless for anything (the remote desktop software for linux won't for example connect to anything other than the standard 3389 port, well it might but I can't be arsed working out how when it's not as simple as putting :port after the computer name.

As to battery life a cheap external battery from Maplin (£39.99) gives a total of about 6 hours run time on the advent.

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Utterly splendid

I don't know if you were the fire to compile such a matrix, but it's certainly the first I've seen.

Hats off to you, very useful. It's otherwise very difficult to digest the range of laptots in the market.

Keep this up to date and republish it often wouldja? I'd be forever endebted

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re trains

Virgin has plugs even in cattle class - which is fortunate because their prices are so extortionate and the difference in accommodation so insignificant I refuse to pay the premium for first.

Some former GNER trains have plugs in second too - the updated 225s I think, the eurostars don't.

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SCC Table - No weights?

To me the most important thing about a portable is the weight and was surprised not to see the weights included in the table.

I also think the Nokia N810 deserves a mention - with a bluetooth keyboard it makes a surprising useful "mini laptop" and runs a flavour of Debian out of the box:

http://stuff.fotopic.net/p50604179.html

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Wot no M912?

I've got one of these on order, it would have been nice to have an opinion! I quite like the idea of a small tablet, especially as the hdd is coming out to have a Samsung SSD put in instead. Now where's that hacked OS X install and a green-screen skin....?

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then and now...

Great to see the S7/Netbook in there. I got a lot of mileage out of a secondhand S7 many years ago. Superb hardware and great software, but the lack of Ethernet support back then was eventually enough to relegate it to the back of a cupboard.

It's great that the SCCs have finally caught up with the promise of the S7 though; my Eee 1000 is exactly the portable computer I wanted all those years ago - something light and small enough to take almost anywhere, powerful enough for everyday work and with a decent enough screen and keyboard to lift it out of the 'PDA' category. It goes a lot of places where my work behemoth Dell is just too much of a faff to take.

I'll curse the location of the right Shift key forever, but otherwise the Eee is hard to fault.

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Heart

banging the table...

In the manner of footballer fans everywhere,

Bam,Bam,Bam-Bam-Bam,Bam-Bam,Bam-Bam, PSION!

Is it too much to hope for a nice souped up version? ARM11, Li-Ion battery, 16Mega-Colour screen... of course it is.

Still, it's a nice dream.

Heart, because I can dream of more than that...

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Paris Hilton

great minds...

Fantastic article. Moar of this comparisons ^_^

For me the battery life of the AA1 doesn't cut it, even with the reduced price, so it's between the 901 and the Dell at the moment. I'll wait for El Reg's review of the Linux version. :P

Paris, because she's nearly as aesthetically pleasing as the Dell. ;)

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Elonex/Maplin/Bestlink Alpha-400/NXP-something/whateer...

There's no problems installing third-party SW on it.

Start by going to http://www.littlelinuxlaptop.com/ and you'll not only find a list of all known names for this little beastie, but also loads of links to sites for it, and even one or two with downloadable SW for it.

And if you search for it on alibaba.com, you should be able to get ahold of it for about $110/each in lots of 100 or more.

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Heart

eee 701 ?

As far as I know, the 701 is still on sale, new for ~ 100 € less than the 901. While I reckon sometimes I'd like a bigger screen, everything considered, I'm quite fond of it as it is. The balance of the specs vs price is ideal (I won't go as far as calling it "disposable", but by a thin margin), and the form factor allows me lug it around alongside my office-owned, strictly-for-professional-use laptop.

This said, I'll certainly buy another eee (901 or 701, don't know yet) this year for my wife who wants to get rid of her desktop computer. She no longer uses it for work since she graduated and found a job, she only needs email and IM, and the tiny eee fits the bill in our wifi-enabled appartement. This I know from the countless times I found my batteries flat this year, and some subtle clues casually dropped in our talks (never underestimate the power of a glossy pearly white case as a factor of choice in your SO owning impulse) !

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dek

MSI/ Advent/ Akoya

I was planning on getting the Acer and was waiting in hope for the Dell. After the disappointing Dell I jumped the gun this weekend and got the Akoya from Aldi... and I am *so* glad I did! I really did not want the glossy screen of the Acer but I did want more storage than the Dell offered. Another crucial element, for me at least (and I suspect others after the novelty wears off), was support for a second screen. Going on the scant info I could find, none of the SCC's seem to support extended desktops, only mirroring of the primary display. What I really hoped for is much higher rez for the external monitor. The Akoya delivers and in addition I have it dual booting XP with Ubuntu (including compwiz-fusion, I'm not usually one for eye candy but it's too gorgeous too be ignored). Since it is a (cheaper) Wind clone I know it will triple boot (OSX), can *easily* be upgraded with the removal of just 7 screws (without voiding the warranty despite claims otherwise) and can be overclocked if extra performance needed. So IMHO the MSI/ Advent/ Akoya deserve a much closer look than just the published spec's.

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Psion not the original

I already sent this by email to the author, but the Psion Series 7 is not the original mini notebook. Sony's first VAIO Picturebook, the C1X, launched a year earlier, in 1999. It's also far more of a predecessor to these machines. The Series 7, however you slice it, was an overgrown PDA. It ran a PDA OS. The Picturebooks, exactly like modern netbooks, were just shrunken laptops. They ran x86 CPUs and Windows.

I bought a C1XD (P2/400 CPU) off eBay in 2001 or 2002 (I forget) and used it up till 2006. Amazing little machine. My partner just got an Aspire One and it reminds me entirely of my old Picturebook, they feel just the same to use.

One thing Sony got right and modern netbooks get wrong is the pointing device. Sony realized it was better to ship a good keyboard with a trackpoint than squish up the keyboard so you can include a tiny trackpad. But aside from that, they're extremely similar, right down to the webcam on the top of the bezel.

The real big difference? Price. As they came out, the successive Picturebooks all listed around $2000 - $2500. I paid UK£700 for mine, second hand off eBay.

I'm amazed it's taken Sony so long to get in on the netbook game, to be honest. They must have the case designs and everything for the final gen Picturebook model lying around. All they need to do is take that, stick a Core in it, drop the price, and release it.

The Picturebook series died out around 2004-2005 IIRC. It split into the slightly larger (10.6", IIRC) TR series and the ultra-tiny U series of UMPCs, including the hilarious 6" screen U101 and U3 (Google them, they're insane) and the keyboardless U line that's still going today. The TR series has since turned into the T series and gotten, I think, even bigger.

Some other manufacturers made similar machines around the same time, I can't remember which exactly (I think Fujitsu did a series under the name Lifebook). I'm fairly sure the Sony was the original, though.

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Linux

Wait for dual core Atoms...

then performance should be spot on.

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WHAT, NO 3G ?!

And how exactly am I supposed to check my mail with this, on the train? Oh man, I guess I must to wait until they learn customer needs.

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Anonymous Coward

Escaped to the EEE

I was in line for a Elonex One T, but as the delays and increasingly scary info on the kit used (that CPU) I made the jump from £120 to £165 for an EEE 701. Pitching the One T (and it's other brand versions) at £170 seems quiet mad given the price of much more capable rivals.

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@AC AA! Dead

Your AA1, in all probability, is not dead; the firmware has gone bad and needs reflashing. This happened to me yesterday and I had an interesting time trying to figure out what was going on and thinking of what story I could tell the shop I got it from when I brought it back dead as a doornail, but furtling a little more revealed that it is in fact quite a common problem and can be sorted out.

There is a procedure to recover the BIOS in this link:

<http://macles.blogspot.com/2008/08/acer-aspire-one-bios-recovery.html>

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Jay

Excessive much?

I appreciate the ad driven model, but seriously guys; nine pages for an article? Web pages have a scroll bar; don't be afraid of it...

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Anonymous Coward

The original is still the best

but Linux runs on MIPs, as long as the GCC can compile the source for the main you are off.

Come on you are not telling me people download binaries, in the Linux world, it is all just plucked from the ether.

But, seriously what I have found is you need a machine supporting your little army of mini laptops, acting as a build server. So, if others would catch onto this, we could see more hardware sales for beefy machines. The more memory and the faster the drives the better on a build beast.

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Happy

Here's my two pennys worth

As a happy owner of a Advent(well now the WiFi is fixed) can I make a couple of points

1. Battery Lift. While I agree battery life is a weakness on the original advent 3 cell version, do remember that battery's can be replaced and upgraded if needed unlike keyboards/screens etc

2. Upgradability. The Advent/MSI is very easy to upgrade with more memory, larger disk, better WiFi if needed which is an important point if you plan to grow with your system

Finally SSD vs Disk. I am sure SSD will have there day, but disks have been around for a long time and are very mature technology. Unless you intend to use yours while extreme skiing(and risk many of the other components of the system) I think the advantages are marginal and some day you may well wish you had that other 64GBytes

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IT Angle

@Adam Wiiliamson & Psion

The Psion S7/netBook IS the predecessor to these.

Don't knock a 'PDA OS'. After all it had a useable WP, spreadsheet, database (OK flat file but with OLE), internet connectivity, email, diary....you get the picture. They worked and rarely crashed (mine still works fine). They used CF (legacy SSD?) cards for backup and extra storage AND as a place to install to and run programs from. Batery life - 6hrs+. The Sony VAIO Picturebook C1X could not match the sum total of all these and the UMPC's here are the update to the Psion legacy. Like the Psion, these UMPCs are high portability, robust machines with long (comparatively) battery life for prolonged use away from the availablility of a desktop PC, providing the most useful subset of capabilities of a desktop. Most laptops today are too big, heavy and fragile for those purposes.

I would have a Eee 701/901 like a shot, however the basic Psion apps and a few chosen other specialist apps on a netBook fulfil all my needs - to buy a UMPC would be sheer acquisitiveness. BTW - buy a netBook Pro battery on eBay and you have a 12 - 16 hr capable netBook.

I'll still sit and wait a while

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Linux

@David Simpson - Maplin external battery question

Can you tell us about the £39.99 Maplin external battery? The only one I can find is £79.99 (L83BL) -- looks good apart from the price. Thanks.

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Anonymous Coward

@Anonymous Coward

A company called Clove supplies an extended battery for the EEE now. More info at eeeuser.com.

@David Simpson

It hasn't been GNER since last year. The 70s relics (which used to be called High Speed Trains) now run by National Express East Coast do have power sockets in pleb class. I was able to surf and IM on my EEE 701 all the way from Peterborough to Edinburgh a few months ago. In fact I chose National Express rather than one of the other operators that uses the route entirely because of the free wifi. The guard on the train was annoyed with me because he'd been trying to buy an EEE for months.

If I were buying now I'd probably wait for more reviews of the Dell. The customised Ubuntu looks nice.

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Unhappy

Gigabyte M912

Still no sign of the Gigabyte M912 then? Damn thing was supposed to be out months ago now. I know I'm a sucker holding out for it, but I love the idea of the touch screen.

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ZipIt?

What about the Zipit? It's a little monochrome device with WLAN and Linux. Probably would be a great netbook, too if it had more flash.

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Linux

3G

There must be somebody here using 3's Huawei with Linux on these. I use XP on my Thinkpad and find the 'My Three' log-in page doesnt work with Firefox, only IE. So how are you keeping track of data usage in Linux?

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Paris Hilton

HP2133

I bought an HP2133 about 3 months ago. Nice little machine. Perfectly okay for shooting off the odd email and occasional browsing of the Internet. But, it isn't a machine that you would want to spend hours working with - because the screen real estate is so demanding. I believe this comment would apply equally to any other mini PC of similar stature.

However I feel the HP2133 is well built. Brick defacation building comes to mind. And it will fit reasonably well into a large pocket. As it has WiFi built in (plus bluetooth) and a modem plus standard network port it has a lot going for it.

I upgraded my 1Gb machine which came with Vista to 2Gb and XP. Result: Big performance improvement. This isn't a machine which Vista runs happily on IMHO. XP, just fine.

Paris because....well I need something to do when I'm not tinkering with my mini laptop.

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Stop

Psion/Sony NOT the original...

I too sent an e-mail to the author. While neither the Psion/Sony would qualify as a SCC it it important to get the lineage right. The origin of these devices which today are all the rage can actually be traced back to Japan. Toshiba released the Libretto in 1996 beginning with a 486 processor. I actually owned one of the first models of these and ran Slackware Linux on it even though it came loaded with Windows 95.

The networking was added via PCMCIA cards. Running Linux/Windows it worked great. I have even heard of people upgrading these with different hardware and run wireless cards as well...

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I Ihave the HP 2133 with XP pro 2gb mem

160 gb drive and I think it is great . fantastic screen ,express card and sd mmc card capable , bluetooth , a b g wifi , vga onnection , camera with stereo microphones and did i mention the GREAT screen . The keyboard is outstanding as well .

plus it came with xp pro disk and vista business disk, if vista ever becomes desirable .

a bit pricey , but worth it in my books . I bought 2 !

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@AC Clove battery

This is very interesting. Battery life is really the numer 1 criteria for me, so I'm now teetering on the brink. I almost feel a Christmas present coming on :)

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Overview table

There's a much more complete overview table of netbooks (yes, including battery life) on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_netbooks

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