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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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Anonymous Coward

M912?

I've reviewed the M912 for Matt & Tracy's blog, and I prefer the Wind. It's a better package. The M912 is badly let down by the poor screen and the fact that it runs Vista which, is a bit slow on it.

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Screen Resolution

It seems from your chart of specs that the HP 2133 is the only mini notebook that has something other than a toy display. The only thing I want to see in this market is more screens with enough pixels to be useful. I have pocket-sized devices that'll do 800x480 - an actual computer needs to be able to display 1280x768 or it's completely useless. I suspect that my 2133 will last me long enough that other video chipsets and displays catch up.

The way I see it, the 2133 is a small and light laptop, whereas the rest of these devices are large PDAs. That's why I am perfectly happy paying $550 or so for the HP. It isn't fast, and I still have some interesting issues with the Linux display drivers, but I can do everything but play games on it. And that means having 6 terminals displayed and not overlapping. Plus the hardware crypto acceleration is just so neat.

I suppose it's a good thing that I've got decent close up vision.

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Paris Hilton

Is that a charger in your pocket or ..

One of the things I love about the eeepc 701 is the size of the charger. It fits in jeans pocket quite well albeit its a bit of a bulge. The coat pocket is a better place for it but there are times when one doesnt carry a coat.

I suppose if the battery life was good, the charger isnt an issue but it is something that is desirable with these laptots I feel. Any chance of amending the list with AC adaptor type? That is, if its that compact mobile phone style or that brick style?

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Size is important

A important aspect of a UMPC has to be it's size, how else does it qualify as UM? Since the EEE 701 was launched just about every announcement (with one poor exception) has been for a larger box, where are the smaller ones?

It would be so useful if that table had a column with X*Y*Z in it.

Still looking to shave about 15mm off the width :(

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Psion 7 and Netbook

Well done for giving these an honourable mention in dispatches. They were certainly not 'overgrown PDAs', and I agree completely with John White's appraisal. Laptops aren't really 'mobile' devices; they're 'portable' devices. The 7 and Netbook gave you a fully-mobile device in the sense that it was robust, light, and had enough battery life for a lengthy train or plane journey, with apps that were sufficient for the vast majority of tasks.

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Stop

Psion/Sony/Toshiba NOT the original...

... how abut the Olivetti Quaderno ... remember reading a PCW review of it when it came out and wanting one - it was a notebook PC designed down to the size of an A5 notebook (think name "quaderno" was Itallian for standard school notepad or something like that). Just done some googling and found that it came out in 1992 and was about the size of the original EEEs.

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What happened to...

The word 'laptot'. I thought this was going to be the El Reg standard term for a small cheap (notebook) computer?

I am most disappointed!

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Elonex WebBooks are Linux

The one I have has Ubuntu on it, together with a program called 'Wader' for the 3G access. It has a modified xorg.conf for the display, but is otherwise standard. According to the developers' blog at http://webbookblog.com the Linux OS is supposed to be the production version.

The display drivers are a bit sub-standard atm, but updates expected soon, so Compiz will be usable.

My EeePC is also good, except a standard issue 701 runs out of space just installing the Asus patches and updates. I'm going to have to sort out a recovery USB-stick and get rid of the shadow partition, to see if that does the job.

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@David Shepherd

I actually bought a Quaderno when it came out - back then the price differential between the Olivetti and 'real' laptops was substantial.

It was great and rubbish in equal measure. Great because it was a real XT-compatible PC in a tiny A5 form factor and as such could run most DOS apps of the day (Wordperfect and DataEase in my case). It had a voice memo recorder which could be operated from the lid-mounted controls. Also, it had a reasonable 20Mb HD AND could run off 8 AA batteries from a filling station if you were stuck.

It was rubbish for many reasons, but primarily because there wasn't an easy way to get data on and off it other than the proprietary serial cable and Laplink (although I think there was some sort of Intel or Microsoft app which allowed a serially linked PC to appear as a 115kbps drive. What fun.) The screen was a CGA-compatible device. That meant 640x480 text-only, or 320x200 graphics (shudder).

The screen hinge eventually broke and I think the screen got cracked so it got thrown out.

Anyway, I do still have an Atari Portfolio, which surely must be the granddaddy of the SCC?

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Linux

Didn't include OLTP?

They are not always commercially available, but once or twice a year they have a buy-one-give-one for $400. My niece in college loves hers.

What category do the Nokia N8xx's come under?

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for mod... I think I typed OLTP vs OLPC

Monday morning fingers.

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Coat

external battery

it was the n80fx ....

they may have sold them all now!

Mines the one with a n80fx in each pocket.

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Waiting For?

You don't really explain why the Dell is the one we've all been waiting for, in fact it sounds like it hardly even stands out.

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Pirate

Tester for education.

I got a couple of Elonex ONE t+ delivered today.

Would have been good except WiFi doesn't work on either unit, even after doing a standard software update from Elonex. The problem is all software though, and i managed to find a fix on Maplin's web site intended for their own branded version. WiFi is working now but DHCP does not retrieve IPs, so for now i'm using fixed IPs. WiFi performance is very poor causing web browsing to be slow, whereas if you connect over ethernet it is very quick.

So sticking with the ethernet connection, i quickly loaded up the video download helper add-on in the Firefox browser and was able to retrieve a video from Youtube and play it in the media player. A bit shaky but ok, actually not bad considering the machine spec.

The machine has full email and IM capability and it is likely you could hold a lot of personal information. Which could be a problem because...

...the system has no password. Ouch!

So i'll be sticking with web-mail etc., and discouraging personal use - a real shame that.

The system is aimed at children and even comes with an optional "fluffy bunny" display theme (i kid you not, all the icons feature bunnies). There is a Flash player so could run much existing (mainly primary school level) educational software. I'll be trying out a few in the next few days. I'll also be loading up some existing school work in the re-branded Abiword and Gnumeric reckoned to be Word and Excel compatible.

There are rumours about a new OS release. Still, Elonex better sort out the lack of security, otherwise they can forget about their whole education pitch. I'll be on the phone to them tomorrow to see if the problems deserve getting my money back, or whether they intend to fix the software any time soon.

That said, this machine has real potential. I had no problems with memory sticks, although there is no hot-swap it doesn't take long to reboot, so ok. The connectivity software is saying i can connect to GPRS, so tomorrow i'll have a go with a Nokia N95 and a Blackberry. If that works (and Elonex fix security, nag, nag, nag) then i can see phone shops giving these away with phone upgrades in the very near future.

Finally lets not forget its Linux and very hackable - so yes the "community" could well end fixing the software 'cos lets face it, brand new at £130, its a bargain. I love the way everything is solid-state just like a pocket calculator (and actually not much bigger).

9/10 but needs 10/10 to make it happen.

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Toshiba Libretto

This is the original notebook:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libretto_(notebook)

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Psion/Sony/Toshiba/Olivetti NOT first

The Tandy 100: 1983; 4 pounds, 24 hours on 4 AA batteries.

The Poqet PC: 1989; 1 pound, 7.3" display, 100 hours on AA batteries.

My only computer since 2001 has been a two-pound Picturebook (8.9" 1024x480 display, hooked up to a 17" when at home); I'll be moving on to a Wind or eee, and sad to lose the Trackpoint and third mouse button.

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Anonymous Coward

This is not all the players in the UMPC

Did you all forget about the Sylvania G-netbook and Mesa?

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no 3g modem

If any of these had a 3G modem, I'd buy one today.

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Anonymous Coward

nice matrix but...

IMHO if you cant put in a battery column it doesn't mean anything... what good is a drained scc... paperweight mode in Minutes, 158T(Tested) vs. 180C(Claimed) this should be with the standard powerpack not extras addons. (in the same way the price is for the standard not all the extras)

It would also be nice to see an HDMI column, I know in this case they would all be no, but it might get a manufacture to realise we want to plug it into a telly to use iPlayer..

actually I want a scc not a sclaptop, I just want a SCBox which will drive an HDMI TV for media streaming from a NAS and iPlayer and maybe Bluray? any suggestions?

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Wishlist

A 6x4 inch screen with landscape/portrait. Maybe a little bigger to hold an "action bar" for fat fingers. OLPC screen (black and white readable daylight screen). 10 hours standard battery life. one or two USB slots (with caps). Wireless and bluetooth. The battery life can go down with wireless/bt on, but it must be possible to turn them off completely and get 10+ hours.

Virtual keyboard like the n800/770. Especially like the "fat fingers" version.

Lastly (and to a large extend, most importantly), it should be rugged enough to take the knocks a book can manage and it should be weatherproof.

Ruggedness. If your hands are wet or dirty, you're not killing it when using it. You can leave it on the grass even if it is wet grass. If you accidentally kick it while there, it won't crack. If you hoof it deliberate, well, it's not a football.

Screen. Enough to be a real book and be used as a book reader. A paperback sized one may be a little unwieldy to have in a pocket, but 6x4 is a pamphlet and still acceptable. And being visible in daylight means you can USE IT as a book.

Wireless/BT because I don't think anything would manage today without them.

USB. If anything is missing, USB can supply it.

Virtual keyboard. A hinge is a weakness. It makes it thicker to little real need. If you need a full size one, USB or BT will cover it.

Probably want a proper clamshell to store it in when not in use so that you can stuff it in a backpack and not care about your keys/penknife/running shoes breaking anything. Make it strong enough to handle going through luggage checks or having other bags laden on top of it in the clamshell and you've got an investment that won't disappear because you were careless.

With that, there's not a lot of need for more than 10GB spare storage. Memory dependent on OS, but a Gig would be enough.

The ruggedness is most useful for me. These devices are for wherever they need to get used and getting them there is not going to be sinecure. So the EEE PC being built pretty much like a laptop (with the concomitant holes in it to let flavour flood in...) doesn't rate high enough to BUY it. Screen is bigger than it needs to be, so this is more an A4 book-a-like and you now KNOW you're carrying it. Battery life is close and could come closer without the size of screen they have.

Pick and mix gets you close except they ALL seem to lack the ruggedness. If you had any of them, you'd be worried they were going to get damaged if you put them in your bag. And who needs another worry?

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Re: Psion

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+.' ......etc...:-)

.

You have forgotten the *biggest* plus for me...When finished shut the lid....two minutes later....forgotten that telephone number from your contact book ? lift the lid and read, it was just like opening your diary/filofax etc.. Instant accessibility...It made the battery life even more ridiculously long as there was no hesitation in switching it off to as you *knew* it would burst into life instantly with no annoying re-start.

Would definatley buy an upgraded one now if available.....

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Paris Hilton

When's someone going to come clean...

And call them 'tummy-tops' - the bedroom PC for the porn-pipe generation.

Paris - you can catch her bedroom antics there too.

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Linux

Mobile internet on Linux netbooks

I have a Linux Asus Eee 701 that I am happy with although the screen is too small. I do check my email on the train via Vodafone's mobile broadband. The only problem is the network coverage that still isn't great. Hopefully the trend with netbooks will put some pressure on the network operators to improve. To get mobile broadband working on Linux is easy, I wrote down a few note on how I got it to work here:

http://www.devcase.com/blog/how-to-use-vodafones-mobile-broadband-on-asus-eee-linux

I hope that can be of help. My guess is that it's not much more difficult with other distros or ISPs.

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Huawei E220

I use my T-Mobile E220 with my Eee, no problem. I believe it's supported out of the box in Xandros, but I'm using eeeXubuntu so I installed the "Vodafone Mobile Connect Card Driver for Linux" (giyf) which works very well, and does all the data logging one could wish. It has repositories for the default Xandros too.

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Alpha 400 vs Maplin Minibook vs Elonex Onet+

Though clearly all based on the same design, there are some differences. The Alpha 400, for example, does its wifi through a USB dongle (supplied) and I think the same may be true of the Minibook. On the Onet+ it's built in (as an internal USB dongle, I suspect).

The Minibook has the webcam beside the screen - on the Onet+ it's (a) above it and (b) irrelevant, snce there doesn't seem to be any software that uses it.

I got my Onet+ last week - as with many others it was a what-the-hell free upgrade from a what-the-hell One+. So far I have been quite impressed. No problems at all with WiFi, pretty good build quality and a surprisingly nice keyboard. I don't know if it's bigger, or brighter, or whether just not having a black border helps, but the screen is much nicer than the Eee 701 on which I write this.

I need to do some experiments with the Huawei - the Onet+ does come with mobile broadband connection software - and then I'll start using it to test it in practice.

And to education customers it's £130. What the hell?

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Original laptot

Well before Psion and the other pretenders was the Tandy Model 100 from 1983. Battery capacity was 20 hours on four alkaline AA cells. The real keyboard and inbuilt modem made it popular with journalists.

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Happy

Pleased with my Acer

I made the plunge after pondering for quite some time and opted for the Acer Aspire One. I love it but the article correctly identified the main problems with it which are battery life (not much more than two hours) and the somewhat quirky Linux installation.

I decided against the Dell mainly due to the stupid keyboard layout. The fact that it runs Ubuntu though is very appealing.

The 901 is just too expensive. I know £280 is not a lot of money, but my One cost £199. When I show it off and can say "it was less than 200 quid" I always get the same positive reaction. Saying "less than 280 quid" just doesn't sound as impressive.

Despite what the AC said above, while I do always travel first and business class, my employer pays those fares, I paid for my One so I still care about its price.

What is interesting about this whole sector is how usable a machine can be while remaining truly portable.

My shiny MacBook Pro is on my desk 1 metre away from me but I can't be bothered to go all that way and open the lid; my One just happens to be right here. That's the beauty of laptots (what mine always gets called in our house BTW) they are so small and light that you can have them there with you almost all the time.

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