back to article Heads up, Chromebook: Here come the sub-$200 Windows 8.1 portables

Microsoft has been promising dirt-cheap Windows 8.1 devices for months now, and as the IFA 2014 consumer electronics conference kicks off in Berlin this week, the first round of penny-pinching Windows kit has finally started to arrive. Acer, Asus, and Toshiba have each announced sub-$200 Windows tablets or laptops at the show …

  1. Number6

    So how many of these have secure boot locked down so they're useless? I finally managed to get Linux to boot on a bigger Asus laptop, but that wasn't locked down. I know the Surface tablets were locked, it will be interesting to know if the netbooks are too.

    How do they compare performance-wise with the original Eee PC and Aspire One machines?

    1. Christian Berger Silver badge

      In an ideal world, we'd have laws against "secure" boot, since it effectively shortens the lifespan of a device artificially, creating incredible amounts of waste. After all the whole point about it is to prevent the second part of it's lifetime when people buy those devices used and install a different operating system on them. So instead of just installing a modern Linux on your laptop instead of the unsupported 5 year old Version of Windows, your only option is to stop using it at all.

      1. Nigel 11

        There's the VM option (install VMWare Player, install Linux into a VM, treat Windows as the world's slowest bootloader). That depends on whether the CPU supports VMWare (do Intel still make any that don't?) and whether it has enough RAM.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      My wife still has the sub £180 Asus with Win7 installed I bought her. The screen is an abomination and I have suggested a tablet might not be such a bad idea.

      There is no changing her mind, but I'm buggered that I will buy something like this again with such poor screen resolution.

      For £50-100 more you can get quite a decent 'proper' laptop that is not restricted, strangled and has a squinty screen.

      So why the hell bother with them?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        So why the hell bother with them?

        Because some people are content with their abusive relationship with Microsoft, oblivious that they're able to do much much better and have been convinced that they'll be unable to survive without them.

      2. Queasy Rider

        Bought an Acer 9' Aspire One with XP years ago. Liked it so much I hooked it up to a 22' monitor to be my main computer. (Still was till last month.) Then I caught an Asus netbook on sale so cheap that I grabbed it to carry around. That piece of crap was so slow that when I accidentally stepped on in and destroyed the screen, my first thought wasn't " Oh my, I just destroyed almost $200. worth of kit," but "I should have done that sooner." I honestly don't know what the difference was between the two machines, but they were day and night in performance. I suspect we'll discover the same with this newest crop (and probably some crap.)

        P.S. After I gave the Asus to a buddy who hooked it up to a large screen to run his electronic map program on his boat, I went out and bought a 17" Toshiba laptop so I could actually read my screen without a squint inducing headache. It was a Vista but I learned to live with it because the price was right. Life is a compromise, sigh.

    3. dogged

      > So how many of these have secure boot locked down so they're useless?

      Since none of them run Windows RT, the exact number with "secure boot locked down" is "none". It will be enabled but all have the official badges on and thus must have the facility to disable Secure Boot in BIOS.

      Don't you think all this secure boot FUD has gone far enough now? Seriously?

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Secure boot doesn't make them useless. It makes them useless to the 1% of people who want to buy them as cheap kit and rip a different OS on.

        1. Anonymous Bullard

          It makes them useless to the 1% of people who want to buy them as cheap kit and rip a different OS on

          Some folks like to actually own the equipment they buy.

          There are also many who aren't happy with the limitations of Windows (both artificial and technical).

          1. sabroni Silver badge

            re: There are also many who aren't happy with the limitations of Windows

            If you're not happy with the limitations of Windows don't buy a Windows tablet.

            1. Khaptain Silver badge

              Re: re: There are also many who aren't happy with the limitations of Windows

              @Sabroni

              AFAIK there is no such thing as a windows portable. Windows is an operating system not a piece of hardware.

              Unless of course you mean a Microsoft Monopoly Sponsored portable.

              1. LDS Silver badge

                Re: re: There are also many who aren't happy with the limitations of Windows

                Excuse me, how many people run a different OS on an iPad?

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: re: There are also many who aren't happy with the limitations of Windows

                  "how many people run a different OS on an iPad?"

                  We're talking about buying cheap hardware to re-use for different purposes, here.

                  1. LDS Silver badge

                    Re: re: There are also many who aren't happy with the limitations of Windows

                    So the problem is not SecureBoot itself, it's jus MS and greed/cheap people? Why someone should not be able to run a different OS on an iPad/iPhone if (s)he wants so? Are we speaking of freedom, or just greed? Should Toshiba, Asus and others not be allowed what Apple is allowed to do? And why?

                  2. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: re: There are also many who aren't happy with the limitations of Windows

                    "We're talking about buying cheap hardware to re-use for different purposes, here."

                    So, you're saying that if the vendor tripled the price into Apple territory, it would be fine to lock it down for a particular OS as Apple does? But because it's cheap, it's morally wrong to impose such a restriction on it!?

                    That is a rather bizarre point of view.

                    It seems to me the real reason people object is that they still regard Microsoft as a monopoly, which with the variety of computing devices available these days, it isn't. I'd argue Apple and Google are equally as bad now, but old heads have not quite caught up to this way of thinking yet.

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: re: There are also many who aren't happy with the limitations of Windows

                      So, you're saying that if the vendor tripled the price into Apple territory

                      At Apple prices, I wouldn't buy it just to hack/break it. (In fact, I wouldn't buy anything that over priced)

                      By the way, the Microsoft monopoly no longer exists. MS just want you to think that.

                  3. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
                    Pint

                    Re: re: There are also many who aren't happy with the limitations of Windows

                    AC: " '...iPad?' We're talking about buying cheap hardware..."

                    The 'Apple tax' on the $280Cdn iPad Mini (non-retina) versus the $280Cdn Google Nexus 7 is approximately ZERO. One may argue about differences between the two, but the 'Apple tax' is rapidly trending towards zero.

                    (In case it matters: No, not a fanboy. We have several of each ecosystem, because that's the best option.)

                    1. Steve Knox

                      Re: re: There are also many who aren't happy with the limitations of Windows

                      AC: " '...iPad?' We're talking about buying cheap hardware..."

                      The 'Apple tax' on the $280Cdn iPad Mini (non-retina) versus the $280Cdn Google Nexus 7 is approximately ZERO.

                      Now you're just comparing Apples to Apples, which would be fine if Apples were the subject of discussion. But we're discussing Lemons here.

                      To paraphrase that into the literal, Google Nexus is a prime brand in the Android ecosystem, as Samsung is, as Microsoft is in the Windows tablet ecosystem, and as Apple is in the iThing ecosystem.

                      But we're talking about Acers and the like here, devices which have much the same features, but usually lower-power CPUs/GPUs, maybe a little less RAM, etc. For 7" tablets, these generally retail in the $100-$175 range, far lower than the prime brands.

                      These entry-level Windows netbooks fall into that category as well, as they are below average spec for the Windows portable ecosystem in all respects.

                      The Chromebooks they compete with actually don't fall into that category, though, because they are the average spec for their ecosystem.

                    2. J 3

                      Re: re: There are also many who aren't happy with the limitations of Windows

                      Well, the non-Retina iPad mini is much inferior hardware compared to the Nexus 7 (2013 and up), at least in my book. Starting with the screen, but much else too. So it would not be surprising if the prices were similar, obviously. But when both of them were new... The mini was grossly overpriced -- or the Nexus 7 2 grossly subsidized, if you wish...

                2. Philippe

                  Re: re: There are also many who aren't happy with the limitations of Windows

                  About just as many running a different OS on their Android tablet.

              2. GitMeMyShootinIrons

                Re: re: There are also many who aren't happy with the limitations of Windows

                "Unless of course you mean a Microsoft Monopoly Sponsored portable."

                Would that be as opposed to Google Monopoly Sponsored portables? Compare the number of Android tablets and phones to Windows and I think you'll see my point.

                The days of MS being a full-on monopoly are largely over (and a good, healthy thing too - though now we have Google going down a similar road), however, bleating on about the bad old days does rather sound like a pensioner still refusing to buy German because of the war.

            2. Dan 55 Silver badge

              Re: re: There are also many who aren't happy with the limitations of Windows

              If you're not happy with the limitations of Windows don't buy a Windows tablet.

              Who said tablet? It's a sub-$200 portable.

              When MS yanked support for XP and forgot to offer paid-for support for the vast majority of users, the suggest upgrade path was 'Install Windows 8', however the average XP computer would grind to a halt with Windows 8.

              Happily, without secure boot, people have the option of installing another OS and avoiding contributing to landfill.

              Now unfortunately it might be accepted that tablets are locked-down but the same principle should apply. People with early tablets have the useful lifespan cut short as manufacturers lose interest in supporting them.

            3. Mikel

              Re: re: There are also many who aren't happy with the limitations of Windows

              >If you're not happy with the limitations of Windows don't buy a Windows tablet.

              It is not a Windows tablet. They are Acer / Asus / etc personal computers. How we choose to use them is up to us, including putting our own software on.

          2. SundogUK

            Buy something else then.

            1. Anonymous Bullard

              "Buy something else then."

              Excellent advice, @SundogUK.

          3. JDX Gold badge

            @Anonymous Bullard

            Just because you're in the 1% I already mentioned doesn't mean everyone else is. The fact some people have the requirements you do is why I said 1%, not "nobody".

            Angry computer nerds are a very small slice of the market, especially the £200 market.

            1. Anonymous Bullard
              Facepalm

              Re: @Anonymous Bullard

              Angry computer nerds

              Yes, it does fuck me off when I buy physical things... only to find out I'm "not allowed" to use it how I'd like.

              And sub-200 is the ideal market for angry nerds, who buy things to test/break/tinker. We want cheap and hackable. Haven't you heard of the Raspberry Pi?

          4. Ian 7

            Ownership isn't that simplistic. The price you pay for your machine hardware includes (historically) the price of the OS, or (now) the subsidy the OS vendor pays the hardware manufacturer to put their OS on the hardware so that you, the customer, will use their services and they can get revenue from that different stream. Any company paying a subsidy is of course going to want to protect their alternative revenue stream, and to my mind are entitled to do so within reasonable boundaries. If you don't like the way they protect that revenue, then don't buy the hardware they subsidize.

            1. Anonymous Bullard

              So you'd be happy buying a cheap car from tesco, only to find out that you can only fill up at tesco garages?

              If I buy something, I want to own it and use it as I wish - regardless of their business model.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              "....or (now) the subsidy the OS vendor pays the hardware manufacturer to put their OS on the hardware..."

              totally agree!

              you'd think that this is something for everyone to cheer about, right? as in, you now get a discount for using something you previously had to pay for. and you *still* have the option of replacing it if you didn't want it, *without* losing that discount. but Noooo.. that's still not good enough for some people.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Hmm, when Google give out a free OS on cheap hardware, you all cried about it. And look at Kindles, ffs; at-cost hardware, but the e-books cost more than dead tree books!

                Enter Microsoft.. doing the same: "Wow, it's amazing! Sign me up!! Why didn't they think of this before?? Take my data up your arse!"

                I'm tired of this "forum". Never any discussions on technical merit, just fanboys, shills, and students.

                Call me old, because I'm not from the "google generation", but I'm quite happy paying for a full OS, even upgrades/maintenance - and get to keep/abuse/recycle my hardware. I remember when Windows was ok, until they started copying the bad parts of both apple and google - and for whatever reason, the MS fans actually love it.

                Well, you can shove your freemium, ad driven, in-app purchases up your well fucked arses.

                And who the fuck is that on my lawn?? Oh, my meds have arrived.

        2. h4rm0ny

          >>"Secure boot doesn't make them useless. It makes them useless to the 1% of people who want to buy them as cheap kit and rip a different OS on."

          Actually you've already fallen for the FUD. The "Secure Boot" attacks are one of the most dishonest attacks that has ever lasted so long. You can turn it off on any x86 device. In fact, Microsoft requirements actually mandate that you be able to. Here are the requirements: MS Hardware Certification Requirements.. Here is the most relevant sections:

          18. Mandatory. Enable/Disable Secure Boot. On non-ARM systems, it is required to implement the ability to disable Secure Boot via firmware setup. A physically present user must be allowed to disable Secure Boot via firmware setup without possession of PKpriv. :

          There are other paragraphs that make it further clear. This has been disproven over and over again. But some people prefer a delicious sounding attack to the truth. Secure Boot isn't even a Microsoft technology - it's part of UEFI - a consortium made up of all the major hardware manufacturers such as Samsung, HP, et al. MS has one seat on the board but to some that of course means they're the power behind Samsung and AMD and Intel. *roll eyes*

          It's a useful security feature that I look forward to GNU/Linux taking advantage of. And it's about as difficult to turn off as it is to change the boot disk. Only RT devices have it fixed, just the same as iPads and phones are locked down. None of these are RT devices.

          If you want a device that is actually locked down for no good reason, look at Google's Pixel. You can run ChromeOS or Ubuntu on it. Any attempt to install anything else you can only achieve by manually putting it into "Developer Mode" every time you turn it on.

          Now watch the downvotes come in, not because anything I've written is factually incorrect (it isn't), but because it takes away some hater's favourite toy to attack Microsoft with. What's worse is that I recognize some of the same posters repeating this everytime Windows 8 comes up despite proof they're wrong. Apparently if you hate something enough, it's okay to make up lies to persuade others to hate it to. Because you know, they're the bad guy.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Pipe down. We all know what the intention of requiring secured boot is. No, it's not to reduce the risk of root kits.

            The good side effect of it is there's a barrier to entry for Linux users. That means less idiots - which is a good thing!

            1. h4rm0ny
              Facepalm

              >>"Pipe down. We all know what the intention of requiring secured boot is. No, it's not to reduce the risk of root kits."

              So you say the purpose of Secure Boot is not to secure against malware, despite the fact that there is existing malware that it secures against. And you insist that the purpose is to lock people out despite the fact that it doesn't.

              Could you come up with anything more wrong-headed than this? Yes, apparently you can -

              >>The good side effect of it is there's a barrier to entry for Linux users. That means less idiots - which is a good thing!

              You would actually wish to discourage people from GNU/Linux to prop up your sense of elitism! That's disgusting. Fortunately for those less obnoxious, I can't imagine any would-be user being stopped. If your sense of elitism is calibrated so low that you think entering the BIOS makes you part of a superior group, there are some people around here who would blow your mind.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Root-kits are the "official" reason. MS (assuming they know about security) knew very well secure boot would be by-passed via malware. It's just an extra layer of false security - but anyway, I'm not that bothered about it... it hasn't affected me yet, since I still use Windows.

                You would actually wish to discourage people from GNU/Linux to prop up your sense of elitism!

                Why burden the limited support communities with people who are unable to make (or google) a simple "BIOS" change? That's my point, keyboard warrior.

                1. h4rm0ny

                  >>"MS (assuming they know about security) knew very well secure boot would be by-passed via malware. It's just an extra layer of false security - but anyway,"

                  Demonstrably false as there is real world malware that infects the boot process and that Secure Boot blocks. You can cover your ears all you want but it remains a fact.

                  >>"Why burden the limited support communities with people who are unable to make (or google) a simple "BIOS" change? That's my point, keyboard warrior."

                  Yay, insults. You're still supposing that there are people who want to try GNU/Linux but would be defeated by their inability to enter the BIOS (or UEFI). It didn't stop us in the days where you had to select a boot device and I don't believe it stops us now. But to answer your question, if someone did have trouble with that I would be very happy to help them. All of us start somewhere. Your snobbery should have no place in the Open Source community.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    I'm not interested in the alleged merits of secure boot. Feel free to love it. Yes, it's an extra layer and it stops most boot sector type viruses we got in the 90's, but if you keep an eye on IT security developments then you'll have noticed that there are several ways that secure boot can be defeated. Google it. But as I've said, I don't have an issue with secure boot, it hasn't affected me yet. I have it enabled, never needed to disable it. There's even instructions on MSDN on how to.

                    Your snobbery should have no place in the Open Source community.

                    Good job I use Windows, then.

                    But I know plenty of people who'd be defeated by the UEFI configuration. Those same people would also swamp the limited support options the Linux community. So yes, this "gate keeper" is actually a good thing, for the Linux support community

                    Further dumb down: "Are you able to perform a config change to your PC, or google how to?" if not, then Linux probably isn't for you.

                    1. h4rm0ny

                      >>"I'm not interested in the alleged merits of secure boot."

                      For someone "not interested" you've been posting a lot on the subject. So basically, you're "not interested" in what good it does. You only want to support your a priori position that it's bad.

                      >>"Yes, it's an extra layer and it stops most boot sector type viruses we got in the 90's"

                      Every post from you, the amount of information in the world decreases. In 2013, it was reported MBR attacks (master boot record) reached the highest ever. source. TDL version 4 infected 4.5 million PCs in 2011 and McAffee called it one of the most sophisticated attacks there was at the time. "got in the 90's" indeed.

                      So you're now admitting it provides extra security but refusing to backtrack on your claim that it's purpose isn't security. Silly.

                      >>"that there are several ways that secure boot can be defeated."

                      Very hard to do though. There are some UEFI implementations that are vulnerable if you get kernel mode priveleges. There's a userland exploit too, but it's not known what it is or which vendors are affected. They're presumably patching now. If you believe that because a security measure isn't 100% perfect by itself gives you reason to say it's purpose isn't security, then clearly nothing counts as security to you. Secure Boot makes an OS much more secure than the same OS without it.

                      >>"Good job I use Windows, then."

                      Don't really care what you say you use - it makes your arguments no less factually false either way. And your attitude of wanting people excluded from a community is reprehensible regardless of whether you're in it or not. Though the fact that you're now arguing that you would prefer the idiots to remain in "your" community suggests you maybe haven't planned this through and are just reacting to whatever I say with a counter-claim, no matter how inconsistent it is with your argument.

                      1. Anonymous Coward
                        Anonymous Coward

                        i'm not affected or insulted by the secure boot, i'm just picking up on the mbr part.

                        how is untrusted code entering the mbr in the first place, in a modern OS?

                        also, do you have a more reputable source (with numbers) than mcafee? (who are obviously scare mongering)

                      2. Anonymous Coward
                        Anonymous Coward

                        For someone "not interested" you've been posting a lot on the subject.

                        No, I couldn't give a toss if they want to enforce secure boot or not. I'm just saying, if anything it's actually benefited the Linux support community.

                        It's a throw-away comment by an AC, and you've just made a tit of yourself trying to bicker with someone who partly agrees with you.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > Don't you think all this secure boot FUD has gone far enough now?

        I thought it was FUD, until I wandered off the beaten track and found it difficult to install another OS.

        Just because the problem wont affect you, doesn't mean it's non-existent.

        1. h4rm0ny

          >>"I thought it was FUD, until I wandered off the beaten track and found it difficult to install another OS."

          Bullshit. You're saying this was too complicated for you?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            boo hoo

            poor ms fan boys don't like hearing fud about their beloved os.

            hahaha.

            1. h4rm0ny

              Re: boo hoo

              >>"poor ms fan boys don't like hearing fud about their beloved os."

              Some of us don't like FUD just on general principles. When you have to start making things up in order to justify hate or whip up a mob, it means you're wrong.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: boo hoo

                while the rest just have double standards.

                you always seem to chime in when anyone dares to state their dislike of enforced secure boot, i wonder why. people are allowed to dislike even the things that you love. don't take it so personally.

                1. h4rm0ny

                  Re: boo hoo

                  >>"you always seem to chime in when anyone dares to state their dislike of enforced secure boot, i wonder why."

                  Because they post factually incorrect information which is easily disproved and it isn't "enforced"?

                  >>"people are allowed to dislike even the things that you love. don't take it so personally"

                  People can dislike whatever they want. But I'd prefer they didn't post lies because they want other people to hate the same things they hate. I think that's reasonable, don't you?

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: boo hoo

                    the self-appointed troll slayer.

                    get a proper job.

  2. Tom 35 Silver badge

    with Bing

    "It runs Windows 8.1 with Bing, which means Bing comes preconfigured as the default search engine in Internet Explorer but not much else"

    So how is that different than normal 8.1? It must be crippled in some other way as well.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Coat

      Re: with Bing

      It must be crippled in some other way as well.

      Yes, it comes with Windows.

    2. Chairo

      Re: with Bing

      ... It must be crippled in some other way as well.

      As written in the article. The screen size is limited. That said, I wonder if there are other limitations, similar to the castrated XP they shipped with the netbooks. Those were limited to 1024x600 resolutions and 1GB memory. Also the Netbooks were all 32bit, though I am not sure if that particular limit was mainly imposed by Microsoft or by Intel.

      The netbook portable described in the article has 1024-by-600 resolution and ships with 1GB RAM. Happy swapping time! Don't damage your eyes!

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: with Bing

        How do you know 8.1 won't run OK with 1Gb RAM? It's more optimised than 7, which was more optimised than Vista, which was a total hog compared to XP :) So does that mean 8.1 is now somewhat comparable to XP in resource use, or what? Because XP would sure run on 1Gb.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: with Bing

          > How do you know 8.1 won't run OK with 1Gb RAM?

          Um, because we've tried it? This site is read by engineers (a minority commenters, it appears).

          Sure, it boots up - but then what? It will have to swap half the OS to disk in order to run anything more bloated than notepad.

          1. JDX Gold badge

            Re: with Bing

            Most Reg commentards are more than happy to complain about OS and hardware they've never used, whether it be Windows Phone, iPhone, Linux, etc.

            I doubt many here have tried W8.1 on a 1Gb PC considering a)most people don't use W8.1 b)very few PCs have 1Gb RAM.

            Only those who have specifically tried VM testing 8.1 to see what resources it needs likely know the answer. And unless you state that you have done this, I'm assuming you're a venting Windoze-hating blowhard like the rest :)

            1. dogged

              Re: with Bing

              > I doubt many here have tried W8.1 on a 1Gb PC considering a)most people don't use W8.1 b)very few PCs have 1Gb RAM.

              I tried it on actual hardware. An ExoPC - old-style Atom, 1GB RAM, 64GB m-SATA SSD, touchscreen, basically a netbook with no keyboard.

              It runs fine. No you don't really want to try Crysis - not least because there's no keyboard and no GPU - and you probably wouldn't want to try to multitask more than 4 (desktop) applications at a time (Win8 apps are a different matter, you can go as nuts as you like with those).

              This is actually the main reason why I know that most of the WindowsH8 brigade are bullshitters.

              1. Western Infidel

                Re: with Bing

                I saw the first Dell and Lenovo 8" Windows 8 Tablets at GITEX in October last year just before they were available, they too were ATOM powered and were fast, slick and very impressive. I don't remember the exact specs, but at the time i thought that ATOM had turned a corner and seemed to perform well when coupled with digital storage instead of slow mechanical HDD. I have no reason to believe that these ATOM powered devices will be sluggish and unusable for computing needs of most users, unless you are using CAD or something like that.

            2. Philippe

              Re: with Bing

              I haven't tried W8.1 Update 1 with 1Gb of RAM but I've tried it with 2Gb of RAM on a Sony Netbook and that's pretty painful.

              I reckon that if the SSD is fast enough it can make up for the lack of speed to some extent..

              What's really painful is the 1028x600 screen. Nothing can excuse or make up for that.

              1. big_D Silver badge

                Re: with Bing @Philippe

                I'm writing this on a Clovertrail Atom with 2GB RAM and a 64GB SSD and it runs very nicely. It is very smooth in operation and having several Office apps and browser open (connected to a desktop dock and 24" external monitor and keyboard and mouse) it runs fine. It won't win any speed records, but it is fast enough for general office use.

                I wouldn't want to do major Excel sheets or photo editing on it, but general work is fine and it excels as a tablet.

          2. h4rm0ny

            Re: with Bing

            >>Um, because we've tried it? This site is read by engineers (a minority commenters, it appears). Sure, it boots up - but then what? It will have to swap half the OS to disk in order to run anything more bloated than notepad.

            Yep, engineers. Some of them with a knowledge of Operating Systems unfortunately for you. I'm running 8.1 here right now. Excluding programs and cache, my memory usage is 132MB right now. Which sounds about right. Here's a list of size requirements for various GNU/Linux distributions that run solely from RAM: Link.

            Get a feel for the size of an OS itself, now? Puppy Linux manages to get down to 64MB! Most are around the 200 -> 500 MB range. So yes, it's perfectly possible to run Windows 8.1 in a GB of RAM which is what you said wasn't possible. Now you're backtracking and saying that it will have to swap a lot to disk. Again, not true. It's the programs that take up the space (and cache if you have spare). And if your argument has now become you can't run lots / very large of programs as well in 1GB, then you're arguing against all OSs, not Windows 8.1 (and arguing very weakly as it happens).

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: with Bing

              Excluding programs and cache, my memory usage is 132MB right now

              Oh dear. So as long as you don't want to do anything with Windows, 200mb RAM is plenty? Have you tried it? Obviously not, or you wouldn't have wasted your time.

              I couldn't even get it to boot on 256. 512MB is the lowest I've been able to do on a bare/stripped system. Don't forget, memory usage will peak during boot up and you need caches for the system to be responsive.

              (by the way, I don't know why you had to comment about how great you think Linux is.. I'm a Windows user, I don't care)

    3. Deltics

      Re: with Bing

      Yes, there are other limitations which may or may not be annoying. For example, there is no support for Remote Desktop Host (which is a PITA if you had in mind to run your budget small form factor as a "headless" unit).

      The good news is you can upgrade to a "full" 8.1 Pro with the purchase of a Windows 8.1 Pro Pack, which can still work out much cheaper than buying 8.1 Pro from the outset.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: with Bing

        Remote Desktop Host - that isn't a Windows 8 with Bing problem, that is a Windows non-Pro "feature", you can RDP out, but not in with all versions of Windows 8 without the Pro or Enterprise name.

        As to limitations on the Bing edition, there don't seem to be any, as far as the user is concerned. Unlike the Windows 7 Starter version, you aren't limited on the number of applications or apps you can launch (although the 1GB RAM is a limiting factor there). After the initial set-up is complete, the user can also select their prefered search engine.

        For manufacturers, if the screen is under 10" in size, they get "with Bing" free, for 10" and above it is supposedly heavily discounted over standard Windows 8.1.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: with Bing

        They hinder their products on purpose? I think that's awful.

        It's like hiring a decorator to paint your house, but they water down the paint... the paint that you provided!

  3. ecofeco Silver badge

    But how do they connect?

    How do they connect to the internet? USB>Ethernet adapters? Wifi? Phone tethered?

    Because about these are good for is surfing, entertainment and making notes. Which is fine with me, but how they connect is what is important for me.

    1. Ian Easson

      Any of the above

      N/T

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Any of the above

        Thanks!

    2. Christian Berger Silver badge

      Re: But how do they connect?

      As far as I know, Windows now ships with a TCP/IP stack in all versions. In newer versions it's even partially IPv6 capable. Plus you can get putty for Win32 so you should be set.

      Plus newer versions even support USB Ethernet adapters.

      Both factors combined should make it theoretically possible to connect this machine to the Internet. For mobile use, I'd recommend one of the USB-sticks which emulate a network card. Since they are automatically configuring, you should be set.

    3. LDS Silver badge

      Re: But how do they connect?

      Just click the links.... the Toshiba is WiFi (up to n) + Bluetooth.

    4. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: But how do they connect?

      Thanks all!

      I asked because I've run into quite a few models that were crippled in some odd fashion or another regarding connection and was wondering if slabs have finally standardized on 'net connections.

  4. John Robson Silver badge

    600 pixels?

    Really?

    I know this isn't a high end machine, but 600 pixels is a little limiting. It's an 8 inch screen, 1024 shouldn't be beyond the wit of manufacture...

    My eeePC 701 had a titchy screen, but then it defined a new way of working. Eventually (last year) its keyboard failed, and it's not worth repairing it (shame).

    These are late additions to the tablet party, use a, how do I say this diplomatically, less popular environment and have pretty poor hardware to boot. Why are they costing as much as $200?

    $200 would get you a current generation Nexus7 (First hit, I'm sure cheaper is available: http://www.bestbuy.com/site/google-nexus-7-16gb-black/1484847.p?id=1219052238174)

    OK, you might want to add a keyboard, or an OTG cable. but the hardware difference...

  5. Anthony Hegedus Silver badge

    So these aren't netbooks at all are they?

    Crappy atom processor? Check

    Limited RAM? Check

    Pre-installed OS that is crippled in some way? Check

    Too small to be useful? Check

    Yep, they're netbooks alright. Like a netbook in tablet clothing. A netbook without a keyboard actually, so even more crippled than it was in the first place. The only tablet which actually needs to run an antivirus for general day-to-day use. There are no useful apps for it. And despite its total crappiness it'll probably sell well, for a while, until people realise they're useless, just like netbooks. Once you've got 18 months of updates on it, and the usual windows slow-down, it'll run like an arthritic slug.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a joke

    Years ago I tried installing Windows 8 developer preview on to my netbook. I wasn't happy with Linux and Windows 7 didn't run great on there, but I'd heard Windows 8 made significant performance boosts so wanted to give it a go.

    It wouldn't work on the device, because it was limited to 1024x600 pixels... Microsoft said that it needed to be a minimum of 768 to get the 'full Windows experience' or some BS.

    Now here we are all these years later and people are taking away Microsofts bottom line by devaluing the price of what people would pay for an OS and now they are desperate to compete, so rather than bring their prices down they make it run on a resolution they deemed not good enough in 2011. You couldn't make it up.

    I hope there is plenty of room in that RT bin for these...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What a joke

      600px would just display your comment, when you factor in Window title, browser chrome, taskbar, etc.

      I hope it has a good vertical scroll on the trackpad!

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: What a joke

      In 2011 you couldn't forecast the success of smaller tablets with 7" screens. Also, you're speaking about a "developer preview" that is not the final OS and changes can be still introduced if needed. Also requirements evolve depending on market needs and device evolutions.

      Only fools have requirements engraved in stone.

  7. James 51 Silver badge

    1Gb of RAM?

    I wish they would stop crippling these things by design.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: 1Gb of RAM?

      They are so screwed it's almost a joke. Yes, the price is good but that's their only positive factor.

      16 or 32GB of storage? That has crippled them down to useless - want to install Office and maybe a windows update or two? Forget it, you'll have to uninstall everything else just to perform an OS update.

      1GB of RAM? Win 8 is somewhat more efficient that its predecessors, but it's nowhere near that efficient. This is almost as useless as Microsoft's initial "minimum" requirements for Windows XP, except the truth was that if you want the OS (sans years of bloat updates) to load within the same hour and to load up another application you were fresh out of luck. These days a single application will lay claim to much of that RAM, which is a testament to how resource hungry modern applications are rather than any enhanced capabilities.

      As for the display, x768 16:9 laptop displays are useless enough with many applications assuming x800 at the minimum.

      Without experiencing them first hand, they sound like instant land fill.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: 1Gb of RAM?

        16 is ludicrous, 32 is workable if you don't want to download videos.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: 1Gb of RAM?

          1Gb of ram - that's barely enough to run a virus!

  8. nematoad Silver badge
    Happy

    As Yogi Berra said "It's deja-vu all over again.

    Netbook anyone?

    Now if you can ditch Windows and install Linux I might have a place for one of these as a backup for my Asus eee701.

  9. DainB Bronze badge

    Look at chinese manufacturers, for example Onda v975w - 9.7 inch 500 grams tablet with Retina screen running Windows or, if you insist, Android, all for around 220 USD delivered. Surely hardware has few issues but for the price tag...

  10. simmondp

    Chromebook competitor - not really

    The chromebook advantage is not only about cost - my 11in laptop with 9hrs usable battery life, instant on, 7 seconds boot, automatic updating, no additional costs for Office, AV, etc.

    Performance - fantastic, browser faster than my BIG windows desktop, just plays 1080p video without problem etc. etc.

    Yes the cost is significantly less.

    Looking forward to the next generation of 13in 1080 screens, still with 9hrs battery!

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Chromebook competitor - not really

      I think it's a great competitor to Chromebooks... they're both pretty useless.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Chromebook competitor - not really

        We can tell you haven't tried a Chromebook yet.

        I used to think the same as you, until my wife got one. It makes you realise how much crap we've been putting up with on Windows over the years.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Chromebook competitor - not really

      A chromebook wanna-be, more like.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Chromebook competitor - not really

        No, it still works without any need to be tethered to Google continuously....

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Chromebook competitor - not really

          And so does Windows.

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Chromebook competitor - not really

      Chromebook:

      No need for AV

      If users screw up then a factory reset is one button.

      On the Windows competitor it's get an add-on CDwriter, hope you burned the recovery CDs when it was new, make sure you have a note of the license key.

      Sit down to an hours worth of clicking OK to restart.

      Reinstall all the other apps

      Hope you had a copy of all your bookmarks, mail, documents,pictures etc

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Chromebook competitor - not really

        Of course you never used a Win 8 system, otherwise you would know there is a "system refresh" options that restore the system while keeping apps and their settings.

        Also you can make a system restore disk on USB disk or SD card, if you need to reinstall from scratch.

        It looks your knowledge of Windows is pretty dated.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Chromebook competitor - not really

          If windows 8 allows you to fix grandparents computer over the phone so you are sure that all viruses, extra toolbars and broken settings are fixed then its an improvement

          1. LDS Silver badge

            Re: Chromebook competitor - not really

            Have you ever tried the remote assist options? Again, your knowledge is really putdated. Also a well setup pc won't allow unskilled users to install crap. If you give your grandparents a badly configured pc because you're not able to configure it, it's only your fault. As moving target eveytime someone points out you're still stuck in very old prejudices towards Windows.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Chromebook competitor - not really

              well setup pc won't allow unskilled users to install crap. If you give your grandparents a badly configured pc because you're not able to configure it, it's only your fault.

              That shouldn't be the case! Why can't it be well configured out the box? Why should "unskilled users" be at the risk of installing crap, unless they have an expert at hand?

              This is one of the several things chromebooks address. To us, they might be crappy - but for "unskilled users", these are what we should be recommending to them, regardless of your own pro-microsoft bias (that I also share, btw).

              very old prejudices towards Windows

              They still apply. We know this because we use it daily, and still clean up the crap.

  11. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Meh

    I would like to be underwhelmed but don't find any of these devices inspiring even that kind of a reaction. To reach the kind of prices with Intel hardware and running Windows means using bargain bucket components like screens. The result looks like very disappointing customer experiences.

    The margins must be tiny so I guess manufacturers won't be that disappointed if these turkeys don't sell.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Meh

      As an avid Windows user, I find it quite embarrassing that they're trying to squeeze post-XP Windows onto one of these devices in order to compete with systems that were designed from the start to run on a low performance device.

    2. Green Nigel 42
      Trollface

      Re: Meh

      Christmas is coming! Best time to unload turkeys (& puppies! )

  12. jason 7 Silver badge

    Big issues with these.

    As a grass roots IT support guy I have issues with such bottom of the barrel computing.

    1. They are not really powerful enough to run Windows 8/8.1. I've had in £250 laptops with AMD E1 CPUs in them and they are terrible. Truly embarrassing performance and I'm a big AMD fan.

    2. They are so cheap and 8.1 is such a hassle to re-install at times it makes it not really worth it financially to re-install and fix them back up if they fail. A lot of the so called user friendly restore options don't really work if the machine gets too screwed up and they do for some reason.

    From my point of view the ultra cheap Windows with Bing machines don't make much sense. Get a Chromebook instead because at least it shouldn't crash.

  13. James 51 Silver badge

    Not advertising for anyone but I had a quck look around and here is an example of what the Asus is up against:

    http://www.saveonlaptops.co.uk/59386363-Lenovo-S210T_1556397.html

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      Just because it's Friday I looked the Lenovo up on PassMark and compared to the Tosh Encore:

      Tosh Encore has an Atom Z3735, CPU mark of 986

      Lenovo has a Pentium 2117U, CPU mark of 1663

      I'd probably pay the extra $80 for the Lenovo. Mind you that Lenovo score is still a tad behind the Core 2 Duo PC I bought for 50 quid off eBay. It runs Debian just great.

  14. Jungleland

    Disposable?

    How long before it becomes cheaper to throw away the device and buy a new one rather than renew the Office365 subscription?

    1. jason 7 Silver badge

      Re: Disposable?

      Well we are there with laser jets and inkjet printers so can't be too far away.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Disposable?

        And the ink cartridges that come with the printers are less than half-full - just like Office 365

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Disposable?

          The free 3year 1Tb of Google drive was worth more than the top of the line $1200 Pixel Chromebook

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Even if you are a Microsoft/Windows fan... why buy them at all?

    Windows 9 is going to be released quite soon. And I doubt you can upgrade the OS on these bargain devices.

    In conclusion, nothing more than another desperation move by Microsoft to grow its abysmal market share (Windows 8 and Bing) to keep shareholders happy. A similar thing is happening with Windows phones... less focus on the premium, top-of-the-line flagship phones and more on the budget phones.

    The only useful thing from Microsoft (Office) has been ported over to iOS and Android... so why would you still want Windows?

    1. jason 7 Silver badge

      Re: Even if you are a Microsoft/Windows fan... why buy them at all?

      "The only useful thing from Microsoft (Office) has been ported over to iOS and Android... so why would you still want Windows?"

      Well I can see where you are going but I'd say maybe all those people that want a proper computer (Android angle) and don't want to pay over £700 for it (Apple angle).

      That's quite a large user base to aim for.

      MS should abandon the sub £400 market to Chromebooks and tablets. Then concentrate on the £400 to £1000+ market. All they need to do is produce their own Nexus type laptops at say £400, £700 and £1200 to set the benchmark for other manufacturers at those points.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Even if you are a Microsoft/Windows fan... why buy them at all?

        As much as I like Windows - if the hardware doesn't have a mains lead and 3 fans, then it's not designed for Windows.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have an earlier Iconia W

    For me - for _my_ use case it suits just fine.

    I bought it because it's got an Atom CPU which meant full Windows (came with 8, was a crap upgrade journey to 8.1).

    The main reason I wanted it was to slip it into a pocket when I travel for diving. It means I can plan dives and see the info from my dive computer without having to worry about taking a much bigger, more expensive laptop.

    The screen is pants in any kind of bright light. It's not the fastest or the prettiest thing in the world either.

    But it cost me less than a couple of hundred quid if I recall. It's been reliable and does what I need it to do without fuss or fluster.

    I do realise this is a fairly unique use case but the point is that they are out there.

  17. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Implicit assumption

    Many commentards here seem to be silently assuming that if one purchases one of these cheap-and-cheerful gadgets, then all one's other gadgets must be turned in. The "It doesn't do EVERYTHING..." and assuming that "One must only choose ONE!" as a quasi-religious idiotic fanboi implementation of purchasing gadgets. Daft.

    Such a single-gadget approach makes sense when it comes to smartphones, because few people would want to have two phone bills every month (Yikes!). But for wifi-enabled gadgets with no monthly fee, the best approach is to buy one or several of each.

    Personally I despise Windows 8's tiled GUI and all it represents, but if someone is flogging a cheap tablet with Win 8, then I'll be in the market for a good deal when they're on sale.

    1. jason 7 Silver badge

      Re: Implicit assumption

      My take is, it doesn't matter how many devices you have, if the device you are holding at the time delivers a crap user experience then...it's crap.

      This is purely manufacturers clearing out all the nasty crap hardware that's been developed but no one wanted.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Implicit assumption

      Well that's it right there. I would never buy one of these expecting full on PC power.

      Surfing, navigating, email, notes, pics, movies and videos plus the odd specialty requirement? Yeah, perfect.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People!

    Seriously, people! Just buy an iPad and move on.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: People!

      Not until I can install Win 8.1 on it!

  19. Dylbot

    The Excite Mini is priced low enough that I'd be tempted to punt for one just to see what I could wrangle out of it, and given that I'm already unfortunately tied into the Windows 8 ecosystem it'd be nice to have a light and cheap device for out and about instead of hauling a fairly expensive laptop everywhere.

    Plus, if it'll run Steam without shitting the bed (which with that staggering amount of RAM I'm not so sure about) then I can use it for in-home streaming when Hollyoaks is on the telly.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No thanks, prefer a Chromebook at ANY cost.

    Sick of buggy and virus-laiden Windows.

    Chromebooks just work.

  21. Alan Denman

    So ...

    Well, it ain't as it was but the demands are much about US control, 'all in the name of competition' will be the blurb from the most protectionist nation on earth.

    So will normal service resume from the wIntel cartel?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wow, plenty of fan boys on here. This just proves that they'll like any peice of crap with a Windows logo on it.

    I love Windows as much as any other windows developer, but holy-shit: I wouldn't enjoy Windows much on this device! I've used more powerful machines than this, and performance was dismal (just for browsing!)

    Last year they were making chromebooks and all the usual people on here were ranting about how shit they were (without even trying one). Fast forward a year (now), there's now a device with lower performing hardware, but with a more demanding OS - and the same people are ranting how great it is! (again, without even trying one).

    1. jason 7 Silver badge

      Hmm dunno, looking through the comments I see very few that are for this stuff.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        There's usually about 3 or 4 of them. They always comment on pro/anti Microsoft articles, unable to take any criticism (valid or otherwise) of MS and its products, and will trash and spread FUD about anything that competes.

    2. DainB Bronze badge

      I'm sick and tired from Android and iOS tablets with deliberately crippled functionality, applications designed by someone who never attended usability class and permanent spying of both Google and Apple. The only one that does not have all these limitation is Windows, so from now on Windows all the way.

  23. Salts

    What would be funny...

    Would be if Google released Chrome OS(not Chromium) for these machines :-)

  24. sabroni Silver badge

    Family man

    If a windows machine comes anywhere near my girls I swear I'll do time!

  25. b 3
    Go

    i've been waiting for the netbook to return!

    i'm happy with that asus spec, but i'd plump for 4GB ram and a 500GB SSD :D

  26. ecofeco Silver badge

    Just a heads up

    Got the newspaper advert circular today and my local big box electronics emporium is already discounting the previous models slabs to around the $100 mark with a really stripped down model going for $50.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just a heads up

      Thanks for the URL.

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