September 23, 2010

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Netbooks under $100
Oh, you better believe thereís a catch
By John Andrews† jandrews@hippopress.com

The catch is that they suck.*

The pitch is, OMG, a computer for really cheap! And with the way computers have been divebombing in price for years, itís really not that astonishing that a serviceable computer might finally appear at that magical two-digit price point.

Donít you believe it. Donít you dare believe it.

When they were first appearing on the market, what exactly made a netbook a netbook was unclear. Small size? Cheapness? Kinda, yeah, but they were still OK machines. All but the very first had processors over 1GHz, and it quickly became almost impossible to find one not based on Intelís 1.6GHz Atom processor. Thatís part of what made them so cheap ó they were all pretty much identical inside and not as modular as other notebook PCs, so they could be manufactured at very low cost.

Then someone figured out, hey, if you slapped the guts of a pocket PC from a couple years ago into a case with a keyboard and a 7-inch screen, you could make some serious bank.

Hence, a flood of cheap ó and I do mean cheap ó devices.

Oh, theyíll get you on the Web. They actually might be nice for a bit of browsing in bed. But donít think youíre getting a computer with real multimedia capabilities.

The majority use Windows CE as their operating system. Since this was designed for mobile devices, Web sites often show their mobile Web sites when you access them. Thatís actually sort of good, since rich media, complicated code and dozens of ads would bog down this underpowered machine, but it also means that you donít get the full experience of most Web sites.

Did I say underpowered? Yeah, about that. A Sylvania advertised for $99 at CVS runs at a whopping 300MHz. Thatís not memory speed, or front bus speed ó thatís the main processor. The Augen E-Go, which is available new almost nowhere after its brief retail run, clocked in at an even more pathetic 248MHz. If youíre lucky your model has 128MB of RAM.

Your phone is probably faster than that.

You get similar specs from names like Visual Land, Konaki and iView. That inspire confidence? No? Thought not.

The picture doesnít get any better when it comes to software. The Office software you get is extremely limited. You can edit documents in a stripped-down version of Word, but spreadsheets and presentation are strictly read-only. Youíre probably better off using an online suite like Google Docs, if it will even load in one of these thingsí browser.

There are pre-installed apps for hip things like YouTube, Facebook and Pandora. And Ö not much else. Have you searched for Windows CE software lately? Even when Microsoft was still making that operating system, the software library wasnít that impressive. You might get lucky and find one or two apps under active development.

Or you might decide to buy a refurbished real netbook for a couple bucks more.

*Thereís one other possible catch: the netbook is actually decent, but you have to subscribe to wireless broadband access for a year or two. Possibly worth it if you like to surf the Web while camping.


9/16/2010 Purchase perspective

9/02/2010 Free Music
8/19/2010 Long-lasting tech
8/12/2010 Cloud one
7/22/2010 Where you @?
7/15/2010 Memory game
7/8/2010 Second that motion
7/1/2010 When will tech cost more?
6/24/2010 Social media anxiety
6/17/2010 Hubba hubba
6/10/2010 Store it on USB
6/3/2010 Finance is personal
5/27/2010 Who says what now?
5/20/2010 Flash dance
5/13/2010 Geek chic
5/6/2010 Hewett Palmard
4/29/2010 Logo confusion
4/15/2010 Doubting my geek cred
4/8/2010 3D: Fad or future
4/1/2010 USB: The next generation
3/25/2010 What gadgets do to us
3/18/2010 Better netbooks afoot
3/11/2010 Kind of blue
3/4/2010 We want cheaper e-readers
2/25/2010 Know your vendor
2/18/2010 The Buzz is not good
2/11/2010 Process this
2/4/2010 Is the iPad worth it
1/14/2010 Kneel before Google
1/7/2010 Las Vegas shows the way12/31/2009 Reluctantly looking back
7/16/2009 What runs your phones
7/2/2009 Down with paint
5/21/2009 Laptop control
5/7/2009 Go organic
4/24/2009 Boot quickly with Linux
4/2/2009 Save cash with the Web
3/19/2009 Control from a distance
3/5/2009 Lucky number 7?
2/19/2009 Pop go the ads
2/12/2009 No DTV for you
2/5/2009 It's the internet ... on TV
1/1/2009 The road ahead
12/25/2008 Portability rising
12/18/2008 Video conversion gift guide12/11/2008 Audio conversion gift guide
12/04/2008 2008 photo gift guide
11/27/2008 Core to the core
11/20/2008 Frogs, Jackie Chan and Linux11/13/2008 How to tame the internet
11/06/2008 The mighty pen
10/30/2008 Eyeballs, meet video
10/23/2008 Be Buffy
10/16/2008 Trade in your stuff
10/9/2008 TV on the Web
10/2/2008 Netbook update
9/25/2008 Unified Gadget Theory

9/18/2008 The little MerChrome
9/11/2008 When in Chrome
9/4/2008 Busting a cap
8/28/2008 Web of politics
8/21/2008 One computer or two?
8/7/2008 Turning back time
7/31/2008 Cell phone projector
7/24/2008 Come on, feel the geek
7/17/2008 Adventures in China
7/10/2008 More memory
7/03/2008 Bringing China home
6/19/2008 Software fight
6/12/2008 Free energy
6/5/2008 Playing geotag
5/29/2008 Read on your screen
5/22/2008 Recession-proof?
5/15/2008 As in beer, and speech
5/8/2008 Whither XP
5/1/2008 Stuck on Craigslist
4/24/2008 Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
4/17/2008 See the Silverlight
4/10/2008 WiMax vs. LTE
4/3/2008 GPS in reverse
3/27/2008 Your video choices
3/20/2008 MP3 ain't all that
3/13/2008 That's hot
3/6/2008 Why not to go Blu
2/28/2008 Digital TV is coming
2/21/2008 An elgy for CompUSA
2/14/2008 My nerdy Valentine
2/7/2008 Yahoo! It's Microsoft!
1/31/2008 Roll on up
1/24/2008 Media calls DVD war for Sony
1/17/2008 Delete everything
1/10/2008 The cable conundrum
1/3/2008 When technology attacks
12/27/2007 A look back
12/13/2007 Inside your digital camera
12/6/2007 Phone frenzy, part 2
11/29/2007 Phone frenzy, part 1
11/22/2007 Giving thanks
11/15/2007 Gray areas
11/8/2007 Fantastic music
11/1/2007 Tiny browsing
10/25/2007 What's a Webkinz?
10/18/2007 Famous on and off the Web
10/11/2007 Print in the third dimension
10/04/2007 Do it yourself ó really
9/27/2007 An update on updates
9/20/2007 The more things change...
9/6/2007 Ink wars
8/30/2007 Woody gadgets
8/23/2007 Pocket mice
8/16/2007 A clearer picture?
8/9/2007 One less box on your TV
8/2/2007 Prescription for subscription
7/26/2007 Record every show
7/19/2007 Main screen turn on
7/12/2007 Lasers in everyday life
7/5/2007 Radio by wire
6/28/2007 Don't believe the hours
6/21/2007 Get where you're going
6/14/2007 Enlighten yourself
6/7/2007 USB is hot
5/31/2007 USB is cool
5/24/2007 Gadgets for nothing
5/17/2007 Make your gadgets better
5/10/2007 You may now unplug
5/3/2007 Mobile is nothing
4/26/2007 Expand your wireless network
4/19/2007 Expand your wireless network
4/12/2007 Get a newer brain
4/5/2007 Get a newer brain
3/29/2007 Security can be free
3/22/2007 Paper that's not paper
3/8/2007 Use any file
3/1/2007 Audiobooks for free
2/22/2007 What's for sale today?
2/15/2007 Prints in your pocket
2/8/2007 Watch this
2/1/2007 How open is your source
1/25/2007 iPhone it now
1/18/2007 Simplify, simplify
1/11/2007 Vista time!
1/4/2007 Google killers?
12/28/2006 Tech that didn't happen
12/21/2006 Do not want
12/14/2006 Meet the new web
12/07/2006 Extreme price shopping
11/30/2006 They want what?
11/23/2006 Zat†zany Zune
11/16/2006 Shop smart
11/9/2006 Your data's new home
11/2/2006 Hotkey heaven
10/26/2006 Computer to go
10/19/2006 Tech news roundup
10/12/2006 A different drummer
10/05/2006 Who needs TiVo?
09/28/2006 Disk drives without disks
09/21/2006 Movies, just click your mouse!
09/14/2006 Laptops for less
09/07/2006 GPS everywhere
08/31/2006 The printer dilemma
08/24/2006 A series of tubes
08/17/2006 More music, more places
08/10/2006 How big is your drive?
08/03/2006 It's a WiFi world
07/27/2006 Fancy a spot of memory?
07/20/2006 Under the sea
07/06/2006 eBaysic training
06/29/2006 You paid money for that?
06/22/2006 Processing ... processing ...
06/15/2006 C:\Run for the border
06/01/2006 The keyboard is mightier
05/25/2006 Geek phone home
05/18/2006 Super highway information
05/11/2006 How to host a site
05/04/2006 If they mated
04/27/2006 Apples to apples
04/20/2006 Flash uber-drives
04/13/2006 Web site, by you
04/06/2006 Ayyy, jaQ's right!
03/30/2006 Choose wirelessly
03/23/2006 Tax programs cometh
03/16/2006 And the Spammie goes to...
03/09/2006 Take in the Vista
03/02/2006 Cheap moviemaking
02/23/2006 Go directly to iJail

02/16/2006 Will you stamp your e-mail?
02/09/2006 War of the machines
02/02/2006 Faster than a speeding packet

01/26/2006†Free software made simple
01/19/2006 The Worst of CES
01/12/2006 Radio you
01/05/2006 Making Movies
A browser is to a car as ...

Behold, the $100 laptop
Beyond VCRs, Part 2
Beyond VCRs
Back-to-school basics
Big Brother is printing
Books without the paper
Essential Gadgets
Get it while itís hot, used
High-tech garage sale
In touch with the future
Last-minute dork presents
Make your mark
Memory in your pocket
Microsoft must be scratching its head

No strings attached
Plastic junk for Halloween
Power up

Satellite radio showdown

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