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Review: Chinese 7" Netbook

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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2010-08-09 4:22 PM
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You've heard of them, because quite frankly they are everywhere. The plethora of 7", unbranded netbooks based around the same format with slightly different styling’s has taken eBay by storm; but is there anything to their low cost form factor or are some things really too good to be true?

Rich Hawley shares his thoughts on this Asian phenomenon in his review of the ubiquitous Chinese 7" Netbook.

View: Chinese 7" Netbook
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Paianni Page Icon Posted 2010-08-09 9:51 PM
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Wherever you like it or not, one thing is for sure: it has kept the Handheld PC alive as it is based a Windows CE core release. Not bad review either. There is one slight confusion though ...
If some traditional Handheld PC's have been migrating to Linux, what is the difference between Netbook PC's running Linux, especially if sub-notebook handheld's migrated to Linux?
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Rich Hawley Page Icon Posted 2010-08-09 10:25 PM
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Papsie wrote: what is the difference between Netbook PC's running Linux....

Only technical differences for sure. For instance, x86 devices (laptops and desktops) have the option to run "live" versions of Linux. That means they load into ram and run from there without ever occupying the hardware permanently. Of course, there are a few similar options for some HPCs. These netbooks differ in that they cannot (currently) do this. For them, Linux must be loaded onto the "hard drive" or permanently stored on the ram chip and run from there. They don't supplement the native operating system, they replace it.

There have been subnotebooks, the Asus EEE for example, that were commercially sold with Linux as its primary OS. Don't you think it strange that the only operating systems we've seen so far in all these Chinese netbooks is either CE or Android? You have to wonder why?

And even those adventurous souls who have installed Linux on their CE netbook, still do not have 100% compatibility, often resulting is no wifi, or no sound, or some other missing hardware drive that is not supported. At least with CE, everything on my netbook works!

Well almost everything...I still can't Activesync...no client USB port.
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RTFM
RTFM Page Icon Posted 2010-08-10 1:33 AM
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Actually there are a slew of these 7" netbooks running linux by default. The first batch of these netbooks released in 2008/2009 all came with linux. Examples are the bestlink/belco alpha400, 3k razorbook, cnmbook, maplin minibook, inos surf one, fidelity vpc, letux400 etc etc etc. Actually there are still a bunch of rebrands being released with the arm cpu now (instead of the mips cpu) installed with linux. They just arent as flooded on ebay as the current wave of CE netbooks now. Those machines all worked fine. Everything worked (sound, wifi, 3g usb sticks, usb mice, keyboards, cdroms etc etc). While i'm quite impressed with my T706 and it's install of CE6, it still comes nowhere near the usability of my 2 mips linux netbooks. Sure they are slower (335mhz), but at least they run firefox well. Even though its firefox2, its still more up to date than IE6, and i can use any firefox plugin (e.g. mediadownloadhelper to download and view youtube videos).

Some things i can do in linux on a 7" netbook that i cant do in CE6:

Linux: Pidgin multiprotocol IM client. Aol/msn/icq/yahoo/googletalk/jabber/gadu gadu/irc/facebook chat and more all in 1 app.
CE5/6 has nothing close that actually runs. Best bet is an irc client with bitlbee, however other than my hack of roxirc there are no working irc clients (except beta miniircv2 which would need to handle more than 1 channel to work with bitlbee, and some horrid java clients).

Linux: Real web browsers (firefox / skipstone)
CE5/6: Outdated IE6 which is slow on heavy sites and gets locked out of some due to its age (requires registry hack to change ident string to IE8 as workaround). The webkit browsers are fun to mess with for CE, but they still need lots of work to compete with firefox or skipstone. Java browsers for CE also lack. Bolt, opera mini, ucweb etc are decent, but still not "real" web browsers.

Linux: Can build software freely on the device.
CE5/6: Have to build on desktop and not garaunteed to work on device. Also not much "free" available for sources.

Linux: Free software. (the few nonfree apps that do exists wont run on mips cpu's anyway)
CE5/6: 50/50 free/nonfree and not much specifically designed for CE5/6. Trial and error to see what works and what doesnt.

Linux: No illegal or time based demoware included.
CE5/6: Some CE netbooks are loaded with illegal or timebased demoware (this includes some android machines as well)

The only thing CE beats linux on so far IMO is softmaker office vs abiword and boot time. Xine media player plays everything tcpmp does so thats a draw. App startup time is quicker on CE also as it should be. It's an embedded OS where linux is usually "full" desktop software running on low spec devices.

Now "ports" of linux to machines not running it by default, then yes, thats a different story. Lack of data sheets makes it tough to get everything working. (e.g jlime w/no sound yet on j7xx/mp9xx)

Just my 2 cents.

Cheers.

P.S. Nice review Rich.
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Syzygy
Syzygy Page Icon Posted 2010-08-10 9:53 AM
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Am I right in thinking that these CE Netbooks don't have the instant-on capability that HPCs normally have and that you have to wait for them to (gasp!) boot up?

If so then I'd say that this is a comparative flaw (especially as the whole operating system appears to be embedded in some sort of memory anyway).
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Rich Hawley Page Icon Posted 2010-08-10 11:51 AM
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RTFM, great info! I didn't realize these Linux netbooks ran the newer browsers...guess I should really read up on them before shooting off my mouth. I had forgotton about the Chmbook and others that ran Linux...I really didn't know they were still being produced.

Maybe I'll try Linux on one of mine just for the fun of it...but I'm really Linux ignorant for the most part...so maybe I'll just be making another brick!

Syzygy, you are correct...no instant on. Mine takes 20 seconds to boot.
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Dana Page Icon Posted 2010-08-10 12:52 PM
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Quote
Syzygy - 2010-08-10 4:53 AM

Am I right in thinking that these CE Netbooks don't have the instant-on capability that HPCs normally have and that you have to wait for them to (gasp!) boot up?

If so then I'd say that this is a comparative flaw (especially as the whole operating system appears to be embedded in some sort of memory anyway).


Well, yes and no. They do have the ability to suspend, which (somebody please correct me if I'm wrong) what a PDA does when you turn it off with the power button. This is either a timed thing set in control panel, or a third party app to do it on demand. Returning from suspend is near instantaneous, just like a PDA. The downside is that unlike a typical PDA, there's no backup battery so you're using the main battery to hold the suspended data in memory... and it seems to use more power (though of course less than "full on", so you can't leave it suspended for days on battery power.

On the upside, these devices all have a non volatile flash drive, which you can install programs to and store date on, so it won't be lost when the battery does die.

BTW, nice review, Rich.
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Rich Hawley Page Icon Posted 2010-08-10 1:37 PM
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They fool you with the suspend feature as it suspends nothing. Run a clock timer program and hit suspend. Close your netbook and open it back up, you will see that the time has still counted down.

Any old pocketpc/hpc when you hit suspend stopped all access to the cpu and froze everything in memory, unless it written to read the internal clock and update on awakening.

The suspend features of these netbooks just turn off the light to the lcd...nothing more.
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elgarteo95 Page Icon Posted 2010-08-10 5:41 PM
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There are many 7" netbook on Yahoo HK Auction
Guest what...
many people asked that whether winXP can run on the machine...
and the seller replied "Possible, but I won't do it for u." !
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CE Geek Page Icon Posted 2010-08-10 8:09 PM
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I wish I had a nickel for every time someone has asked that question on YouTube.
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technogeist2k9 Page Icon Posted 2010-08-11 2:07 PM
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Not wishing to make microsoft even more richer or powerful, but do these machines have a genuine Windows CE certificate?
WinCE licensing has been the one thing that has pushed windows based PDA prices up. (borderline exhorbitant) And this just has alarm bells ringing in my head.


Edited by technogeist2k9 2010-08-11 2:07 PM
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Rich Hawley Page Icon Posted 2010-08-11 2:42 PM
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I have a CE certificate on my Tinybook, but nothing on any of my others....
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technogeist2k9 Page Icon Posted 2010-08-11 6:12 PM
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I haven't bought a CE device from new via retail channels since the late 1990s. Did they basically stop providing certificates? (or what)

Chinese "cheap-as-chips" aside. What's your view on the MENQ 'EasyPC' devices?

Edited by technogeist2k9 2010-08-11 6:16 PM
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Augen E-Go Go Page Icon Posted 2010-08-12 2:56 AM
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Great review. It should be mentioned that most CE 5.0 netbooks shouldn't be used by serious typists though. Mine, for example, produces double letters if I type quickly, has character repeat (probably) shut off permanently, and only comes with WordPad for text editing, with no apparent free alternitive text editors.

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technogeist2k9 - 2010-08-11 1:12 AM

I haven't bought a CE device from new via retail channels since the late 1990s. Did they basically stop providing certificates? (or what)


What are these certificates in question? On my Visual Land V-Net netbook, I have a little CE sticker with some serial numbers on it of some sort.
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technogeist2k9 Page Icon Posted 2010-08-12 10:52 AM
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@Augen E-Go Go

Certificate and/or serial number. My 620LX came with both.
RE: vland netbook: Yes that's a promising sign that maybe it's genuine. Of course that's not a 100% guarantee, seeing as that's no sweat for the cloners to produce equally convincing labels. And your machine is also 'branded' which helps to identify the company *responsible* for providing customer services.

The chinese machines have very little to convince me they're kosha. Not even a brand name, or in a western language.

Edited by technogeist2k9 2010-08-12 11:03 AM
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