Monday, 22 September 2008

Elonex WebBook Ultra-portable

I just bought an Ubuntu based Elonex WebBook from Carphone Warehouse. It costs £239 (although it was listed on many review sites at £219), or comes free with a £25/month Orange mobile broadband package.

Vodafone offer an identical mobile broadband package for £15/month, so the “free” cost of the laptop is £360 even if you do cancel the contract after the obligatory 24 months.

Elonex WebBook open

The DVD has been placed to show scale. The WebBook does not have a CD/DVD drive. As yet there is no official way to backup or restore the OS. Apparently details will be posted on the Web soon.

The Linux version has the best price and performance. It’s a full blown Ubuntu distro rather than a cut down OS as found on other ultra-portables like the Eee PC. It’s great to see that all power-saving and wireless options work as they should, although it seems not to support Bluetooth in spite of the presence of a button on the keyboard. I’m not sure if this is a compatibility issue or just an absence of Bluetooth hardware!

Elonex WebBook closed

I bought the iPod-like white model (black also available).

Three USB ports and an SD/MMC card make this usable as a photography off-line storage and manipulation tool.

Memory is a little low (512MB), but email, web browsing and document creation don’t seem to suffer at all. It only has one memory slot, so upgrading will involve throwing some memory away – not a major concern when it only costs about £20 a gig!

The keyboard has reasonably sized keys and is usable for touch-typing. The Function button (annoyingly where the control key should be) gives access to a shared numeric keypad and hardware control keys for paging, screen brightness, volume and wireless. The mouse pad works well and provides scroll-wheel functionality when its right side is stroked.

The machine is pre-installed with Open Office, Evolution for email/calender, the GIMP, some educational software, Wine (for Windows compatibility) and lots more. Being Linux, this only takes up about 2GB of the 80GB drive, so you’ll have plenty of space left for other applications and data.

Elonex WebBook front open

The Screen is bright and clear and just about manages full screen video playback (depending on codec) once you configure the player to use X11 video rather than XV. This seems a bit of an oversight as, out of the box, most video playback will show as a black screen! Flash installed seamlessly and played back youtube videos with ease

Overall, this is a really useful ultra-portable at a great price. Highly recommended!

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