Forget the show-off flair of the MacBook Air. The real excitement in mobile computing is much cheaper than that. The Asus Eee PC has kick-started a whole slew of cut-down budget sub-notebooks that, although they can't play the latest games, are more than enough for most of our on-the-move needs.
Naturally there are many other thin and light notebooks on the market, from Sony and Toshiba, to name but two. But here we’re all about taking things back to basics – and that doesn’t mean anything featuring Windows Vista…
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1. Everex Cloudbook
We first glimpsed the Everex Cloudbook at CES. It’ll go on sale for around £200 and so is directly comparable to our Eee friend. It’s based on a VIA reference design, uses its 1.2GHz C7-M ultra low voltage processor and promises five hours of battery life – significantly more than the Eee PC.
What’s more, there’s also 30GB of internal storage and 512MB of DDR2; nice specs there. Like the initial Eee, it supports Linux. 802.11b/g Wi-Fi is also on board – but what’s up with that weird raised screen.
Eee rival mark (out of five): 3
2. MSI Wind
Spotted at CeBIT last week, this newly-seen contender looks beautiful, but Eee fans will surely proclaim it as a clear rip-off of their icon. Indeed, one of the pics we’ve seen shows it in resplendent Apple/Eee white. Let’s be honest, it’s also got a pretty crap name.
It will take Intel’s Atom CPU (potentially with speeds of up to 1.6GHz) and could have as much as 1GB of RAM, while reports suggest it will come in 8-inch and 10-inch variants. Trouble is, we have it on good authority that the models at CeBIT were mere dummies, so all the specs are subject to change. Pricing is expected to be around the £225 mark.
Eee rival mark: 5
3. Elonex One
'The UK’s cheapest laptop,' says Elonex’s website. It's not wrong. The One’s best facet has to be its price – a mere £99. If you’ve a long-standing awareness of IT you might be aware of Elonex as a UK-based business PC provider and latterly for its LCD TV-based range of Lumina Media Centers several years back.
Meant for education and designed with UK Government initiatives in mind, the laptop was shown off at this year’s Education Show which took place in Birmingham at the beginning of the month. The Linux-based sub-notebook has a 7-inch display, 802.11b/g wireless, 1GB of memory, four-hour battery life and even an optional rubberised skin. What more could you want?
Eee rival mark: 4
4. Packard Bell EasyNote XS
The 7-inch EasyNote XS can be picked up from your local PC World and made its debut in the autumn. Trouble is, it's £349, so we’re edging into full-blown laptop pricing, if not size. The EasyNote XS is also pretty odd-looking, with its screen raised off the back of the keyboard like the Everex Cloudbook. And like the new Cloudbook, it runs a 1.20 GHz VIA C7-M Processor and packs 30GB of internal storage.
Hang on, this is all sounding pretty familiar! It basically is the Everex Cloudbook; or rather both are based on a VIA platform. The main difference is that the Packard Bell machine ships with Windows XP Home – just like the forthcoming edition of the Eee PC.
Eee rival mark: 2
5. OLPC XO and Intel Classmate
OK, so these aren’t exactly serious contenders at the moment – they’re not currently available to consumers, for one thing. If they were to go on sale tomorrow they wouldn’t be as much of a hit as the Eee PC though. Despite the XO’s sub-£200 price point, the lack of competitive specs would see other models win out – it only has 1GB of storage and 256MB of RAM, for example. Mind you, for sheer ruggedness, it would surely win out.
Eee rival mark: 2
And then there’s the new Eee PC of course. You can get the existing 7-inch model for under £200 from PC World now. And there’s the new model in the summer which will also feature Intel’s Atom processor. Indeed, apart from the screen size it will be extremely similar to the MSI Wind. As we just mentioned, a version of the new Eee will also ship with XP.
Although you can install the OS yourself on Asus’ current Eee PC, it’s bringing that kind of full functionality to these sub-notebooks as standard that will really set the market alight.