ARM based netbooks - discuss

30 Apr 2009
Edit: Just realised there is a laptop section of the Hardware forum - if any of the Mods want to shift this over to there, feel free - beats me being accused of spamming, seeing as I'm evangalising a bit here ;)

Evening all.

By chance, I came across this tonight:

You know how current netbooks use a power sapping x86 processor and run bloaty windows? Fancy something with an ARM processor, 10+ hours battery life and enough grunt to run a full linux distro? There you have it.

It's not just a netbook though. The screen pops off, and as the ARM gubbins are in that, and one of the two batteries, it runs as a full blown touchscreen controlled tablet, with a simple 3D UI. And while it's off, you can run a 720p video. Ok, so the screen is the defacto netbook standard of 1024x600 but it lets you know it's not lacking in video throughput - it's not just a phone CPU in a big case.

And the screen section is magnetic, which to the designers delight, means you can stick it to your fridge. In fact, he seems far too pleased about that - it's in the videos section of the website.

Interestingly, there are also user accessible internal USB ports, so you can wang a 16Gb USB pen inside it as storage without worrying about wanging it against a door and snapping it. Or a GPS dongle. Or 3G. Or Wifi. Basically, any USB device supported by the supplied ARM Linux. Or if you want to fiddle, any USB device supported by any ARM compatible OS you choose to install, from Windows CE to Android.

So, full web access via Firefox [and touch supported Fennec for when you are in Tablet mode], full screen video playback of any file size up to 720p on any codec supported by ARM Linux/OS of choice, internal USB for, well, anything you can get to run on ARM, and the hardware and software are all based on open source standards, based around the OpenEmbedded project.

Oh, and it's £250 as a full keyboard and screen, or £200 as just the screen.

Here's a quick rundown of it on Venturebeat from an tech show earlier in the year - check it out:

It's currently a Beta product [the hardware is final but the software is maturing rapidly] though, and to buy it is to test it, much like the OpenMoko project, but more likely to be actually usable [Openmoko still can't get 3G licensing last I checked, or I'd be sniffing around thier sales guys, frankly...] and with better support - ARM linux is a fairly well established, there is even an Ubuntu distro that runs on ARM.

Would you buy one, bearing in mind it won't run any current variant of Windows [ARM support for a mobile variant of Windows7 is possible, but not confirmed]? As a secondary computer for web browsing and reading e-books and watching films on transport, etc? What do you think?

I've spent the last hour telling myself that I can't email them and offer to help beta test it - I'm too skint ATM - but I'd love to. I think this thing is great, does exactly what a netbook is supposed to do and more to boot :cool:
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