Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Classmate PC aka Neo Explore X1

Passing through my next door Electroworld outlet today, I caught sight of their ad for the Neo Explore X1. Of course, I just had to see it for myself.

The Neo Explore X1 is known as the Classmate PC elsewhere. It's an ultraportable subnotebook, much like the EeePC that I purchased a couple of months ago. At P17,000, it's P2,000 cheaper than the EeePC. It has a 30GB hard drive, and runs on Windows XP Starter Edition. Looks like the local market for ultraportables just started heating up.

Here are the specs for the X1:

* CPU : Intel Celeron Mobile Processor 900 Mhz
* Chipset : Intel GMS915
* OS : Windows XP - Starter Edition
* Memory : 512 MB
* Storage : 30 GB HDD
* LCD : 7″ - 800 x 480 color LCD
* Audio : Built-in-2-channel audio, speaker, and microphone
* Network : 10/100M Ethernet + 802.11 b/g Wifi
* USB : 2 x USB 2.0
* Battery : 6-cells Lithium ion, 3-4 hours usage time
* Dimension : 245 x 196 x 44mm
* Weight : < 1.45 kg

The specs also mention an onboard SD/MMC card reader but on the unit I inspected, it was notably absent.

Both the Windows XP Starter Edition and the 30GB hard disk should probably entice a larger segment of the population to go with the X1. Not that I count those as advantages, though: the Windows XP bit is understandable as I am an avowed Linux user (and honestly, I had difficulty navigating through its GUI now: too many popup warnings about antivirus programs and such.) However, even the onboard hard disk is a turnoff for me as it's a more common point of failure. I've had notebook hard disks fail on me after a year or two, so no thanks. Some folks might think differently, but hey, different strokes and all.

As a matter of comparison with the EeePC, the Explore X1 does not have an onboard webcam (present in the EeePC 4G), an SD/MMC card reader (mentioned earlier), is slightly heavier and definitely much bulkier.

However, the real disadvantages of the Explore X1 are in its overall design and its dysfunctional keyboard.

With its size, shape, and colors, the Explore X1 looks like a kid's toy: the rounded edges are right out of Fisher Price, and the colors seem to have been copied from V-Tech make-believe laptops. The horror, the horror! And as if that weren't enough, Neo accented the toy look even further by wrapping it in its very own handbag-like carrying case. Check the picture: the blue cover, as far as I can tell, is glued on to the Explore X1's case. Sure, the specs may look nicer, but no way would I want to be caught in a cafe working on an X1.

The keyboard design is just as retarded. Expand the first picture in this post and you'll note that it doesn't have a Shift key on the right side of the keyboard. That means that touch typists are really out of luck.

Update: Forgot to mention two other things that turned me off: the extremely long bootup time and the horrendous screen resolution. Booting the X1 takes about a minute (I wonder if Windows XP has anything to do with it?) Neo also didn't take care to modify Windows XP's screen resolution: the icons and text look really, really tiny on the 7" screen, unlike on the EeePC's Linux-based OS which made the screen readable.

Again, you may be attracted by the hard disk and the preloaded Windows XP: but give the Explore X1 a spin before you decide to buy.

Ultimately, though, what may swing things in favor of Neo is the cheaper price and more ready availability: EeePCs are just about impossible to get now in Davao City.