Friday, 20 November 2009 07:00

Falling in love: the ViewSonic VNB101 netbook

Viewsonic's attention to design and aesthetics is strongly reminiscent of a certain 'fruit' company.  I love it. 

The first thing we must all remember is that a netbook (any netbook) is never intended to be a first computer.  Think of it as being a much larger iPod Touch (with a real keyboard) or a Pocket PC, also with a real keyboard.  That seems to be the exact niche that the ViewSonic VNB101 is trying to occupy.

Getting the details out of the way first, the ViewSonic contains the obligatory Atom N 280 processor, 1GB RAM a 160GB SATA hard disk and a 10 inch LCD screen.  It is just 25mm thick, and weighs 1.1kg.  Also, as the unit conforms with Microsoft's limited specification, it is supplied with Windows XP Home Edition.

Like all netbooks, the keyboard is a little smaller that a 'desktop' sized unit, measuring in at around 92% of the size; a touch-typing colleague noted that the 'feel' of the keyboard was excellent and that she's expect to be able to adjust to the smaller size reasonably quickly.

Around the sides, there are the obligatory 10/100 Ethernet, VGA and speaker/microphone ports.  There is also a 3-in-1 card reader and two USB slots.  The netbook supports 802.11 b/g and Bluetooth, there is also a 0.3 megapixel webcam.

Incorporating the same seamless design first seen in the boxless VPC100 the VNB101 has nice, clean lines giving a very stylish appearance.  ViewSonic also promote the fact that it uses In-mould Labelling (to embed all labels, logos etc into the moulded plastic) and offers resistance to scratches and scuffs.  The VNB101 is available in Black, Champagne and Red.

Interestingly, there is a SIM-card slot located in a recess under the battery bay; however iTWire is advised that this is only supported in the United States – perhaps some telcos are hoping to produce a bundled package.

Read on for our highs and lows for this device...

The in-built scratch-pad incorporates the latest multi-touch system, permitting gesture-based operation.  There is also an ultra-light lithium-polymer 3,400 mAh battery with a claimed 2.5 hours life.

Unique to this machine is a rapid-boot mode which launches a ROM-BIOS based Linux with useful web-access tools - web browsing, chat, etc.  The full Windows XP operating system can also be launched from this screen.

So, what of the overall pros and cons?

Cons: Any portable device with just 2 USB sockets isn't going to get the respect it desires.  These days, with so many external hard disks requiring dual power, suddenly there's no room for anything else.  Also, the price seems a little high (see below). There's also the name - maybe one day ViewSonic will come up with a 'sexy' name to match the product.

Neutral: It's an Atom-based netbook and thus it adequately ticks all the boxes required of such a unit, although other reviewers who play extensively with benchmarks suggests it is a touch slower than expected; nothing to worry about though.

Pros: The over-all look of the unit.  ViewSonic are making a name for themselves as manufacturers of cool-looking Windows-based hardware.  It is sleek and smooth – exactly the kind of machine the owner would be glad to have, in fact if this writer hadn't already succumbed to another netbook, the VNB101 would be very high on the shopping list.

The ViewSonic VNB101 is available now at Clive Peeters in Australia (Rick Hart in Western Australia), with a recommended retail price of AU$699 including GST, although readers will probably find it cheaper at a variety of on-line stores.

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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

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