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Sylvania Netbook
Review by Daniel P. Dern
 ISBN/ITEM#: DPD101107
Date: 07 November 2010

Links: Sylvania Netbook / Show Official Info /

The Sylvania 7-inch netbook shows that you can be too small, too thin, and too cheap. Even at the readily-available sale price of $99, this machine is not, in my opinion worth getting, and at the list price of $169, unless you have some specific use or uses that makes it worth considering, as they say in New York, fuggedaboutit.

The Sylvania 7-inch netbook shows that you can be too small, too thin, and too cheap. Even at the readily-available sale price of $99, this machine is not, in my opinion worth getting, and at the list price of $169, unless you have some specific use or uses that makes it worth considering, as they say in New York, fuggedaboutit.

Sadly, this machine -- manages to be the worst of all worlds, rather than good enough is enough.

Specwises, it weighs 2 pounds, and measures 6 inches by 8 inches by 1 inch. Other hardware facts:

  • 1800mAh LiON battery (built-in, not readily removable).
  • Compact 110-240v 50-60hz power supply
  • 80-key keyboard
  • 2.2" mousepad, with right and left-side "mouse" click bars

Ports'n'slots include 3 USB ports (1 supporting external memory, two supporting only keyboard and/or mouse), and a Secure Digital (SD) card slot (can handle up to 8GB); Ethernet RJ-45; microphone and earphone jacks; 2 half-watt speakers.

Inside, the Sylvania has a Via 8505 processor, 7-inch (diagonal) 800x480 pixel TFT display, with 128MB RAM for memory, 2GB Nand-flash for storage, 802.11g/b WiFi,

Software-wise: The OS is it's running Windows Embedded CE 6.0.

Built-in apps include MSIE, Windows Explorer, a YouTube player, ImageViewer, Windows Messenger, Windows Media 9 series media layer, a sound recorder, calculator, and "Office" apps consisting of WordPad, DocViewer, PDFviewer, PPTviewer, and XLSviewer.

I've got three positive things to save about this machine, none of which are enough to rescue it from a "not even worth getting for free" rating":

  • Decent keyboard for its size. The keys are as wide as they can be, so, if your fingers are small enough, you can touch type.
  • The power supply is small. It should be, given the machine's low draw, but it's good to see that they kept it small. And it handles international voltages.
  • The USB ports (well, one of them) will take external storage, e.g. a flash drive. This is the first time I've seen WinCE be able to do this.

That's it for the good news. Now, on to its faults, flaws, limits and the like.

  • Windows CE Professional. This is not, inherently, necessarily bad. I'm still happily using an old NEC MobilePro 780 handheld (basically a PDA with a near-full-size keyboard and half-height display).

    But WinCE, and the apps on it, are sorry approximations of true Windows apps. The browser, in particular, bites, to use a pseudo-technical term. Many pages won't render well. And there's no window-(re)sizing, so you can only look at one thing at a time.

    And while there are some WinCE apps out there - e.g., here at PDA WareSeeker there's no guarantee they'll work on this particular machine.

  • The YouTube Player app doesn't work reliably, clicking on YouTube selections keeps yielding "file not found" type errors. With luck and persistence, I've gotten some YouTube clips to play... but if there's one thing that should work seamlessly and reliably, I'd think that a YouTube-specific app would be it.
  • Battery life. Two hours, based on letting it cycle through a YouTube clip. For a portable device, that's not enough.
  • Keyboard. It's better than a smartphone, but smaller than any netbook I've seen. If you've got smallish fingers, you might manage. Not me.
  • Display only opens about 110 degrees.
  • Application windows are full-screen or minimized; there's no resizing.
  • There's no sleep mode that I can find. The Power settings ("schemes") in Control Panel don't work.

The Sylvania boots up in about thirty seconds. Shutting the cover doesn't turn it off, at least not immediately. However, there's no SLEEP mode, as far as I can tell; when it's off, it has to reboot.

The product and company web site are not encouraging, either. Nearly two months after I first saw information about this machine elsewhere on the web, the "Press Room" and "Media" pages are still "Under Construction"

The web site also offers two other machines:

  • Meso, 2.2 pounds, 1.6GHz Intel Atom CPU, 1GB RAM, 8.9" 1024x600 display, comes with Ubuntu Linux (the FAQ says, "We do not currently support installing Windows XP on the MESO, however we have tested it and it works.")
  • Magni Elite -- 2.4 pounds, Intel Atom CPU, 1GB RAM, 10.1" 1024x600 display160GB hard drive, Windows XP Home Edition.
.

All in all, I don't know what Sylvania was thinking. I guess there could be some use for it, but I can't see any. It's a shame -- it's nice and small. But it's not good enough. So much for a bargain.


Comment by the editor: Though the definition of "netbook" can be a hard thing to pin down, Windows CE doesn't appeal to us as a viable part of that definition, at least not as it's evolved. We're sure the Sylvania 7-inch netbook fits a market niche somewhere, but it's neither the traveller's netbook, nor a $99 one laptop per child. - Ernest Lilley

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