The $799 Lindows subnotebook

I let this one slip by this past week, but Lindows has a new coup, to go with the $199 PCs at Wal-Mart: a $799 subnotebook.
What to think about it? It’s an odd mix. It offers high-end features like USB 2.0 and Firewire built in, and a generous 256 MB of RAM. But it has an underpowered VIA C3 processor. Its three-pound weight would be very nice.

But for $799 you’re not getting everything you’ll probably want or need. There’s no CD-ROM or floppy at that price. So if you’re looking for a cheap notebook to load another OS on, you won’t get there for $799. By the time you buy an external CD-ROM, you’re awfully close to the price of the getting-to-be-famous Sotec, which you can sometimes find now for $799 after some rebates. While the Sotec weighs 4.4 pounds, it has everything you’ll need to load another OS on it, and it comes with Windows XP Home, which makes me wonder just how much you’re saving by not having to pay the Microsoft tax.

The laptops Lindows compares it to aren’t really a fair comparison. As a performer, this subnotebook really isn’t in their league. Comparing it to a PDA isn’t exactly fair either. I can’t speak for the PocketPC devices, but the thing I like about the Palm I carry is that it’s an instant-on device. If I power it down with my task list onscreen, the task list comes up when I power it back on, and it comes up immediately. I’m sure with the right distro this laptop could be tweaked to boot in 15-20 seconds, but I don’t want to wait 15-20 seconds to boot up and see my calendar.

I think if it were priced at $499 or even $599, they’d sell tons of them. But the only advantage it offers over the cheap Sotecs is weight.

Skimping on the design would cut some cost, but the obvious places to skimp–a good starting point would be to lose the Firewire and USB 2.0 and offer plain old USB, drop the memory to 128 megs and drop the CPU to 800 MHz–would probably only shave $50 off the price.

To me, the Sotec is much more appealing. There will probably be an initial surge in sales due to pent-up demands for a lighter notebook and/or a notebook with a Linux derivative preinstalled, but I expect them to cool pretty quickly once people realize the Sotec is the better buy.

5 thoughts on “The $799 Lindows subnotebook

  • February 24, 2003 at 7:56 am
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    You can go to Dell and get a P4-M 1.8 Ghz, 14.1″ Screen, 256 Mb memory, 20 Gb H/d, 56 Kbps modem, Nic, Internal CD, 16 Mb Nvidia to Go video card, and Windows XP Home for $999 and a mail in rebate of $150 (free shipping you paid effectively $849) so you get, a better screen (The Lindows screen is 12″) a CPU that runs circles around that VIA 933 Mhz, an internal CD, a higher quality manufacturer and pay about the same amount of money

  • February 24, 2003 at 9:31 am
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    Yep, the Lindows offering sounds good at first, but it’s pretty easy to find a better deal from any number of places.

  • February 24, 2003 at 2:09 pm
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    I think I’ll jump in and defend that machine a bit. Remember that this is the very first effort by this company to deliver a nice machine at a decent cost. I can just imagine that once the ball starts rolling and they get a grip on some market that their prices will drop. They should be able to price the machine at around $649 or so if they really tried hard but I think that their initial aim above that is to see the market response, gain customers and get this business rolling securely without any unnecessary risks.

    Also, you are definitely forgetting a very important point that everybody seems to ignore these days when buying laptops: Battery. That Lindows machine will be up and running for sure quite a while after the Dell machine with its powersucking processor and extra draining screen has turned its lights off.

    I have looked at the tech-specs of the machine and while it is no scorcher in terms of performance, it uses hardware that, although of the cheaper kind, works well and is well supported by the Linux community.The lack of CD-ROM is also a nonissue for most potential customers, at least to begin with. Why? Well, if you are a non-techie-Linux newbie then Lindows will probably suit you just fine. If you are a hard-core Linux techie that eats, drinks and breathes Linux then doing a network installation of Debian, Suse or even Redhat with a little partition magic will maybe take you an evening or so to complete. I wouldn’t be surprised if lots of Howto’s and whatnots start appearing on the net soon.

    Don’t forget that this is also the cheapest notebook you can buy right now. We got a new contender on the low-price notebooks which means that others (including Sotec) will strive harder to lower their prices. You should be thanking Lindows instead 🙂 You are also buying a laptop running Linux as standard, and supported as well. Try getting that from Dell.

    But I agree with your points on the iPaq comparison Dave. It is like comparing a car with a motorcycle and saying that a car can get you from point A to B just as fast in heavy city traffic. I don’t think so….

    /Dave T.

  • March 10, 2003 at 11:06 pm
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    After looking over the spec, I noticed the usual omission: battery life. A quick email to gearzoo turned up a bad response: 2 hours. If it had my fav, the transmeta, I’d be all over this. But then I thought why Via? Then it hit me! The M$ conspiracy! Intel and probably AMD are too M$ entangled. Where as Via is not in that kind of position. Can you recall the last thing Via was in? So, Mr. Richardson found a player willing to play because they lacked the shackles of the biggies. But if they went with transmeta, it’d have 5 hours! Any at least it’d be a bit cooler

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