New Litl Webbook flips netbook on its head

You’re a tech-company-nobody without a mini version of your latest release. I’m talking netbooks; Sony have released their Vaio W range, Asus have got their Eee PC Netbooks and Samsung have gone ultra-light with the new N120. But US startup company, Litl, have gone one step further with their new design-led Litl Webbook – they’ve gone back to basics.

Described as the anti-PC, the new Litl Webbook is designed for internet surfing and media-viewing minus the complexities of other operating systems. Launched earlier this month, the Litl Webbook has stripped its user interface bare, doing away with menus, icons and folders in an attempt to make the Webbook ideal for “everyone in the family”.

litl-webbook

The defining feature is its flexible hinge design, which means the Webbook can be used as a conventional netbook or be flipped at a 178-degree angle for easel-like viewing of photographs, videos and even the weather forecast via its 12” screen and H.264 in 720p playback. Other features include a dial for smooth transition through its web channels, including Flickr, Shutterfly, Weather.com and Facebook. There’s also a HDMI output for plug-and-play connectivity to a larger screen, WiFi, headphone jack as well as inbuilt microphone, webcam and USB 2.0 port.

With 1.6 GHZ Atom processor and 1GB RAM, Litl have produced their own operating system as well as hardware. Advertising “maintenance-free” perks, the Webbook is automatically updated and checked for viruses. It also stores data server-side via a ‘cloud’ therefore lacking a hard drive. While this Webbook is perhaps targeted at technophobes or those looking to reduce the OS complexities of the average netbook or PC, its downfall could arise in security issues. What happens if Litl’s service has technical issues or this relatively new startup goes bust? No more automatic updates; bye-bye data.

Cloud computing security and privacy issues aside, this is a netbook with a clever, hinged gimmick. It’s for people who surf the internet, want to view their holiday snaps, watch the odd video online and, ultimately, don’t use their computers for much else. Being expensive for a scaled-back version of more sophisticated netbooks at $699 (and an additional $19 for the remote control); you’re paying for its functionality, ease of use and the lovely-looking design – while you’re losing the familiarity of dominating operating systems. If you want something simple and a bit different, buy it – but back-up your stuff.

MSI’s Wind 12 U200: good thing in a small package?

MSI took the then fledgling netbook market by storm back in 2008 with their Intel Atom powered model, and now, 18 months and a lot of upgrading later they’re back with the UK launch of the Wind 12 U200 mini notebook.

Today’s netbook market is almost unrecognisable to the field in which MSI’s original number set the benchmark, and with more models and manufacturers competing for consumers’ cash than ever before, MSI face tough competition if they’re going to match the impact of their original trendsetter.

msi-wind12-u200

At first glance, the name ‘mini notebook’ reveals one of MSI’s most notable changes. Weighing in at 1.5 kg and sporting a 12.1 inch HD ready 16:9 crystal screen, it’s certainly no netbook. It’s high end spec also dwarves many other models on the market representing a firm stride away from the kind of ‘back to basics’ approach associated with some of the earliest models on the market. But the U200 also comes nowhere near the bulk and heft we typically associate with run of the mill notebooks, so can MSI’s latest model bridge the gap between netbooks and notebooks, or will it get lost between the two?

Well, it certainly looks the part with a sleek, stylish finish and frameless display that’s a world away from the kind of Toys ‘R’ Us pioneers of the netbook era. It’s got a respectable 6.5 hours of life from the 6 cell battery and comes equipped with the new Windows 7 platform as standard. There’s also a 320GB hard drive, 2GB of memory, Intel Culv SU3500 1.4GHz processor, optional Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and a 1.3-megapixel webcam.

As well as improved specs, the increase in size also accommodates MSI’s latest in keyboard design, the MSI Ergonomics De-Stress (EDS) Keyboard. This features a surface area that is considerably larger than its predecessor, and the face of each individual key is wider and so easier to use. MSI also claim that the keyboard encourages natural finger and wrist movement to reduce strain, allowing you to waste away the hours without the discomfort that the shovel-handed amongst us have experienced from smaller sized models.

Finally though, there’s the sticky issue of price, and at £399 the U200 is certainly at the top end of the netbook market. But with an impressive array of specs, great design and increased usability it could prove to be the ideal solution if you’re looking for a laptop that marries portability with processing power; and it even looks good to boot.

Model NameU200-087UK / U200-038UK
ID ColourBLACK / WHITE
Processor & CacheIntel® CULV SU3500 1.4GHz processor
Operating SystemGenuine Windows 7® Home Premium
ChipsetsIntel® GS45 + ICH9M-SFF
System Memory2Gb DDR2
LCD Display12.1″ 1366*768 HD Ready
Graphics & Video ModuleGMA 4500 MHD, share with system memory
Audio2 high quality speakers
HDD320GB
Webcam1.3M
Card Reader4-in-1 Card Reader, SD/MMC/MS/XD
Communication PortBuilt-in 10/100/1000 LAN
Built-in 802.11b/g/n WLAN Card / Bluetooth V2.0 EDR Supported (Bluetooth is optional)
I/O PortGraphics Card Output (15-pin, D-Sub) X 1
USB2.0 Port X 3
Mic-in Port X 1/Headphone Output X 1
LAN Port X 1
HDMI X 1
Battery6 Cells
Keyboard87 keys
AC Adaptor40W
Dimension & Weight297(L) X 190(D) X 24.5-31(H)mm
1.5KG with 6 cell battery
Warranty2 years Global Collect and Return

Sling your Nook? The battle of the e-readers heats up

E-readers have definitely been one of the hot gadgets of 2009 and whilst many people are planning on purchasing the Kindle for a Christmas gift, a new kid on the block is about to be launched. At the end of November Barnes and Noble are set to unveil a shiny spanking new e-book reader called a ‘Nook’ which can hold up to 1,500 e-books.

With a sleek white aesthetic, what tech features makes the Nook superior to the Kindle? Here comes the geek bit. Firstly, the Nook has a multi touch coloured screen which can be used to browse books in a slick cover to cover style. This touch screen can also be used as a keyboard because with access to 3G and Wi-Fi you can even surf the web. The machine is the first to run Android OS; Google’s operating system written for mobile devices and if desired, the Nook has the option to be viewed in black and white.

Nook E-Reader

The nifty gadget has 2GB of internal storage and MP3 player and supports open formats such as EPUB. Nook users also have added features such as bookmarks. Pretty snazzy?

The Wi-Fi ability is definitely a cool feature, yes and the Android OS, certainly. However, the gold factor which sets the Nook above the Kindle is that it allows you to swap e-books with your friends. One of the biggest problems with the current e-books is that you can’t lend or re-sell them and Barnes and Noble really have a huge advantage with the Nook as they are selling e-books cheaper than those available on the Kindle and paper versions, which of course, as an avid reader is a huge incentive.

Once you lend the e-book to a friend (the e-book can also be accessed through PCs or smart phones such as the BlackBerry and the iPhone) they will have access to it for 14 days and then it is immediately reverts back to the original owner – which saves the hassle of bugging your friend to return your books! The only disadvantage is that whilst your friend has access to the e-book, you are unable to read it.

With titles cheaper than those found on the Kindle and a whole bunch of new features which also allow for sharing and interaction with others, at a glance, I’d say the Nook is definitely in the running to kill off the Kindle.