If you are considering a super cheap netbook from a discount store, you should pause and take a deep breath before proceeding. The Sylvania 7-inch Netbook from CVS and the Augen GenBook 74 at Kmart are attractively priced at around $99. But, both machines are far less capable than the Intel Atom-based netbooks that sell for roughly twice the price and run more complete operating systems like Windows XP, Windows 7, or Linux. The cheap $99 netbooks are more limited devices that are good mostly for checking e-mail, making a Facebook status update, or watching a limited set of Youtube videos. Of course, the super cheap netbooks are cute and fit the budget. Augen Genbook 74 versus Sylvania 7-inch Laptop: Let the battle proceed!
Round 1 – Hardware: Both the Augen GenBook 74 and the Sylvania 7-inch Netbook have a VIA8505 processor running at 400 Mhz as a Central Processing Unit (CPU). They both have 128 megabytes (MB) of DDR2 Random Access Memory (RAM). They both have 800 x 480 pixel resolution color TFT screens. They both have WiFi 802.11 b/g wireless connectivity. They both have rechargeable lithium batteries and power adapters. Both machines have an ethernet port, 3USB ports, headphone jack, microphone jack, and an SD memory card slot. The hardware Augen Genbook 74 has 2GB of internal Memory while the Sylvania 7-inch Netbook from CVS has far less memory onboard. The case for the Sylvania 7-inch netbook is just a tad smaller. The Augen GenBook 74 is about half an inch thinner. The Winner: The Augen GenBook 74 by virtue of more internal memory.
Round 2 – Boot Up Time: The Sylvania 7-inch Netbook boots up in about 18 seconds. The Augen GenBook 74 boots up in about 1 minute and 25 seconds. The Winner: The Sylvania 7-inch Netbook from CVS.
Round 3 – Operating System: The Sylvania 7-inch Netbook runs the Windows Embedded CE 6.0 Operating System while the Augen GenBook 74 runs Google’s Android 1.6 Operating System. Windows CE looks similar to the Windows 95 or 98 interface. For older users, it may seem more familiar and intuitive. In contrast, the Augen GenBook 74 runs a more trendy operating system that was intended for cell phones. While Android is fairly simple to maneuver in, there are definitely new things to learn, confusing areas, and apps that get confused. The Winner: The Sylvania 7-inch Netbook from CVS for offering a familiar environment.
Round 4 – Software: Both machines have the basics covered for surfing the web, watching some Youtube videos, and updating a Facebook status. However, both $99 netbooks are somewhat hampered by a lack of applications. The Sylvania 7-inch Netbook has a recorder, media player, and image viewer software. It also has WordPad, Office Spreadsheet, Powerpoint, and Document viewers, and the popular Freecell and Solitaire games. Unfortunately, additional Windows Embedded CE 6.0 applications proved well nigh impossible to find and install. In contrast, the Augen GenBook 74 has useful launchpad apps. While I couldn’t get the official Android market to work properly and download new apps, the unofficial “Apps Store” provided on the Augen GenBook 74 proved to have a few useful applications. I was able to find an RSS Feed reader, office file viewers, note taking software, and an internet radio app that helps complete the computing experience. While Android developers haven’t caught up with all the new form factors and capabilities of Android devices, there is a very active Android development community. The Winner: The Augen GenBook 74 by virtue of more software choices.
Round 5 – Ergonomics: Both computers are hampered by small screens and small keyboards. The Augen GenBook 74 gives the user a slightly larger wrist pad area below the keys. However, the Augen GenBook 74 has an overly sensitive touchpad and touchpad buttons. As a user, I seem to be inadvertantly activating software on a regular basis due to the touchpad. In addition, some of the Android apps don’t seem to abide by the typical double-click conventions that I’m used to in Windows. In contrast, the Sylvania CVS 7-inch netbook provides satisfying clicks when the touchpad buttons are clicked and abides by most Windows software conventions. The Winner: The Sylvania 7-inch Netbook from CVS by virtue of a more usable and less sensitive touchpad and touchpad buttons.
The Winner: This fight goes 3 to 2 in favor of the Sylvania 7-inch Netbook. However, you’ll have to do the analysis. If the user of the mini netbook wants a familiar environment, satisfying clicks, and doesn’t want or need many new apps, the Sylvania 7-inch Netbook from CVS is the winner. If the user is willing to try new things, wants to install new apps, and has the dexterity to master the overly sensitive touch pad, then the Augen GenBook 74 might be the way to go.