Tuesday, 17 March 2009 12:58

Kogan claims cheapest 10in netbook

Consumer electronics importer Kogan Technologies is never shy of a bold claim, and it reckons it has the cheapest 10in netbook in the country.

Fresh from the disappointment of failing to deliver Australia's first Android phone, Kogan has announced a range of netbooks using the same brand name.

The Agora Netbooks start at $A499, and like many such devices use an Atom CPU, in this case the 1.60GHz N270.

"We're very proud that we are the first company in Australia to crack the $500 barrier for a 10-inch netbook," said founder and director Ruslan Kogan.

In line with the company's usual practice, Kogan used its web site to ask customers what features they wanted in a netbook.

Other specifications include a 1024 x 600 display, 160G hard drive, a 1.3MP webcam, microphone, Wi-Fi (b/g), Ethernet, three USB 2.0 ports, VGA, and a combo memory card slot.

Costing an extra $A40, the PRO variant boosts the RAM from 1G to 2G, adds a USB Bluetooth dongle, and replaces the standard three-cell battery with a six-cell version said to be good for up to six hours use.

But a key feature of a netbook is its weight, so please turn to page 2.

The extra hardware lifts the weight from "about 1.2kg" to "about "1.5kg". Not bad, but that makes it heavier than the 13in MacBook Air.

Yes, I know they address two different markets and depths of pocket - you could buy five Agora Netbooks for the price of one MacBook Air and still have enough left over for an iPod touch.

But if you're looking for a computer to shlep around there's a lot to be said for keeping the weight down to 1kg.

Try this experiment: a regular-sized can of food weighs between 400 and 450g. Stack two cans, and hold them in one hand. Then add a third. Which would you prefer to carry?

If you're thinking about the Agora PRO, adding a fourth can will give a closer match.

So we're still faced with the tradeoff between reasonable keyboard and screen sizes as provided by a 10in netbook such as the Agora, and the light weight of a smaller model.

(It's hard to tell from photos, but I'd estimate that the Agora's keyboard is somewhere around 90 percent of full size.)

What about the software? See page 3.

Another interesting point is Kogan's choice of operating system: the Ubuntu-based gOS.

"By using the gOS operating system, we are bringing our customers one step closer to cloud computing. The operating system facilitates easy access to a number of Google services, as well as a host of easy to use, powerful open source programs," said Kogan.

"Most importantly, gOS is extremely easy to use. It's a very aesthetically pleasing, powerful, intuitive, and fast operating system. One thing we're hoping to do is make Linux less daunting for everyone, including casual computer users."

gOS includes Firefox, Open Office, and WINE (which allows the use of some Windows applications), and handles Google Gadgets.

If gOS isn't to your taste, support is available for those wishing to install a different operating system.

According to Kogan officials, Ubuntu Netbook Remix, KDE4, Windows XP and Windows 7 all work "very well" on the Agora Netbook.

Kogan is already accepting orders for its new netbooks, which will ship on April 10.


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.



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