Wednesday, December 19, 2007

OLPC: Minimal First Impressions

Hooray, my OLPC arrived this morning!

Without having the time to go in to any detail, here some initial first impressions.

- It's really small, but the carrying handle and LCD hinge/swivel assembly make it larger than my Eee PC. Not a huge issue for me, and the hinge/swivel makes for some cool functionality that I want in a small notebook. Handle I can live without, but it won't be a deciding factor for me. Tie.

- It's marginally heavier than the Asus. Subjectively I prefer holding the Asus in one hand; the weight distribution seems better/more convenient. Winner: Asus. UPDATE: I just found a nice way to hold the OLPC; if you wrap your arm around it you can rest the back end on your forearm while the front rests on your chest. It's a little awkward, but the additional depth makes it a bit more convenient than the Asus (I think). NEW WINNER: Tie.

- You've seen the keyboard, you don't need me to add anything, right? Fine. The Asus keyboard is obviously better for most of what I need to do. That said, I'd be more comfortable taking the OLPC into harsher environments, which I need on occasion. Winner: Asus, with caveats that make it seem more like a tie.

- Boot-up time is acceptable, but slower than the Asus. Again, this won't be a major deciding factor, but a quick boot-up is rather important to me: the quicker it starts up, the quicker I can do something useful, the more likely I'll be to make use of the functionality I can hold in my hand. Asus (20-25 seconds worst case), OLPC (90+seconds?!). Winner: Asus, hands-down.

- The OLPC screen is pretty nice, and the no-backlight mode is really easy to read in bright light, and passable in low-light. The Asus screen is good too, but (so far, anyway) I haven't been able to turn the backlight off. Winner: OLPC.

- Apps: The Asus is a typical Linux box. The OLPC as delivered isn't set up for non-kid use, but there's a shell available, vi is installed by default, and I'm assuming I'll be able to use it as a generic Unix box w/o much of a hassle. I could be wrong. As delivered, winner: Asus. In reality, most likely dead even.

- Speed: Asus, no contest, at least so far. The OLPC is running a Geode at 433MHz, the Asus a Celeron M (at 630MHz?). I'm surprised the perceived speed difference is so great, and I'm not sure where the biggest differences are. Hopefully someone with more time will post some I/O benchmarks.

- Battery life: Don't know yet. I'm guessing the OLPC, perhaps even by a landslide. The Asus will go ~3 hrs, depending on what you're doing. I'd rather it was... a full day :)

- Noise: OLPC, hands down. The Asus gets pretty hot and has a fan and isn't afraid to use it.

- Networking: So far, I can't get the OLPC to connect to my WPA-PSK wireless; this is a MAJOR lose. I'm sure somebody else has this figured out, though. Temporary winner: Asus. UPDATE: Heng's comment does, indeed, solve the problem. New winner: Tie.

First Final Verdict: if only they could combine the two... I may end up going to dynamism.com and getting a UMPC at this rate, but they cost 2-10x as much, so I'm in no hurry. I suspect I'll be using the Asus more because of the keyboard, but once I have time to start hacking on the OLPC (and mod the case) that might change.

I'm excited by both, which is an unfortunate commentary on my life. This *is* a useful form factor (at least for me, and, I suspect, a lot of other people) but I'm not sure the optimal ergonomics have been figured out yet, and, as usual, we still need better batteries.

2 comments:

Heng said...

This could help you, with setting up WPA:

How to get WPA working on your OLPC


But maybe you knew that already.

Dave Newton said...

Thanks, that does indeed work, and I've updated the entry. Thanks again!