Sunday, September 05, 2010

The $99 Netbook, Frugality and Technology Don't Always Mix

The circular felt onto my desk, my eyes paused in disbelief. $99 for a Netbook? At CVS? I went into a logic loop.

No, yes, impossible, really? I went to the CVS web site but they had bupkis, that is more like the CVS I know. Separation of drugs from any knowledge of what is in the retail store.

Sylvania Netbook
It took a bit but I tracked the sucker down. The Sylvania Netbook is for real. The retail price is $99 plus sales tax plus the CA e-Waste fee if you live in California.

Now before you rush out to buy this netbook we need to talk. This is going to make about as much sense as trying to convince a bored teenager not to swig on a can of Colt45 but I have to make the effort.

The Very Short Version

This is an underpowered computer. It is designed for using on-line applications like Google Apps, Zoho Apps, Facebook, YouTube or Twitter. It is strictly for connecting to the Internet away from home.

It is an limited function device. Unless you have a Wi-Fi connection at home you will not be able to use this computer to connect to the Internet unless you purchase additional devices and/or subscription service.

You can rack up another $250 to $400 trying to make it work but I think there are better uses for your cash.

Quick Specifications:
  • It is not a powerful CPU. It is a chugita chugita Via 8805 CPU.
  • Windows CE - I don't know where to begin on this one. Let's say that this variation of Windows was designed for low powered devices.
  • 128MB internal memory. I ain't seen internal memory that small since the PC-AT class computers of the early 1990s. It can only handle really limited tasks. I stand corrected. Task.
  • 2GB of internal storage. Saving early versions of MS Word or Open Office docs, yes it is possible. Downloading all of your 5 megapixel photos from your camera, I don't think so.
  • You can purchase an 8GB SDHC memory card for additional storage but you will pay more for it at CVC and similar drug stores. They tend to really mark up stuff like memory cards. If you need it you'll pay 2x more for the SD card unless it is a blowout kind of deal.
  • You have to have either a viable Wi-Fi connection or be willing to purchase additional devices, for example, Virgin Mobile sells Broadband2Go. You purchase the device and the service plan.

When Need Overrules Practicality

My friends that are Frugalistas are waving their hands in the air. They want it known that they can't buy a used notebook because they don't know how to tell a good one from a bad one. Sure they understand that this netbook only connects to the Internet at local Wi-Fi hot spots.

The Frugalistas just want to keep up the the TwitFaceTube generation. And to help find employment, connect with family and stay information viable at under $150.

I know. Seriously. Those of you having to go to the friends house got old years ago. You are tired of the bum rush to get a computer at the library. You need it for school and you can just about scrape up $150.

I am sympathetic. I know what it is like to need a computer and can almost buy it without going broke.

College Students

If you are a college student that needs an Internet computer and your campus does have Wi-Fi or you can get to a public library then yes, go for it because you need to have something to help you stay competitive with other students.

The keyboard is cramped. You will be sorry but you will be connected.

Members of the Fiscally Challenged Club - Working Adult Division

I can't recommend this computer. It would be so much better to save your money and purchase a new notebook or a decent used notebook computer.

You are not going to be able to install modern software. I keep typing this but you have to understand; you could spend almost $250 to get what you need to make this Wi-Fi capable in your home. $99 Netbook + $250 Wi-Fi = $349.

That is not frugal. That is stupid. Frugalistas are not stupid.

Folks on the Go or Conventioneers

I suppose it is a cheap way to have a function computer without worrying that you could lose everything. For use at the airport, hotel room or as a passenger in a car, maybe.

I still think you are gonna get the shank due to its lack of functionality and the size of the keyboard. If you can also use it like an e-book reader then, sigh, perhaps.

Well, I've said my piece. The choice is yours.

Oh, one more thing. Don't go looking for tech help in same place that sells suppositories.


  1. I'm thinking that this is just an extension of that UN effort to get functional computers into the hands of all the needy people.

    Sadly, I'm thinking the average African village is missing out on that whole "wifi connection" vibe. Maybe it's just me.

  2. Hey, welcome over the fence. The One Child Per Laptop certainly inspired folks to get busy creating affordable laptops to the world students.

    The technology has evolved so far and so fast that is is now possible to sell a $99 with $50 worth of parts. My problem with this is the expectation of the buyer don't match what this machine can and can't do. There are a bunch of American towns and villages that don't have Wi-Fi either let alone broadband.

    This is going to be a boomerang product. It isn't being marketed correctly or sold in the appropriate manner.

  3. Dont you try put a Linux OS on that hardware?

  4. Yes I suppose you could. But the average user doesn't know how to do that. They shouldn't be expected to figure out how to make a bad product better unless they want to.

    I often wonder why people do not do this with cheap tablets? You would think the Linux community would be all over that or at least make a port that connect Android with Linux.