Exclusive: A preview of the £99 ElonexONE laptop

Tomorrow, Elonex is going to unveil a brand new laptop which costs only £99; this laptop is almost certainly a rebadged product, although Elonex vehemently disputes this.

It is unsurprising that Elonex chose to release a £99 laptop after its competitor in the education field, RM launched the Asus EEE laptop late last year and cause a real stir.

Fontastic Telecom Inc, which was initially identified as the Original Equipment Manufacturer has since removed the product - which it calls the Simple PC - from its website although, thanks to Google's Cache, you can still view it here.

As one can see on both photos, the differences are only cosmetic with a slightly different frame which hides the speakers’ grills.

Elonex says that the laptop will weigh less than 1Kg, has a battery life of three hours, will come with a flash based drive, a case and will be Wi-Fi enabled.

Based on information obtained from two OEMs - Fonetastic and Aware, we have an idea of the hardware specification of the Elonex One.

It will come with a Aday5F-300MHz x86 processor - Aday is a Taiwanese company which specialises in low power x86 CPU and the Aday5F is the successor of the Aday5E series which was presented as a 150MHz Super486.

It will be interesting to see how Aday, a relatively unknown company, has managed to get a x86 licence.

AMD, Intel's Rival, has a sizeable x86 technology portfolion which it licensed back in 2006 to the China's Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) and Peking University.

The only other x86 manufacturer in operation is VIA and it is unlikely that VIA would allow others to use its license after having been embroiled in a legal battle with Intel.

Amongst other tech specs are 128MB DDR2 memory, 4MB flash ROM, 1GB NAND Flash storage, a 800x480 7-inch TFT LCD.

Connections include a 10/100mbps Ethernet connection, a USB WiFi 802.11g Dongle, 6 USB 2.0 ports which allow other external devices like an external DVD writer.

The Elonex One has two stereo speakers, a line out, a 3-cell 2.2AH/cell and weighs in at 950g only; it comes with a USB mouse and detachable keyboard.The laptop is using a relatively slow computer and because it is targeting a very niche market of ultra low price devices, it made sense for the manufacturer to use Linux.

The Elonex One uses the LINOS v2.6.21 operating system which you can see here in action; weirdly enough, the distro is not listed in the list compiled by Distrowatch.

Other applications include

  • Web Browser (Sarmao, which is based on Firefox but is not compatible with Flash),
  • Email (Sylpheed),
  • Internet Messanger (Pidgin),
  • Picture Viewer (GQ view),
  • Editor (Word Processor),
  • PDF reader (XPDF),
  • Dictionary (StarDict),
  • Calculator,
  • System Manager,
  • Package Manager,
  • XMMS,
  • A few games and other apps

OCworkbench has a thorough review of a system very similar to the Elonex ONE and called the AWARE AW-300 A-book laptop and found out that it was quick enough for casual web browsing.

OCWorkbench's screen captures shows a low learning curve graphical user interface which strongly resembles Windows 2000; not many new concepts to learn and users will very easily find their feet in this environment.

Purchasers of the ONE will be able to download artwork and music through the ONEunion website which will also allow kids to contribute their own content as well as entering competitions.

Although comparisons with Asus' EEE PC will be quickly drawn, there are a few notable differences between the two products.

The EEE has been designed from ground up as a laptop, albeit a small and cheap one.

The Elonex ONE, which is derived from the A-View and the Fontastic Model is presented as a souped up photo frame and it even comes with a bracing.

The Elonex ONE will be sold at £100, almost half the price of the cheapest Asus EEE laptop, making it attractive for an even larger audience.

The convergence between computers and photo frame comes at a time when manufacturers are adding more features in order to keep the price of photo frames high enough and malware makers are taking heed as the first digital photo frame virus appeared.

Elonex has already announced that there will be a £120 model which will come with 2GB flash storage and Bluetooth.

Other possible options will include a 2MP webcam as well as a card reader.

You can read the Elonex One press release (PDF format) here.

The Aware specification sheet (PDF format) is here.