A portable PC used to mean something the size of a suitcase, then it became a laptop or notebook. Now with the FreePC you get one that you can slip into your pocket with no need for specialist tailoring.
You’ll need to have an HDMI screen and a keyboard/mouse available to be able to use it but if you know they’re going to be available at your destination why take anything bigger?
The FreePC is about four times the size of a USB memory stick but it manages to pack in a lot of technology. There’s a 1.83GHz quad-core Intel Atom CPU, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, it comes with Windows 8.1 pre-installed. You can extend the storage with a microSDHC card. It also has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, a USB 2.0 port and a micro USB port with OTG, and it’s capable of driving a full HD 1080p screen.
In the box you get a short HDMI extension cable, a power adaptor and a microUSB to USB adaptor. There’s a multi-language quick start guide which only devotes four pages to each so doesn’t tell you a lot. You’ll search in vain for more documentation on the maker’s website so if you need to access the BIOS or perform a system refresh you’re left to figure it out for yourself or contact support.
Being Windows 8.1 and having solid state storage the FreePC boots fast and is ready to use within 30 seconds or so of you pressing the power button. Performance for surfing the web is perfectly fine but try to do other things and you do notice the lack of storage.
It comes with a trial of Office 365 pre-installed so out of the box you’re left with just 3.7GB of free space. This means that file operations like copying documents and unpacking zip files can seem painfully slow so you will want to budget for an SD card. You can of course use OneDrive – which comes installed – or your choice of cloud storage to store your files and documents.
You aren’t really going to be using this in the same way you would a desktop or laptop so file performance isn’t the whole picture. For the sort of things it will be used for it works well. The FreePC is quite at home playing videos from YouTube, iPlayer or the like so you can use it to turn your television into a smart TV.
For business use the FreePC is ideal for presentations as you can simply hook it up to a big screen or even a projector with minimal hassle.
Should you buy one?
This isn’t a machine you’d choose to play the latest games or crunch massive spreadsheets, but for making presentations, or to turn a TV into a smart media centre, it’s a lot better than you might expect from something so tiny.
Of course for multimedia use there are cheaper, Android powered, options. Worth noting too that you can buy a full size desktop PC – less portable but more powerful – for around the same money. That leaves the FreePC appealing to a particular type of business user who needs to access cloud apps or make presentations on the go with the comfort of a familiar Windows environment.