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Comparing the OLPC, Classmate and Eee 188

Posted by Zonk
from the choose-but-choose-wisely dept.
ZDOne writes "Small and inexpensive notebooks have been a hot topic in recent months as the Classmate, XO laptop, and the Asus Eee go head-to-head with each other for the low end/educational market. ZDNet has a look at all three systems, comparing the three platforms on multiple points of data to determine which of the three fits your needs. 'In terms of overall stylishness the Eee is the winner, but the XO and the Classmate are both more rounded and rugged, and come with carrying handles. The OLPC XO has the biggest screen, an innovative 7.5in. dual-mode transmissive/reflective LCD that can swivel from traditional clamshell mode to 'e-book' mode with the screen facing outwards, tablet-style (although it's not a touch-screen). The Classmate and Eee both have similar, rather cramped, 7in. TFT displays. '"
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Comparing the OLPC, Classmate and Eee

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  • Re:Bias? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Fast Thick Pants (1081517) <fastthickpants@gma i l . com> on Monday March 03, 2008 @01:59PM (#22626384)
    It's the crazy sort of bias that favors features over inferior or nonexistent features:
    • 7.5 > 7
    • dual-mode transmissive/reflective LCD
    • swivels
  • by Itninja (937614) on Monday March 03, 2008 @02:01PM (#22626402) Homepage
    ...and Eee & an XO. I would have to agree that the Eee is a better system in general, but the screen is small. My 13 y/o daughter uses it with an external monitor when she is at her desk. My 7 y/o son has the XO and likes it a lot, however he complains that he cannot print anything (CUPS printing is not integrated in the interface). One thing I really like about the XO is the ease of adding new applications. Getting new apps to appear in the Eee's 'easy mode' is a headache at best. But the included suite is hard to beat. The touchpad on the XO is useless as its' sensitivity seems to be set way too high. But it found my wireless USB mouse without a problem. I think both systems are well suited to their respective target audiences.
  • Re:eee (Score:4, Informative)

    by mls (97121) on Monday March 03, 2008 @02:05PM (#22626456)
    If the speakers weren't there, I doubt the screen would be an inch bigger.
    The 7 inch screens are a commodity (think portable DVD player) and as such are cheapish to produce. A 9 inch screen (the next logical step up in my mind), are more expensive now, likely because their demand is lower. I'm sure they could offer a larger screen, but at a much much higher cost, one that wouldn't compete well with the $500 low-end notebooks.
  • Re:eee (Score:4, Informative)

    by mls (97121) on Monday March 03, 2008 @02:08PM (#22626492)
    In addition, a larger screen would draw more power; something the Eee and it's small battery try to sip.
  • by nweaver (113078) on Monday March 03, 2008 @02:10PM (#22626514) Homepage
    The classmate is a joke. The only thing the Classmate buys is a faster processor, a real keyboard, and 2x the Flash. For 50%-100% more cash.

    In return, it is not as rugged (cooling fan and open interior, LiIon batteries, electrolytics, conventional hinge, clunky insecure closure, thick), nor as cheap, nor as useful (sunlight readable display), nor as appropriate for the 3rd world (a >50W power supply!?!).

    Also, Windows doesn't understand how to use the Classmate's screen, either having it scroll up and down or squashing the display to fit.

    I'd want Windows on the XO, with Windows understanding the screen resolution. THAT would be a nice combination, as Sugar is an abomination all to itself.
  • by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Monday March 03, 2008 @02:16PM (#22626576)

    although [the XO] has a Linux-based OS, it doesn't have a regular kind of filesystem.
    It does have a regular filesystem. The sugar UI organizes things based on activities (a.k.a. programs) and has a journal (a.k.a. search system) that shows you all your documents (a.k.a. files). Despite this abstraction, a normal filesystem hides beneath.

    'Hides' is probably the wrong word. One of the activities is a terminal, with which you can browse the conventional Linux filesystem normally. You can SSH into the XO, and use terminal commands to install new software. You can even install a new desktop environment (e.g. xfce) to replace sugar if you prefer. It's a low-power machine, but it's running a full-featured Linux distro.

    Lately I've been entertaining the idea of moving to somewhere in the developing world where all the kids have XOs, and teaching them to code.
    That sounds like a fantastic (and altruistic) thing to do. If you're used to coding in Linux, and using Python in particular, you'll find coding on the XO to be a fun. Personally I find the built-in keyboard hard to use, so I usually connect a USB keyboard and mouse if I'm working on it for an extended period.
  • Article is worthless (Score:5, Informative)

    by OglinTatas (710589) on Monday March 03, 2008 @02:23PM (#22626638)
    Here are my impressions, which are also worthless:
    The eee certainly is stylish. I really like the hardware hacking you can do with it. I don't like the screen, though--not that it is too small physically, but that the resolution is so low, that text on the screen has to be larger in order to read it, which makes the screen effectively too small. Does that make sense?

    My OLPC I really like, though again nothing is perfect. The hardware is top notch (though I have read of keyboard failures, that could happen to any manufacturer). The screen is great, I can read it in bright sunlight, I can flip it around and use it as an "ebook reader"--mostly to read pdf documentation for other software I use. I don't need to read that in direct sunlight, though.

    One can't really complain about keyboards designed for children, but both the OLPC's keyboard and the eee (designed for adults) are about the same physical size, which means I can't touch type on either, but the fact that the keys are physically smaller on the OLPC, with a large gap between keys makes the occasional two-key press on the OLPC much less frequent than an eee.

    One thing I really HATE, though, about the OLPC is that crappy sugarUI, and the whole activity vs. application paradigm. I also can't stand that file system hierarchies are ignored, and everything is collapsed to a single flat directory. How do I then save things to the correct subdirectory on my usb drive?

    There are guides available to boot OLPC into ubuntu, for instance, but so far I've been too lazy to do so, especially since I have other options as far as hardware goes.

    Classmate? meh, don't know, don't care. The few online reviews I have seen have not been flattering. The one plus, it doesn't have the sugarUI. The downside? Windows.

    My wishlist for an UMPC would be: an OLPC, only slightly wider so it can acomodate a keyboard just large enough for me to touch-type, with ubuntu preloaded. If they make the next-gen eee an inch or so wider for the same reason, only with a decent screen (even if it is not as good as OLPC's) then I would settle for that.

  • Re:eee (Score:5, Informative)

    by lixee (863589) on Monday March 03, 2008 @02:24PM (#22626644)
    You do realize that the Eee PC900 was announced today at CeBIT, don't you? http://eeesite.net/2008/03/asus-announces-next-generation-eee-pc.html [eeesite.net]
  • Re:Bias? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chris Mattern (191822) on Monday March 03, 2008 @02:27PM (#22626692)
    If it's a 4:3 screen, then the OLPC is giving you almost 15% more screen.
    That's not so trivial.
  • by Urger (817972) on Monday March 03, 2008 @02:33PM (#22626768) Homepage
    Easy Mode is the big problem with the Eee. I ripped the original OS out of there out of immediately and switched over to Ubuntu and later to eeeXubunto [eeeuser.com] and have never looked back. As to the screen on the Eee. It's small. I wish it was a bit bigger but at the price the Eee is available at I'm more then happy to put up with it.... At least until there is a cheaper one with a bigger screen.
  • by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Monday March 03, 2008 @02:43PM (#22626910) Journal
    What is the real human cost difference between:

    1) A basic paved road, with maintenance, infrastructure to create fuel, infrastructure to transport fuel, infrastructure to create cars, infrastructure to maintain cars, training in driving, compensation for human error

    2) A basic rail system, with maintenance, a renewable energy system, with maintenance

    The rail system has a greater upfront cost, but negligible ongoing cost. They did feasibility studies in my region, and determined that it would take around 20 million dollars to set it up.

    They didn't have the budget, and they're not allowed to save for next year or their funding gets reduced, so they instead blew their 5 million buying buses that kneel to let disabled passengers on and have a signal system to change traffic lights.

    Total waste of money, doesn't fix the transportation problems, leaves us relying on fossil fuels, and if the political system allowed them to save up for new infrastructure with their federal money, they could have paid for it in less than 5 years with the money they wasted on nothing at all.

    Someone here is ignorant and naive, but it isn't me.
  • Re:eee (Score:4, Informative)

    by mls (97121) on Monday March 03, 2008 @02:44PM (#22626928)
    I knew it was coming, but didn't realize it had been announced yet.
    9 inch screen and more RAM and storage for 100 Euros more ($150 US).
    399 Euro's equates to $600 at today's rates. Like I said, you can get a low-end full-size notebook (with the Vista tax even) for that price or less. The only thing you lose with the full size, well, is the compact and easy to carry size. Battery life might be better with the Eee, though that is hard to compare without specifics.
  • Re:Bias? (Score:4, Informative)

    by SharpFang (651121) on Monday March 03, 2008 @02:47PM (#22626964) Homepage Journal
    Probably because of Sugar vs XP and others.

    I've tried Sugar (on a PC, LiveCD), and it's designed for small display. The icons are big, spaced wide apart, there are no very small elements of the UI at all, the windowless interface always gives whole screen real estate to the currently running application, you never find yourself struggling to decipher some tiny text or click some small piece of UI. It manages the available space well and provides a very good middle ground between number of items visible on the screen at any time and depth of user interface trees.

    OTOH WinXP is barely capable of running at 800x600 and not one dialog window will simply not fit on the screen. Switch your XP desktop to 800x600 and try playing with it for a few hours, I assure you you'll feel the screen is cramped and the interface clunky and uncomfortable. Lots of scrolling, lots of opening additional submenus, moving windows, blindly pressing enter in hope it accepts the "OK" of a dialog that didn't fit on the screen and isn't resizable - I did use XP in 800x600 for a while and it does feel cramped.
  • by AuMatar (183847) on Monday March 03, 2008 @02:51PM (#22627018)
    You've left out at least 1 zero there- Seattle had a initiative for a light rail extention that failed, another dozen or so miles was going to cost billions.

    As for the buses- people in wheelchairs are human too. They deserve access to public transportation. That means they need buses that have some sort of ramp or kneeling system.
  • Re:eee (Score:2, Informative)

    by bjmoneyxxx (1227784) on Monday March 03, 2008 @02:55PM (#22627074)
    I'm not sure about the third, but the EEE PC gets ~2.5-3 hours, while the OLPC can get 10-12 in black and white mode. So their goes your fig-brained idea.
  • by MyDixieWrecked (548719) on Monday March 03, 2008 @03:14PM (#22627264) Homepage Journal
    One thing I really HATE, though, about the OLPC is that crappy sugarUI

    When I got to play with an OLPC, the thing that I couldnt' get past was the quality of the keyboard. It's nearly impossible to use for normal tasks; the keys are like soft telephone buttons and require a press rather than a tap. I would hate to use it for any kind of typing or development. Another poster mentioned that you can ssh into it to install software which really seems like the optimal choice. Of course, the SugarUI really isn't designed for a standard linux user and it can be changed (to xfce, for instance), which probably would solve your issue with it.

    Software issues aren't a huge deal, especially if they can be fixed via settings changes or any kind of hack. When the hardware itself (shitty display or keyboard or lack or ports) is an issue, the you have a problem. Complaints about the GUI or default installed applications are an easy problem to remedy.

    The eeePC's keyboard is also small, but it's usable. I played with my cousin's and found that although the keyboard and screen were both on the small side, it was still a perfectly usable machine for being ultra-mobile and is far more usable than my cell phone (AT&T Tilt) for real work.

    My primary likes with the eeePC are the size, weight, and specs for the package. Another notch in the unusably small direction and the machine would be garbage to me, but I think it juuust makes it... although another half inch wider to accommodate a larger keyboard and maybe a larger LCD would have been spectacular.
  • Re:Bias? (Score:5, Informative)

    by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Monday March 03, 2008 @03:20PM (#22627346)
    The OLPC is a freakn 1200 x 900 display. Not 800x600. It's the highest dot pitch display I've ever seen.

    The OLPC's resolution is given in what would be termed "subpixels" on a traditional display. So in one sense, an 800x600 RGB-stripe LCD of the same size would actually have a higher resolution: 1.44 million fixed-chroma/variable-intensity picture elements, vs. 1.08 million for the OLPC screen.

  • Re:Bias? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Abcd1234 (188840) on Monday March 03, 2008 @04:31PM (#22628152) Homepage
    Except, and I know this is obvious but for those not aware, no other LCD display can use it's full set of subpixels in B&W mode for things like text rendering, like the OLPC can. So during full-colour use it's effective resolution is roughly 800x600, it also has the option of acting as a full, 1200x900 B&W display. And, let me tell ya, in that mode, it looks *fantastic*.
  • by Z34107 (925136) on Monday March 03, 2008 @04:33PM (#22628166)

    2) A basic rail system, with maintenance, a renewable energy system, with maintenance (emphasis mine)

    The renewable energy part is a problem. You think you're going to put sails on an AmTrak train? Find a windfarm large enough to power an electric train that would have to continuously carry millions of people? Only let people commute downhill?

    As for the budget projection, I'd refer you to the success (or lack thereof) of the "Big Dig" in Massachusetts. Or any government "budget." I'd also be wary about financing things right now because of the monoline crisis and the failure of auction-rate security sales.

    Public transportation is nice, and in some places it can/has been successful. But it's not a panacea, especially for a country used to the convenience of travel on your own schedule. It's night impossible to get a job if your hours are dependent on the bus schedule.

  • by DrYak (748999) on Monday March 03, 2008 @05:00PM (#22628490) Homepage

    1.44 million fixed-chroma/variable-intensity picture elements, vs. 1.08 million for the OLPC screen.


    OLPC's screen isn't chroma fixed.

    The other screens give you either 800x600 color pixels or 2400x600 subpixel with ugly color smearing on the antialasied edge (I just can't stand subpixel rendering. I find the color effects ugly) and non-square pixels (of course, each subpixels is a vertical rectangle wide 1/3 of its height).

    OLPC's screen is either approx. 600x450 color pixels (in transflective mode).
    Or 1200x900 actual black'n'white pixels when in ebook mode (in reflective mode), no subpixel color artefacts, and high resolution mode has approx. square pixels.

    When displaying plain text, OLPC's display is better, more accurate and less power hungry.

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