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First Android Netbook Actually Costs $250

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 24 comments

Last week we (and just about everyone else) wrote about Skytone’s $100 Android-powered netbook, the Alpha 680.

As the first device running Android, it was guaranteed to get us excited. However, world and dog were all too quick to point out that it wasn’t exactly impressive. That said, for $100, it wasn’t too bad. At the very least, your hundred bucks would get you an Android-based netbook you could tinker with and not feel like you were wasting money you didn’t have.

Over the weekend, a new price started to get around and it seems that the rumored pricetag of just $100 was too good to be true -- about $150 too good. That’s right, according to an in-depth interview with Skytone over on Computerworld, the device will be more like $250. Nixon Wu, Skytone's co-founder said that as volume ramps up, the company hopes for that price to drop. Let’s not mince words, $150 is a big jump, so where did that first figure come from?

It's hard to say. As far as we can tell, the company was aiming to make a $100 netbook, but didn't quite get there. Wu says that the company took direction from Wal-Mart, which pointed them in the direction of the low-cost PC business back in 2006.

"They were looking for ways to build a $100 PC. We had expertise in porting Linux to embedded systems, and so they found us," Wu told Computerworld. "At the end of the day, we couldn't meet Wal-Mart's target, but we continued on this path anyway."

Alright, so it’s 2.5 times the price, you say, but are there any more let downs in store? Well, yeah. The Alpha 680 is definitely ultra-portable. Weighing in at about 1.5 lbs and measuring 8.5 inches long, 6 inches wide and 1.2 inches thick it’s smaller than the EeePC. Last week’s reports of an 800 x 480 7-inch LCD, 128 MB DDR2 (up to 256 MB Optional), 1 GB SSD (up to 4 GB Optional), WiFi and an ARM11 533 MHz 32-bit CPU were true. The part about the touchscreen wasn’t, it seems. While the 680 is not a tablet computer (despite what the pictures on Skytone's website tell us), the Alpha 700, a 1024 x 600 8.9-inch PC with a 500 MHz MIPS processor, and 2 GB SSD drive, is. The tablet will cost between $200 and $250, said Wu.

At the end of the day, this sounds like a bum deal. The only reason we can see anyone paying $250 for an ARM power, 800 x 480 7-inch netbook, with 128 MB DDR2 and a 1 GB SSD is if they really can’t wait to get their hands on Android to mess around with the OS. That aside, I’d invest the extra cash and get an Eee PC or an Aspire One (or less cash in the case of a Mini 9). What do you guys think? All things considered, would you pay $250 for this piece of kit?

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  • 1 Hide
    Xpyrofuryx , April 27, 2009 2:42 PM
    No.
    I'd much rather pay an extra $100 and get the mini-powerhouse Eee PC 1000HE
  • 2 Hide
    smk4664 , April 27, 2009 2:45 PM
    If the Tablet was $250 dollars, then I would buy one. I believe that is the cheapest tablet out there, and my tablet is not very portable.
  • 1 Hide
    ik242 , April 27, 2009 2:53 PM
    I have no need for such device but that does not mean someone else won't. in my case, i'm after computing power and high resolution displays. i am quite disappointed that common machines are using only 1280x800 pixels. one has to fork some serious dough for 1920x1200 - or at least settle for 17" or greater "mobile" computer.
  • Display all 24 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 27, 2009 3:03 PM
    I'd buy it for $100, but IMHO, it'd be way better to get a real notebook used, or a TurionX2/ATI-780g based notebook in the $500-600 range if possible. That thing makes no sense at $250.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 27, 2009 3:08 PM
    If I can get the all day battery life promised? Sure, I'd buy one in a heartbeat and install Debian Arm on it. All I need is a cheap, long lasting Internet device to get on the web and ssh to my home machine.
  • 0 Hide
    downix , April 27, 2009 3:13 PM
    Depends on the battery. If it fulfils the potential of 5+ hours on a charge, then it would fit my needs for a decent price point.
  • -2 Hide
    unlicensedhitman , April 27, 2009 3:16 PM
    This has to be the carpest of all the netbooks.
  • 2 Hide
    thejerk , April 27, 2009 3:40 PM
    Jane :) All things considered, would you pay $250 for this piece of shit?


    Edited for accuracy... and, no way.
  • 0 Hide
    mitch074 , April 27, 2009 3:47 PM
    I think the most expensive part of that notebook isn't its component set.

    It's the platform. Hello, guys! ARM notebook! It's no Intel, no Via, no AMD, no Nvidia! It's all new! It had to be drawn from scratch! Let's say, each unit is worth $90 in hardware, and first shipment is considered to be 50 000 units, would it be impossible to consider development costs to be around $8M?

    Now, if there is much demand, and 500 000 units ship? Those $8M won't increase any more - they'll be split among all those units. That will make $40/unit, so it would mean a sales tag of $130. Maybe not $100 - and even then, one may wonder about the economies of scales in ordering 500 000 ARM ships and screens and such, and manufacturing costs (less units shipping dead).

    So, no, $100 isn't impossible.
  • -1 Hide
    city_zen , April 27, 2009 4:02 PM
    xpyrofuryxNo.I'd much rather pay an extra $100 and get the mini-powerhouse Eee PC 1000HE


    Sorry but "Eee PC 1000HE" (Intel Atom 1.66 GHz) and "mini-powerhouse" do not belong in the same sentence

  • 0 Hide
    starryman , April 27, 2009 4:03 PM
    With several players already in the netbook market offering lots of features, I find the $250 price point underwhelming. Two major things they have wrong... No Atom CPU and Android. I'm not saying Android is "bad" but even with the ho-hum XP and Linux available on the other competing Netbooks... I don't see it compelling especially considering LINUX is free and XP is only $15 for the license.
  • 0 Hide
    JMcEntegart , April 27, 2009 4:07 PM
    Just to clarify for those of you wondering about the battery: According to Wu, the Alpha 680's 2-cell battery will last between two and four hours while surfing the web using its built-in WiFi or optional 3G antenna.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 27, 2009 4:17 PM
    An EeePc 701 has higher specs, has XP, and costs about the same.
    So, no.
    Linux is a good idea, but underspeccing those laptops only makes them more expensive!
    Meaning, as a manufacturer's costs it doesn't cost much more to plug in a 256MB sodimm RAM chip, as it would to plug in a 2GB stick.
    The only thing more expensive is the hardware.

    So the same with building in a flash SSD of 1GB versus 4/8/16/32/64GB, and with the mounting of a 6" 800x480 or 9" 1280x768 screen; or equipping the laptop with a single or dual core CPU.
    I'd advise the company to do exactly what they are doing right now, and focus for some good specs,like:
    ARM Dual Core 900Mhz processor, 2GB RAM, HD video decoder chip, Linux, 8, 12 or 16GB SSD, and they might end up with a mininotebook costing perhaps $50 more to the current one.
    Especially if they make contracts to do large batches, and can get the hardware cheaper as in retail stores.

    The only thing I wish to push is a 720P screen, to be at least be able to watch 720P HD video on a mininotebook without downscaling! It's almost seen as a standard!
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 27, 2009 4:22 PM
    JMcEntegartJust to clarify for those of you wondering about the battery: According to Wu, the Alpha 680's 2-cell battery will last between two and four hours while surfing the web using its built-in WiFi or optional 3G antenna.

    If this is true, with those specs I'd give it a $120 pricetag.
    Previously (with the $100 android article) I mentioned a $200 laptop, but that was only when the specs are boosted. I'm not willing to pay more than 120 for a device like this.
  • 0 Hide
    ajcroteau , April 27, 2009 5:02 PM
    The $100 was most likely the price from manufacturer to reseller. The $150 is probably the markup from reseller to consumer... (those sleazy resellers...)
  • 0 Hide
    The Schnoz , April 27, 2009 6:02 PM
    No, I don't see any future in this. The only reason I would get any netbook without Windows is to install Windows (XP or 7) on it without having to pay extra for the OS, but since this is an ARM processor Windows won't work. I think this will be a major failure just as Linux has been on netbooks.
  • 0 Hide
    norbs , April 27, 2009 6:36 PM
    wow i seen asus netbooks going for 169 recently, whats the point of even releasing this...
  • 0 Hide
    megamanx00 , April 27, 2009 7:48 PM
    Isn't bad if it fills your needs. Of course I don't know alot of people who really need something smaller and lighter than a mini notebook where they can do their word processing and basic tasks on and whom are willing to pay $250 for it. I wouldn't pay more than $175 for this myself. If you're writing apps for android that could make a useful test bed.
  • 0 Hide
    computabug , April 28, 2009 12:47 AM
    No way! Is the $250 CAN or USD? NCIX had one of those cheap netbooks (new) for $200 CAN, probably like $150 USD or something. Why would I get this? Worse in every single way I could think of, especially price.
  • 0 Hide
    FrozenGpu , April 28, 2009 3:28 AM
    No way, It's simply not worth it...the ahrdware is too weak at this price point...jeez louise, how did they scew this one up? I could understand maybe $125, but $250, no way for get it.
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