What’s the cheapest computer you can buy today? And we're not talking Raspberry Pi. We still need enough horsepower to email, browse the Web, or play a movie. Kaser claims to have the answer with its $100 Android-based nettop. But is it up to the task?
There’s no shortage of chatter in the blogosphere regarding this brave, new “post-PC era” that we’re entering. Now that low-cost Android-based devices are so clearly ready to take over for your PC, why on Earth would we possibly need the traditional desktop anymore, right?
Wrong. Sometimes you just need a large screen, full-sized keyboard, and precision pointing device to get the job done. That’s where the Kaser Net'sPC2 YF810-8G comes in. Packing Android 4.0 (also known as "Ice Cream Sandwich"), a low-power ARM SoC, keyboard, mouse, and a lot of the I/O you'd typically find on a workstation, the Net'sPC2 seeks to replace your desktop for the low, low price of just $100.
But what kind of performance can you expect from such an inexpensive device? And what is it like to use a touchscreen-oriented mobile operating system with a keyboard and mouse? And for that matter, what do we even compare this thing to?
After all, it would be unfair to pit a $100 nettop against the high-end hardware that we typically test. Comparing the Net'sPC2 to a $600 iPhone or $1,200 Ultrabook is just ridiculous. Even a simple Atom-based nettop costs two or three times the Kaser after adding a drive, memory, keyboard, and mouse. Price is clearly what makes this little thing unique, so we had to strike off in search of competition in the Android and PC worlds able to compete against the Net'sPC2 on cost.
What Does A Hundred Bucks Get You?
Let’s take a moment to think about what else a C-note buys these days. If you’re hungry, you can get about two dozen Big Macs. Or maybe ten buckets of the Colonel’s chicken. If you're shopping for consumer electronics, you could pick up a pair of iPod Shuffles or an HD-streaming Blu-ray box.
If you’re talking about the computer world, $100 doesn’t go very far. Of course, if you're being savvy, the used market isn't a bad place to look if you're on an extreme budget. A low-end home office PC from the (dreaded) Vista years goes for about $100, or even less if you hit up a thrift shop (Macklemore-style), an auction site, or the classifieds. And if you’re like any of us, you probably already have at least one older system lying around. That’s right, folks. We’re bringing out Grandma’s PC for this one.
Next, we need a representative from the Atom camp. Although new netbooks still sell for as little as $250, we pulled out a first-gen Dell Mini 10v to close that gap even more. Although a used Mini 10v can still probably fetch a higher price than the Kaser, unlike the Net'sPC2, Dell's Mini is a complete system since it includes a display.
Now let’s try to come up with a couple of Android-based products similar to Kaser's offering. Low-end, pre-paid Android smartphones with the same system specs go for around $100, or even less on sale. If a Benjamin is more than you want to spend on a burner, you could also get away with two really low-end Gingerbread-based devices for that much. Alternatively, you could double-up your investment and pick up the award-winning Nexus 7, which, like the Dell Mini 10v, is a complete system.
Finally, in order to provide a relevant frame of reference, we're also including the $400 Apple iPad 2. While this device is clearly out of Kaser’s league, Apple sold a ton of these things, and we already know that both the iPad 3 and iPad Mini test essentially the same as the iPad 2. Like the Vista box, we’re betting that many of you have at least one of these things at home. Hopefully, including the iPad 2 gives you a clearer picture of where the Net'sPC2 stands.
To compare Kaser's offering, we’re employing a handful of cross-platform benchmarks like Geekbench, 3DMark, GFXBench, and a scaled-down version of the Web Browser Grand Prix. But first, let’s take a closer look at the Net'sPC2 YF810-8G.