Computer Aid: Asus Beats XO for African University Use


Did you every wonder if the XO laptop was designed for use in African universities? I hope not. In even the name, One Laptop Per Child reminds us that they are designing technology for children. Primary school-age students who are way too young to be anywhere near college-level learning. So how can Computer Aid feel that its recent Low-Power PC Research Project report is an accurate bake-off? Or that this ranking is anywhere near objective?

Pitting the Asus 701 & 900 laptops against the XO-1 may seem logical to a refurbished computer vendor - to them everything shiny and new must be confusing - but its illogical to expect university students to have the same use case as primary school students. Just listen to the university's assessment of the XO and you'll quickly realize this was an apples and oranges comparison:

As for the OLPC, it was consistently ranked best for power consumption. However, it was the slowest of all tested systems, and the operating system didn't include software for spreadsheet or video playing. Only one of the universities (Jos) was able to install an external video player on the OLPC. This made it the least popular of all tested solutions.

Test leveling: Sugar on Asus

Now when they complain of the lack of a spreadsheet software, I have to wonder why they didn't look here to find SocialCalc, a spreadsheet program for the XO, listed in the comments. As to video playback, the OLPC has video capacity in ogg/theora format, so I'm not sure what the problems were. I can only look to the Computer Aid suggestion on why the university rankings vary so greatly:

Because of the difference in the tests conducted and because of human factors might have influenced the time required to complete tests, comparing the results of each solution across the different institutions is not fully reliable.

I would go a step further and say this report's conclusions on the XO are not fully reliable either. Not when the report authors ask universities to assess learning aids designed for primary school children against adult office automation tools.

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Maybe thats a hint? two versions of xo2 for basic schools based on arm926 or cortex withoput dsp and uni version based on cortex+ fancy dsp for video and spreadsheets+web browsing... (like ti and beagle).


I have been in charge of the initiative on behalf of Computer Aid, and would like to provide some feedback to your comments.

Our objective was not to evaluate the suitability of any particular machine for any particular use setting. We recognise that there are a wide variety of product offering with a wide range of potential applications. We made no judgement about the pedagogical value
of the different products.

Our objective in the evaluation was to to evaluate and compare the low-power claims of the different product offerings and to provide an African audience with a basis for comparing power, price, performance and usability.

This is the first African test programme of its kind and we don't claim to have achieved perfection. We continue to learn from the process and are grateful to the OLPC community for their involvement and constructive feedback.

We are also grateful to OLPC for introducing us to SocialCalc and regret that we did not include it in the test. We certainly will in the future.

We are aware that OLPC supports theora/ogg, but the vast majority of content in Africa and elsewhere is encoded in other formats.

Thanks for publishing the results of our research and congratulations to OLPC for proving to be the clear winner against the low-power criteria.

Computer Aid supports the objectives of the OLPC project and applauds its achievements.

Ugo Vallauri
Computer Aid International

I'm not sure what the problems are. I can only look to the Computer Aid suggestion on why the university rankings vary so greatly.