Which Laptop Per Child: OLPC XO-1 or Asus Eee PC?

   
   
   
   
   

Sure, you could wait for the Give 1 Get 1 OLPC XO sale, wanting to grab a "$100 laptop" for $399 before it sells out quickly, but why wait? You can pre-order an Asus Eee PC now with shipping starting in early October!

The E3 PC line starts at a mere $259.99 for a 2GB flash HD, 256MB RAM, 800x600 screen, USB ports, audio, and wireless. For $299, you also get a webcam (and a tote bag!). For a full $399, the same as the OLPC G1G1 price, you get:

EeePC 701 Specifications
Display´╝Ü7" (800 x 480)
CPU & Chipset: Intel mobile CPU & chipset
OS: Linux preloaded/Microsoft Windows XP compatible (XP drivers included)
Communication: 10/100 Mbps Ethernet; 56K modem
WLAN: WiFi 802.11b/g
Graphic: Intel UMA
Memory: 512MB DDR2 667MHz (upgradeable - 1Gb max.)
Storage: 4GB Flash (embedded)
~For additional storage use USB devices or memory stick in card slot~
Webcam: 300K pixel video camera built-in
Audio: Hi-Definition Audio CODEC;
3x USB Ports
MMC/SD card reader
Built-in stereo speakers; Audio In/Out jacks; VGA Out
Battery Life: 3hrs (4 cell) 6-cell version TBA
Dimensions: 8.86"w x 6.30" d x .79"~1.26" h
Carry bag included.
Which is not too shabby, except what are you really buying at that cost? The equivalent of last years' laptop technology, except without a hard drive or a decent screen.

You could get a gently used laptop with all this and more for around the same cost through eBay or DellAuction.com or the like, or buy a new laptop from the usual culprits starting at $499.

With the OLPC, spec-wise, you're not getting anything that special; the AMD Geode 433Mhz, 256MB RAM, 1GB flash hard drive, webcam, mic, wireless. The full specification is at wiki.laptop.org, which you might recall from the upgrade price discussion we had here back in April. So the Eee is competitive, even beating, the OLPC on basic hardware specs for the cost.

If you're buying either of these systems for their blazing clock speeds, I have a bridge over the Tacoma Narrows I'd like to sell you. What you're getting from One Laptop Per Child is first, the warm fuzzy knowing that half of your cost is going to provide a child somewhere in the world with an OLPC just like yours.

Secondly, you're getting a laptop with a battery life measured in days, not hours (the Eee has a measly 3hr lifespan); a screen with a high-resolution black-and-white mode readable in full sunlight, a swivel-monitor/tablet mode, dust/dampness resistance, mesh networking, and a new approach to the desktop.

I welcome increased downward pressure on laptop pricing, and the creation of this niche market, but that being said, I don't yet see the Eee's place. It's low-powered like the OLPC, but without balancing that out with the awesome tech the OLPC brings to the table.

If I wanted a laptop, I'd scrounge for $100 more and get a "real" laptop. If I want an ultra-portable that can last a whole plane trip on one charge, the OLPC G1G1 program, even at $399, still seems like a fair deal, no matter if its stacked up against the $299 or $259 (webcam-less) Eee models.

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16 Comments

Jon, could you comment on this:

http://www.news.com/8301-10784_3-9766574-7.html
http://www.news.com/8301-10784_3-9768920-7.html
http://www.eeeuser.com/wiki/eee_pc_701

From what I understand, the OLPC will (probably) get around 5-6 hours battery life (when used like a laptop), whereas the EEE gets 3-4 hours.

I think "days not hours" is a severe overstatement.

Apparently Asus is planning an EEE with a 10in screen for early next year, and Quanta wants to commercialize the OLPC tech asap. I think I'll wait for those products to become available.

Jon,

Moniter resolution ,800 x 480 , is not the same as dots per inch which is a print specification. In order to qualify as a real eBook reader the screen must have a minimum of 150 to 200 dpi, or else the little children will be needing classes soon.

Another thing that people seem to have a hard time grasping is that ethernet, VSAT, and WiFi are irrelevant. OLPC was designed to use MIT Roofnet mesh network, a proprietary network in MIT's computer science department where Negroponte works. EISA specs are also meaningless, because much of the OLPC is proprietary. I see this alot with Sony VAIO product reviews. Sony makes their own chips and software.They also have Marvell semiconductor custom chips. So specs have no meaning. VAIO was designed to run things like Sony CineAlta photo/video software, so Microsoft EISA specs don't reflect it. OLPC is the same. Their is so much MIT and Marvell custom tech, it is not a real comparison. The OLPC will not be running MS Office.The hardware is optimized for Sugar,Scratch, and Bitfrost.

I failed similarly to find accurate numbers for the OLPC battery life so ran with what I remembered. Still, the OLPC uses such less power (not only on the flash HD, which the Eee also gets, but also with their DCON chip for the screen, letting the CPU go idle while maintaining a static image).

Also, the OLPC battery tests seem to indicate that it actually gets 5-6 hours, whereas I've yet to buy a computer that lived up to its advertised battery life (but maybe I'm just a cynic, or buy too many power-hungry Dell laptops?).

Besides, I can hopefully also get a Potenco yo-yo and recharge my OLPC in the middle of a long cross-country flight (international flights are more likely to have power ports available somewhere).

If you want to compare them in price you have to put a $399 iPhone on the table, as it has a high resolution screen and great portability. Of course it's not a real computer in which you can install apps on, but there are already more hacks out there than softwares for sugar.

Of course, you are in fact buying 2 laptops for that price.

Alex,

One day, I will have my dream device: cheap, tiny keyboard, unlimited data plan, that is basically a DEC VT-100 in the form factor of an iPhone. I just want an always-available SSH console. Until then, there's normal laptops, this new, "cheap + smaller" laptop market, and the PDA/PDAPhone market. I find the PDA/PDAPhone market so very frustrating because of their obvious power, but lack of flexibility. I'm hoping the OpenMoko Neo Phone may shake that up a bit, or further iPhone hacking.

Why you can't compare the iPhone to the XO?

-> It's not sold in developing countries.
-> It's not designed for harsh environment
-> Who's going to buy the data plan?
-> Other than accessing the internet, what more can you actually do on the phone? Ah, I forgot the highly educational "YouTube".
-> Close platform by all means. You can't add apps, either develop new ones.
-> You can't even chat on that thing.
-> SPECIFIC EDUCATIONAL APPLICATIONS.
-> Have you actually tried to use it to work on spreadsheets, or any documents?

What's next? iTunes as the killer application?: You can download educational content for just 99C per book.

Please....

BTW, I don't mean to be harsh on the iPhone. It was simply designed for a different market and with a different aim than the XO.

It's like comparing apples with oranges, the latter being the XO.

Compare the iPhone to the XO? OLPC News did it here: http://www.olpcnews.com/prototypes/olpc/olpc_xo_vs_apple_iphone.html

Wayan,

that was purely a hardware comparison. The differences in philosophy, educational software, "hackability" are what makes these two devices SO different. I guess a geek won't really care about such differences, preferring instead on focusing on, again, hardware.

Nick

Why do bloggers keep comparing Eee with XO, it bugs me. Asus most probably will not sell the laptops cheap that cheap.

Have you ever heard of vapourware?

Asus just wants people comparing its thing to what its competitor Quanta is mass producing for real.

Asus isn't going to mass produce $199 laptops anytime soon, neigther at $259. At least not a laptop based on the Intel ULV processor.

Charbax: Please provide evidence of your statement. "Most probably" isn't really something we should take your word for.

Hopefully it's not vaporware, or that $150 non-refundable pre-order deposit's going to come back to haunt a lot of people.

Charbax,

You keep saying that the Asus and Classmate really cost way more, so these are teaser prices that will not be rolled out to a large audience. Yet you never offer any solid proof.

On the other hand, a pre-order price page is damn good proof that OLPC and Asus offerings will be at similar prices.

"Why do bloggers keep comparing Eee with XO, it bugs me. Asus most probably will not sell the laptops cheap that cheap.

Have you ever heard of vapourware?"

You've got me confused here, Charbax. When you say "vaporware" here are you talking about XO?

Laptop Logic reports Asus is delaying Eee PC's:

Asustek, the makers of the Eee PC laptops, wants to improve its software applications which are bundled with these systems. They've decided to offer improved Linux-based application suite on the Eee PC.

As a result, the official launch of the Eee PC has been postponed... The availability of the Eee PC will more-or-less coincide with these XOs.

http://www.laptoplogic.com/news/detail.php?id=3352&rfp=dta

"The availability of the Eee PC will more-or-less coincide with these XOs."

What a coincidence!

Why do I think the Eee is just a XO buster, and not a independend product. I still suspect that the Eee will die the moment the OLPC project dies.

On additional point. AMD will strengthen enormously from the increase of scale a full rollout of the XO brings them. In the CPU bussiness, scale is everything. I can imagine that Intel is willing to spend a few billion to prevent AMD from buying their own new Fabs.

Winter

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