AC100 First Impressions

Updated on 29 August 2010 by

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After 24 hrs with the AC100 its a an easy task to summarise what’s going on. We’ve got an impressive computing platform in a productive form factor with great screen and keyboard that’s let down by a limited operating system and aplication suite.

You’ll look at the AC100 and see some interesting elements. Always on, light weight, flash storage, long battery life and the Android ‘brand’ but let me tell it to you straight before you go and buy one – don’t buy it as a replacement for a netbook or laptop.

Taking it from it’s worst angle we’ve got a device that has none of the normal single-account convenience of the Google Mail, Contacts and Mail applications you find on an Android smartphone. There’s a read-only word processor included (laugh out loud please, this is a device with a decent keyboard!) and a video player that plays 1080p…until the application crashes. There’s a USB port that takes mouse, keyboard and USB hard drives but will error at the sight of a printer or DVD player. If you’re wondering what’s in the marketplace as downloadable apps then please think twice as this comes with the Camangi app store for large-screen devices which, with about 80 apps, is hardy the widest choice around. The browser can’t handle Google Docs or the WordPress back-end, doesn’t support Flash and is slower than a netbook. The YouTube and social networking widgets are fixed-size jokes. There’s no GPS but worse still, there’s no network location service. That’s part of the Google licensed app suite which doesn’t exist on this device. Overall, I’d say ‘forget it.’ Go buy a netbook. Android is nowhere near ready to be deployed on such a productive-looking device.

Like the Airlife 100 though there’s huge potential here. Netbook designers need to watch carefuly because the idea of an always-on device is a killer one. A full Google suite would elevate the AC100 into a different position and if you consider the potential of the Market, it would make a great addition to any netbook. Being able to pump out 1080p onto an HDMI screen kicks netbook-butt and 870gm is a joy to hold, carry and use compared to the netbooks that average 50% more weight. I like the idea of the indicator lamps too.

In a way, Android is a better fit for a ‘netbook’ style device. We’re looking at lower processor requirements, half the memory you would find in a netbook and a reduction in internal complexity that serves to bring prices down. Starting with a basic operating system makes complete sense and highlights just how bloated the 5-10GB install of a Windows 7 OS is. It needs time to develop though.

The AC100 is another smart device to watch. But don’t buy just yet. We’ll give you the nod!

Other notes:

Glossy screen looks good. No brighter than soem other devices I’ve seen tho.
Row of activity keys is useful
The 5 screens can be assigned to WiFi APNs meaning that when you connect to a given APN, the home screen changes
uPnP support in the media player is good to see, as is multiple format support, WMV, H.264 and DivX were tested up to over 6Mbps
Speakers are OK
No case or cover included
Keyboard is good. I prefer it to my current Touchnote netbook.
There’s no heat or noise, even when charging (I*m using it on my lap right now)
Opera Mobile is slightly slower than the stock browser but is slightly more capable
Games play very smoothly
…but there are issues with programs that only run in portrait mode.
WiFi reception is very strong
Single Click Connect allows remote desktop usage and remote printing (using the Single Click Desktop software)
Only 5.5GB of the 8GB flash storage is available
From the home screen you only need to start typing to search (for a website, program or file)
The device can be locked with a numeric password
There is no screen rotation or accelerometer
No Bluetooth on the test device.
No 3G on the test device

This article written on the AC100 using the WordPress application (sideloaded from an Android phone.)

5 Comments For This Post

  1. turn.self.off says:

    i would say that gps on it would be a waste anyways, unless it also came with a offline map and routing program. Google maps with gps makes sense on a phone as the small screen and limited storage are countered by a constant connection to a more capable server.

    and what office pack was it? Iirc, thinkfree now supports editing. Could be that they created the current firmware before thinkfree go its editing capability and so will get a update later on. And i wonder if the same will happen to the media player.

    Sadly, the G-apps are all about policy and zero about hardware or software. As for printers and dvd-roms, those are two very peculiar beasts. Especially printers. This largely thanks to microsoft long providing printer companies with a generic middle layer that they could plug any crazy “driver” into. End result was software controlled ink cartridges with no uniform language. I think 90% of the cups printing system used on linux, bsd and mac are such “drivers”. This being even crazier given that postscript, the basis for pdf, is basically such a uniform printer language. But you usually only find support for it on high end office printers.

    i would rather like to see printers that can take a pdf, odf or some common image format file straight via network file transfer or usb and deal with it internally rather then have android do the lifting as seen on windows all these years. Hopefully hp will take webos in that direction.

    And dvd-roms major use would be movies, no? And that would require jumping the hoops of whatever consortium holds the licensing rights for its DRM. Not likely to happen any time soon.

    funny enough tho, this is basically palm foleo in much delayed form. I think engadget made such a reference in their article (and they still seem to have a chip on their shoulder regarding its downfall).

    to me, the problems seems to be mostly related to either sloppy app devs, or google policy of insisting that android is a phone os.

  2. chippy says:

    Thx for the response.

    On the GPS:
    GPS is useful for location-based search (i often use it on my smartphone) , Mylocation (Google maps) and sending loation with social network updates. Considering this can be left on (it’s a smartphone in end-effect) I think GPS would really add something good. MAybe it’s just me that wants location services!

  3. turn.self.off says:

    well its mostly the combo of form factor and feature i wonder about.

    a phone or similar sized device is much easier to pull out or hold when wonder about where to go for something, then a 10″ device that will be in a backpack or bag.

    tho i guess it could make sense when sitting at a table somewhere and discussing where to go next. Much easier to show others whats available.

    complicated topic when i really start to consider it.

  4. lhl says:

    You mentioned sideloading the WordPress apk. I was unclear about the Airlife review as well – why not sideload the Google Apks as well? Not strictly legal, but would be interesting to see if it could be done. I’d love a closer look at the Android side of things, even if you had to bring in an expert. Can you get into HBOOT? Is it S-OFF? Can you get root? Is there an image available to play with? With that capable hardware, I suspect there will be lots of desire to hack on it, unless it just doesn’t get traction or something way sexier comes out,

    I posted the links on Peter’s first look, but there are Tegra 2 dev kit kernels and Ubuntu ARM live stick images available as well… Would be interesting to give it a go. (I’m assuming toshiba provides a link with kernel source? The Linux kernel being GPL and all…)

    Re: location, sounds like a good reason to wait for the 3G version (not to mention for 3G – a smatbook w/o 3G seems pointless, but that may just be me). Too bad there’s no magnetometer or accelerometer, but for the biggest features i’m jonesing for is a backlit keyboard and a daylight/pixel qi screen.

  5. lhl says:

    Btw, would love a teardown, just to see if the ssd is soldered or replaceable, if there’s a mini pci-e slot for adding 3G, and if the screen is replaceable…

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