AC100 First Impressions

Posted on 29 August 2010, Last 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.)

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