Maxdata Belinea s.book 1 sub-notebook
Hard drive-equipped Eee killer?
First Review Asus' Eee PC has been hogging the limelight thanks to its small size and small price tag. It's also been drawing the attention of competitors, and now there's a stack of would-be Eee beaters coming to market. Maxdata's Belinea s.book 1 is one of the first.
For starters, the s.book comes with Windows XP Pro pre-installed, so out of the box it'll be more familiar to mainstream users than the Linux-running Eee can be. And while it uses the same 7in, 800 x 480 display format as the Eee, the s.book's screen is both touch-sensitive and capable of running at a wider range of resolutions.
Maxdata's Belinea s.book 1: compact and ultra-portable
And this boy has a hard disk on board: an 80GB unit that offers rather more application, document and media storage than the Eee's meagre 4GB solid-state drive.
The s.book is based on a UMPC reference design, the NanoBook, developed by chip maker VIA last year to highlight its C7-M processor. But Maxdata has tweaked it a bit. The display, mounted to the left side of the laptop's lid, was originally placed alongside a small touchpad, but Maxdata has sensibly moved the navigation device to the slim space in front of the keyboard. In it's place in the screen bezel, there's a pop-out VoIP handset.
The s.book is an attractive unit. The lid's decked out in gloss black, while the rest of the machine is painted satin black. The black keyboard's surrounded by a dark-silver plastic area, home to the touchpad and, above the keyboard, the blue-backlit power button. Beyond this is the screen hinge, home to two stereo speakers, though you'll also find 3.5mm mic and headphone sockets on the laptop's right side.
Maxdata missed a trick by keeping the keyboard – which is the same 21 x 8cm area as the Eee's, with an identical layout – as far forward as it is. There's plenty of room above it, and shifting the keys upward would make room for resting wrists and a larger trackpad. As it is, the 19 x 13mm pad is simply too small, and after a minute or two we plugged in a mouse. The Eee definitely has the edge here.
The Eee has a much nicer screen too. The Eee display is backlit by LED, whereas the s.book has a traditional fluorescent backlight. The difference is immediately obvious when the two are placed side by side. The Eee's screen is crisper and capable of colours of much greater warmth than the s.book's panel.
Runtime test not fair!
If you would turn down the brightness of the belinea(max brightness something over 200cd/m²) to the same level as the EEE (~100cd/m²) the runime test would be fair!
video - and why, again, have you put XP on your Eee?
Tony, thanks for confirming my comment: the Eee was doing more work (because it could decode every frame) than the s.book, so it was rather pointless to compare battery life by this method - the Eee will do even better than your result suggests.
And, according to this - http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2008/01/10/eb_eee_pc_at_ces/ - you're using a non-standard Eee because you want to run Photoshop on it for your journalism work. I asked then and I'm asking again - why not stick with Linux and use something like Gimp? And, as someone else suggested, you could use Gimpshop if the native app is too scary. You're not doing graphic design work for a printed publication - I would be very surprised if you needed to manipulate images in any way that Gimp isn't perfectly capable of doing. Or you could even try Photoshop under wine.
A decoder chip only costs around $25... why didn't they shove one in?
The point here is that the s.book's CPU and integrated GPU aren't up to decoding H.264 video. Video-capable iPods can do this because it has a dedicated decoder chip, and the Eee manages by brute force of CPU and GPU. Plenty of older machines can't.
The s.book drops frames because it's sacrificing frames to be able to keep the video running in real time. I kept an eye on the displayed frame rate, which oscillated between about 10fps and 25fps (the test movie was 25fps). The machine was running flat out throughout the test.
Re. use of a non-standard Eee
Using a standard Eee would have been pointless since, because it runs Linux, I couldn't run a directly comparable benchmark on the two systems.
There is an overhead with using a compressed drive, but not a major one. I don't believe even with an uncompressed solid-state drive, the Eee's 4GB will compare well with the s.book's 80GB HDD.
The point is, if you are going to run XP on a 4GB Eee, you're going to have to turn on drive compression if you want to install more than a few basic apps. I have Firefox, OpenOffice, Skype, Pidgin and Photoshop on mine, for instance, and for that I need *just* more than 4GB.