Every now and again I get tired of typing “1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 CPU, 10.2 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel display, Windows XP, 1GB of RAM and 160GB HDD.” And then I stop and think, well at least the Emtec Gdium netbook should be available soon. Emtec’s first foray into the netbook space may look a lot like a typical netbook, but it breaks the mold in a couple of significant ways.
First, it doesn’t have a hard drive, or an internal solid state disk. Instead, the entire operating system runs from a USB flash drive called the G-Key. This allows family members, colleagues, or classmates to share a single computer while saving all of their settings, preferences, and data to individual flash drives.
Second, the Gdium Liberty 1000 doesn’t use an Intel, VIA, or even AMD processor. Instead it uses a 64-bit 900MHz Loongson CPU. The netbook also runs a custom version of Mandriva Linux.
When I caught up with Emtec at CES in January, I was told that running the operating system from a removable flash drive does take a toll on performance, but not a huge hit. But Laptop Magazine’s Joanna Stern got to spend some time with an Emtec Gdium Liberty 1000 netbook, and in a detailed review she says the $350 netbook feels sluggish when compared to similar products in the same price range.
The good news is that the operating system works reasonably well (although installing applications like Skype that aren’t in the repositories is tricky), and the keyboard is nice. But the computer chassis reportedly gets quite warm, the touchpad is small and hard to use, and it takes a while to launch programs or cycle through running applications.
I’m hoping to get a demo unit to check out for myself, but while the Gdium Liberty 1000 certainly breaks the netbook mold, it sounds like it also points out why the mold exists in the first place. Still, it’s good to see a few companies thinking outside of the box. Eventually one of them will hit upon some innovative new idea that could really take off.