Just a year after the concept of the netbook was born, there are dozens, if not hundreds of netbooks to choose from. And to be perfectly honest, there aren’t a ton of things setting many of these models apart. Timothy Brown at VIA wrote in this morning to let me know about a netbook that does stand out from the crowd in a few ways.
The TongFang Imini first showed up at Computex this summer, where the product sheet said it would be sporting a VIA Nano processor. Now that it’s actually available in China, it appears the TongFang Imini is using the older (and less power hungry) VIA C7-M CPU. But there here are a few things that make it unusual by netbook standards:
- There’s a scroll wheel on the side of the device that you can use to flip through pictures or navigate media.
- There are two power buttons. Hit one to boot Windows. The other loads a faster-booting “media center” mode.
- You can charge USB devices (like cellphones) by plugging them into a USB port even when the power is off.
- The computer can be recognized as an external hard drive when plugged into another device even when the power is off.
To be honest, the ability to charge USB devices is a blessing and a curse. It’s a pretty nifty feature, but it also means you’ll want to make sure you don’t accidentally leave any devices plugged in when you’re not near a wall socket if you don’t want to run your laptop battery down.
The TongFang iMini will be available in Australia and Brazil early next year. It’s available in China for between 2998RMB and 4198RMB or about $439 to $615 US.
You can see a video overview of the computer after the break.
My EeePC 701, Everex Cloudbook and HP-2133 all leave the USB ports powered
after a normal shutdown. It takes a different shutdown command to turn the
external ports power off. (same with the wired NIC – powered so wake-on-lan
In my netbooks, leaving the power on the USB ports may just be a
side-effect of leaving the NIC powered, not a design feature.
VIA C7-M is fine with XP and LInux for most Netbook chores, I think HP has done a very good job of proving that. Just because its not the newest/latest trick doesn’t mean its not appropriate for a lot of users.
I think you have to give TongFang some credit for bringing some innovation to the netbook space.
I like the idea of two start buttons for two different OSes and the ability to use the netbook as a USB hard drive, but leaving the USB ports powered when the netbook is off is a bad idea. Also, why is the C7 still being used? Really. I want an explanation for this. It was crappy years ago. Now it is just an embarrasment. Bring on the Nano or go home.
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