Marketed as a netbook, the device is essentially a tablet with a full keyboard and trackpad. Photo: AFP
Once upon a time, everyone was convinced that the netbook -- a miniaturized notebook running an equally mini-version of Windows -- was the future of mobile computing. In fact, so strong was the consensus that tech experts were taking turns berating Apple for ignoring the market altogether.
What happened is that Apple launched something entirely different instead -- the original iPad -- and with great success. And, four years later, the netbook, with its awkward keyboard, woefully underpowered Intel Atom processor, and overheating issues, has been confined to history.
However, French tech firm Archos has other ideas and with the ArcBook, set to go on sale in the US in June, it just might be on to something.
Netbooks of old ran the clunky Windows CE, and when paired with a small processor and little RAM, the user experience was less than ideal. The ArcBook instead runs Android, an operating system optimized for smaller chips and familiar to most people who own a smartphone or tablet.
Its 10.1-inch 1,024x600-pixel resolution display is also a touch screen, so it's essentially an Android tablet, but one with Office suite Pro 6 -- one of Android's best productivity suites -- preinstalled and one that lets users not just view but also edit Word and PowerPoint files. Even better is that it has a full-sized keyboard complete with trackpad.
That's a clever addition that will make the netbook easier to use. Touching the screen and typing don't mix, so when it comes to word processing and filling in spreadsheets, the keyboard/mouse combination is still much faster and a much more productive, logical way of working than constantly reaching forward to tap the screen to highlight something before bringing your hands back to the keyboard.
However, none of these features is as appealing as the price -- $170. And for that, the ArcBook offers a 10-hour battery life, USB ports, a microSD Card slot and 8GB of internal storage. But because it's an Android device (running Jellybean) there's a further 15GB of free cloud storage available too courtesy of Google.