A laptop is a mobile computer which integrates all the basic input and output into a single unit. The term “mobile” clearly states that the user can use their computer on the move.
Then netbook is introduced as a light weight, low power and wallet friendly laptop which focuses on web-based activities. Until the tablet uproar (iPad) that clearly kills off netbook’s market. Even Dell is retracting from the netbook market. [source] Although netbook had lost this cruel war, but they still remain popular as low price PC for developing countries.
Today, what we have here is 1 Malaysia Netbook, branded as Great Wall, sourced from StarWorth Manufacturing Co.,Ltd. This netbook is given to students who in need through 1 Malaysia free netbook program by our government. By the way, the model number is SW-I10-04-1. One thing I have to make clear of is, there are more than one brand that is providing the netbook for our government, Great Wall is one of them.
I know, what is that cheesy “Great Wall” brand… Our beloved government even claim this poorly built netbook costs RM1000 (USD325) each. *facepalm* Let’s move on to the review to know why.
PS* The photos are taken in a rush, hence, sorry for low quality images.
PS** The netbook was sent to me as a review unit. Please refrain from asking me how to apply for getting the netbook.
Intel Atom D425 1.80GHz 512K Cache
1GB DDR2 RAM (unknown brand)
160GB HDD (unknown brand)
Bluetooth & WiFi
The box looks normal, just like any other laptop or netbook boxes, except that obvious “1 Malaysia” logo to insist on 1 Malaysia’s Free Netbook program.
*Update* I’ve received some reader responding that they just got a plain brown box instead of what I got. I guess that’s how media and public exposure works. This netbook was distributed along with the presence of news media.
Open box. My dad actually did the unboxing when I was away, so I have no idea how everything was put together.
Anyhow, here’s what included in box:
- AC adapter
- User manuals & warranty card
- Driver CD (not found in box – user manual stated driver CD is included)
Look, Feel, Usability
First, we’ll have a look at the AC adapter, or “power brick” I usually call. I rarely put any focus on regular accessories because they’re too typical. Unlike this AC adapter, it literally caught my attention when I pick it up. It feels almost as light as empty plastic case. It makes hollow sound when you knock the power brick. This is ridiculous.
The battery seems fine though, it works as well as any regular laptop batteries. The 6 cell battery life is great, it clocked 5 hours with “Balanced” power setting at idle.
So far I’ve never encountered any irregularities with it.
The netbook – the back cover is printed with a humongous 1 Malaysia logo at the center and Great Wall logo at the corner. What’s more, it’s gloss finish. Expect endless fingerprints and scratches stick to the cover in a week.
Under the netbook – some stickers here and there. There are two compartments with removable covers which houses the RAM and HDD.
Audio jacks and card reader at the front.
Left – Power button, air vent, and Kensington lock slot. There’s a few activity LEDs just above the air vent.
Right – Two USB ports, ethernet port, VGA port and power port.
You might not notice this, but the USB port is upside down, check how it differs from your laptop or netbook.
Although it didn’t affect the performance, just weird and unique…
Sorry, the photos are taken in a rush, so the factory screen protector is still on the screen.
The keyboard’s build quality is horrible. When you type on it, the whole keyboard wobbles, as if all the keys would jump off any second.
The layout used is Americanized-ISO layout. Leave aside that mess at the right shift area, I don’t even want to talk about it. Worst of all, the placement of FN key at the leftmost bottom corner is brilliantly stupid. Imagine when you want use the copy, cut, paste shortcut function which you would accidentally press on FN key instead of CTRL key.
I generally don’t have any complain on touchpads even though they sucks, because it is an essential part for a laptop. However, my experience with this netbook’s touchpad is just plain horrible.
From the photo, clearly that the touch area shares the same piece of plastic as the netbook body. Is that you call a border of the touchpad area? It is so blended in that sometimes I accidentally swipe my fingers outside the border. Oh wait, it has gloss surface, hmm what does that mean? No more smooth swiping, what not, did you see all those fingerprints on it?
That’s not the end, the left and right click buttons are so stiff that I have to press with extra force and precision to have it work. Holding down the button are even worst.
- Decent processor for a netbook
- 64-bit instruction set
- Supports up to 4GB DDR3 memory
- Long battery life (6-cell battery)
- Low build quality
- Low quality components (HDD, RAM, AC adapter)
- Unreliable HDD
- Bad driver support
- Incomplete packaging
- Lack of USB ports (only 2 available)
- Upside down USB port
- Low quality ethernet port
- Low quality keyboard with funny key layout
- Glossy & slippery touchpad
Good thing that this netbook comes with a decent set of chipset and processor, which allows the user to upgrade the RAM up to 4GB of DDR3!! This is a good news as previously, netbook mostly comes with DDR2 memory support only. But what matter the most is, DDR3 memory is cheaper than DDR2 memory. The battery life is excellent as well, comes with a extended 6-cell battery which serves you for around 5 hours depends on what you’re doing on it.
All those strengths easily beats up other netbooks, if you don’t know, netbook market is decreasing thanks to tablets. Hence, most of the PC makers out there stop introducing new netbook models. Well, this certainly is a bad news for those who really need netbooks, although netbook price plummets.
Now, the bad thing of this netbook. Out of the box, it couldn’t boot properly. It went into a non-stop boot loop frenzy. I thought it was just a problem with the OS, thus I decided to format and re-install the OS. To my horror, they don’t even provide any driver disc despite the user manual states the disc is included in the box *uberfail*. Good news that Windows 7 update comes to rescue, it manage to get all the devices working except the Ethernet controller. Another fail – there isn’t any proper documentation for the hardware specifications, whether the user manual or Internet. You have no idea what are those hardware installed in the netbook unless you use certain tools like CPUID or equivalent. In the end I have to check the hardware ID of the chip to find out the Ethernet controller model. Installing the correct version of driver solved the problem.
This issue doesn’t happen to this unit only, after I consult Mr. Google, apparently it happens on other units as well. We’re lucky that ours just the OS problem, some had dead HDD out of the box. Yeah, you guess it right, the HDD is another almighty China clone product.
*UPDATE 29/4/2012* The HDD of this netbook is dead, after 1 month’s usage. Sent the netbook for warranty.
*UPDATE 28/5/2012* Got back the netbook, everything is running fine!!
*UPDATE 2/7/2012* HDD failed again! Average daily usage is around 1++ hour, parent user for facebook and email.
Some say, “You’re too picky on it”, “not everyone have RM3000 to spend on a laptop” and so on. I’m sorry if I criticizes a lot but I don’t expect anyone to spend RM1000 on a piece of crap that possibly worth only RM500+-. How would you feel if you’re quoted RM100,000 for a regular Perodua Kancil just because Perodua claim it costs that much? Think of it.
I don’t wanna comment on how our government publicized to spend RM1000 on each netbook despite the costs should be around RM500+-. Those matters are out of a product review’s coverage and I have no intention to write politics.
My 2 cents for 1 Malaysia Netbook owners –
Don’t keep any critical data on this netbook, the stock HDD will definitely fail you, in time. Switch the HDD with a decent 2.5inch internal HDD (Seagate or Western Digital), then this netbook would work the way it intended to.