Why Elonex ONEt+ worth its money

Laptops

The Good Very small and light; surprisingly responsive; good selection of core applications; silent operation, with no moving parts.

The Bad Keys are too tiny for most adult hands; limited third-party software options.

The Bottom Line With a bargain-basement price tag and a design to match, we were all set to hate the Elonex ONEt+. But, as long as you’re not expecting the Moon on a stick, it’s a smashing laptop for kids and undemanding adults

6.5 Overall

With most netbooks now selling for well above the £200 or so they first appeared at, the Elonex ONEt+ looks like an encouraging return to form. Originally sold for about £100, plunging exchange rates have nudged this little machine up to around £125. That’s still cheap, but have too many corners been cut to keep the price this low?

Note: Due to an editorial error, this product was initially given a score of 8.0, but we’ve now lowered that to 6.2.

Toy-like design
Taking the ONEt+ out of the box, your first thought may well be that you’ve been the victim of an Internet scam. A shade smaller than the Asus Eee PC 701 and made from cheap-looking plastic, with a large, equally cheap-looking badge on the lid, the ONEt+ looks more like a battery-powered toy you’d find in a pound shop than a genuine computer.

At just 635g, there doesn’t feel like there could be much inside the ONEt+, either, but the plastic case isn’t as flimsy as it looks. The thick, rigid lid opens up to 180° on two stiff and sturdy hinges, and inside is a 7-inch screen with a native resolution of 800×480 pixels. The condensed Qwerty keyboard measures just 8 inches across, but, while adults will have a hard time with anything more than two-fingered typing, kids should have no problem tapping out text at speed.

Foolproof operation
In fact, children are really the target audience for the ONEt+. The price is low enough for parents to take a punt and the netbook is kitted out to be as foolproof to use as possible. The only control is a power button  — there’s no way to adjust screen brightness or volume — and the fixed battery means there isn’t anything that can drop off and get lost. The various exposed ports may offer a tempting orifice for children of a certain age to poke something into, though.

It looks cheap, but the ONEt+ is surprisingly responsive

The ONEt+ runs a version of Debian Linux developed specifically for its low-power processor. As with similarly equipped netbooks, a good selection of productivity applications is installed as standard. This is just as well, as sourcing additional software is a challenge, although the unofficial Elonex One blog has a few useful pointers. The 2GB flash drive will limit how much software can be installed, but there’s an SD card slot for memory expansion.

The capable and Microsoft Office-compatible AbiWord 2.4.5 and Gnumeric 1.6.3 cover word-processing and spreadsheet duties, while the Bon Echo Web browser is based on Firefox 2.0. The browser doesn’t support Flash or Java, but a separate Flash Player application at least means that the ONEt+ can play games. YouTube and other video-streaming services are not supported, however.

The user interface comprises the usual set of categorised tabs, and there’s really very little to mess about with or get confused by. There are options to install a printer, adjust the date and time, and alter the sound settings, but other system-level controls are kept permanently out of reach. This means that the ONEt+ isn’t ideal for anyone looking for a general-purpose portable that they can turn to any task, but it’s the perfect set-up for anyone who doesn’t want to worry about how their computer works.

Unexpectedly responsive
Despite its 400MHz processor and 128MB of RAM, the ONEt+ is surprisingly responsive. It takes a good 45 seconds to boot, and applications take a few seconds to launch, but the overall experience is no worse than you get with Windows XP and an Intel Atom processor. The screen is bright and clear, and the built-in applications have no issues with the low resolution, although some Web pages are difficult to digest.

Our battery tests won’t run under Linux, but battery life is reckoned to be around 3 hours. The mains adaptor is simply an oversize plug that adds very little to the overall weight.

Conclusion
It’s unreasonable to expect much from a £125 netbook, but, if you can get past its understandably cheap looks, the Elonex ONEt+ represents surprisingly good value for money. As long as you’re happy with what’s pre-installed, the limited specification isn’t as big a problem as you might think. With silent operation and robust solid-state storage, this netbook is ideal for careless kids or adults who don’t want to worry about carrying around a more expensive portable.

Edited by Charles Kloet

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