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Gigabyte vs Lenovo: The Atomic Clash of the MIDs

I got some hands on time with the upcoming Atom-powered Gigabyte and Lenovo MIDs last week and I’m sure about one thing: the OQO 02 just became very overpriced.

Both the Gigabyte and Lenovo MIDs are expected to come in around $500, albeit running Linux. They both have usable, if very different, keyboards; they’re both eminently pocketable and both have Intel’s super-efficient Atom CPU which means tons of battery life. The Lenovo unit I played with even had an Olympic paint job; cute.

Who are they for? No-one really knows yet, but they’ll definitely appeal to the people who are (not) buying the OQO 02 and Samsung Q1 Ultra these days. The 02 is still languishing around the $1,800 mark. The Q1 can now be found knocked down to $800 or so. Neither is likely to match the atomic (pun intended) battery life of the Gigabyte or Lenovo MIDs, which is critical for a pocket computer.

Gigabyte MID has more traditional design and plenty of expansion. Both units have 3.5mm headphone jack:

Will there be Windows versions of these two MIDs? That’s not known as yet, but I don’t think it’s inconceivable. The Atom is certainly capable of it so I’d expect at least to see fanboy photos of Windows booting on one of these units soon after release.

The actual models I tested had modified Linux front ends which are cost effective, but the practical and performance advantages over XP remain unclear. My EEE 2G boots Linux in 25 seconds, but the XP version is not far behind. In fact the cost advantages are only partial these days, as Microsoft recently reduced the license cost for XP Home on ultra low cost PCs.

The Linux implementations on these units was okay with some sweet touches, for example the Lenovo employs an easy swiping motion to scroll through home screen icons. It also has a Mozilla browser named Coolfox – dig the family name.Having played with a gazillion different Linux front ends now, it would be nice to see a standard emerging. Perhaps we’re still a bit early for that but hopefully it will come in a couple of years. If this doesn’t happen then ultimately the consumer will suffer from having a learning curve attached to each manufacturer’s devices…a bit like cellphones but oh so much deeper.

Lenovo’s MID has an interesting pointing device and takes full size SD cards, unlike Gigabyte’s. Front facing cam is on both units:

Did either of the two capture my imagination? I preferred the Gigabyte’s keyboard layout and overall format, whilst the Lenovo is probably a younger choice aimed at pure surfing and messaging with it’s cellphone style keyboard. The full size SD slot on the Lenovo also gives huge expansion potential, compared to the Gigabyte’s micro-SD limitation. Whether either of them can be successful will depend on persuading people away from buying an EEE-type mini laptop which all offer a bit more (but in a bigger box) for less money.

Look at it another way: Five years ago everyone had desktops and no-one could persuade consumers to buy a laptop second PC. Now everyone has laptops and the 2006-07 challenge was to get people in the mindset of wanting something even smaller. That seemed impossible until the EEE came out and busted out everyone’s perceptions. Now Acer, Dell, HP and MSI are jumping in because it’s going to be a huge market. The same will happen with MIDs once the EEE-format market matures.

So although hordes of people won’t be running out to buy one of these MIDs just yet, recent history suggests that we will in a few years time. Hang in there MID fanboys.

Neil Berman


Jun 16, 2008 Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Mobile | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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