Gizmodo and Laptop compare the XO to the EEE

28 11 2007

According to Gizmodo, “people” are comparing the US$400 Asus EEE with the sub-$200 XO OLPC:

OLPC’s XO Laptop and Asus’s Eee PC have been bloody rivals in people’s minds, whether or not the totally comparison’s fair… Laptop Mag aims to settle a running thread in our own comments: Which super cheap laptop reigns supreme?… In their conclusion, Laptop kicks XO … and hard: … So if you’re buying for yourself, Eee’s the best bet by a good stretch.

Oh dear. The thing is, the XO was never meant to be bought “for oneself” – from its inception, it was intended to be bought in lots of several thousand, for children in developing countries only. The fact that it’s been made available in the US for a limited period of time is merely to advance this eventual goal.

So this really is a short-sighted comparision, rather like comparing a screwdriver with a hammer. These two machines are aimed at completely different markets, and the XO has many practical aspects for reaching its intended market that were completely missed by the Laptop review.

One important aspect that was missed is durability. I’ve seen demonstrations of the XO dropped repeatedly from a height and running without problems. What a student would do with half a dozen small, shiny bits of EEE if they accidentally or intentionally attempted the same thing with it, I’m not sure.

Then there’s the battery life and lifecycle. The XO can carefully conserve its battery using its black-and-white “reflective” mode, and last a full day of school. It can be charged using solar or manual power, and you can buy extra (or replacement) batteries for $10. The EEE can’t do any of those things.

These are practical – if not vital – considerations for developing countries without flourishing tech-support departments or reliable electricity supplies. The XO elegantly screws itself into a niche in this respect. The EEE bangs its way in like a hammer: with more power, to be sure, but with rather less finesse.

I’m not saying the XO is perfect… but I just don’t think the comparison by Gizmodo and Laptop is at all fair!

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