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Asus unveils ultra-low-cost Linux laptop

Jun 6, 2007 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 2 views

Yet another inexpensive miniature flash-based laptop running Linux has appeared. Chairman Jonney Shih introduced Asus's $190 Eee PC (3ePC) at a Computex keynote this morning, giving the audience a tour of its Windows-like Linux operating system, which boots in 15 seconds from 2GB of flash.

(Click for larger view of the Asus 3ePC)

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Shih characterized the 3ePC as the “lowest cost and easiest PC to use,” and said it would be marketed around the world, rather than exclusively in developing nations. The user interface offers a simplified novice mode, for new computer users, as well as a more traditional desktop mode.

Asus lists the 3ePC's dimensions as 8.6 x 6.5 x 1.3 inches (225 x 165 x 21-35mm), making it roughly the same size as Via's NanoBook, also introduced at Computex this week. Additionally, the 3ePC has a 7-inch display and weighs about two pounds (890gm) — specs that also match those of the NanoBook.

The 3epc is based on an unspecified Intel processor and chipset. Given the laptop's low cost, it may well be among the first products based on Tolapai, Intel's forthcoming Pentium M-powered SoC (system-on-chip). Along with a Pentium M core clocked between 600MHz and 1.2GHz, initial Tolapai chips are expected to integrate components traditionally found in PC northbridges and southbridges — a graphics processing unit (GPU), external memory and storage controllers, and peripheral interfaces such as USB and Ethernet.

Asus said the 3ePC's graphics processing unit (GPU) will have a unified memory architecture (UMA), meaning it will borrow memory from the 3ePC's 512MB of DDR2-400 main system memory. Storage will be provided by between 2-16GB of Flash — presumably with frequently accessed filesystem points mounted on ramdisks.

I/O includes 10/100 Ethernet, a 56K modem, 802.11b/g WiFi, and “hi-definition” audio I/O. Additionally, the device has built-in stereo speakers and a 300K-pixel video camera. A four-cell, 2s2p (two-in-series, two-in-parallel) 5200mAh battery will provide a claimed three hours of battery life.

Software includes the Firefox web browser, and an unspecified MS Office work-alike productivity suite. In addition to Linux, the device is said to be compatible with Windows XP, and may also be available for $300 pre-installed with XP.

Asus commented, “This is a new line of PCs that focuses on providing users with the most comprehensive Internet application based on three Es: Easy to learn, work, play; Excellent Internet experience, and Excellent mobile computing experience.”

A few more details about the 3ePC may be available in a brief story at PCPro, here.

Other recently announced miniature Linux laptops include the Via NanoBook, the Palm Foleo, the Intel ClassmatePC, China's Godson-powered LeMote, and of course, the OLPC, the original “$100 laptop.” Additionally, Aeronix's $100 Linux-based chat client has recently been in the news as the basis for an educational assessment system.

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