Small enough to carry with you everywhere and coming with a year's free internet access, the Datawind Ubisurfer promises to be the ultimate netbook. But technology enthusiasts are likely to find it extremely frustrating.

It's two years since laptop makers started adopting the term 'netbook' and it's easy to forget how devices bearing that name were originally envisaged. Search for a netbook online and you'll find dozens of so-called mini laptops with 10in screens, 1GB of RAM and running fully fledged versions of Windows. These cost anything up to £400 and if you want to use them to access the web, you need to either find a Wi-Fi network, or pay a small fortune for a mobile broadband subscription.

But, like Asus's original Eee PC 701, in our view netbooks we were supposed to be smaller than traditional ultraportable business machines, with a maximum display size of 7in, lightweight applications and a way to access the web cheaply. With this in mind, could Datawind's Ubisurfer be the first netbook that's worthy of the term?

Netbook reviews

Datawind is the Canadian company behind the PocketSurfer, the £199 handheld internet access device that's available with a year's ‘free' internet access via the UK's 2/2.5G cellular network. The Ubisurfer works in the same way. It comes with its own SIM card and included in the £160 price are 30 hours of internet usage per month for the first year. So, once you've bought the hardware, you can browse the web more or less at will without paying another penny for 12 months.

Weighing just 700g, the Ubisurfer measures 222mm x 165mm x 29.5mm and, as a portable internet-access device, it looks the part. It's built into a no-nonsense, but smart black case, and the keyboard is small but perfectly formed.

Ubisurfer keyboard

For basic web surfing, the Ubisurfer did the job. Provided you're within reach of a signal, you can browse the web to your heart's content - we don't think the 30 hours-per-month limit will be a problem for most users. Unlimited connectivity is available for an extra £5.99 per month.

Furthermore, the basic productivity apps that come pre-loaded with the Ubisurfer - including the AbiWord word processor, the Gnumeric spreadsheet application and the Gpaint design software - could come in handy if you're desperate and need a trimmed-down substitute for your preferred office apps.

NEXT: advanced use >>

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