Looking at your typical netbook computer, you could be forgiven for thinking that it's something of a children's toy. In the case of the Zoostorm Fizzbook Bang, you'd be half-right as this small laptop is aimed especially at children.

But as with the OLPC XO (review here), the ulterior aim for the Zoostorm Fizzbook is education rather than entertainment. Even if the marketing promotes its value to parents to ‘keep the children quiet', and to the children as a ‘status symbol among their friends'!

To withstand the knocks and scrapes it will inevitably be subject to from its target six to 14 year-old audience, the Zoostorm Fizzbook has been constructed quite robustly, with an armoured plastic body. And in deference to the unmistakable XO, the Fizzbook takes luminous green trim, in this case green badges and a wraparound green leather carry handle.

Two main versions are offered, a trimmed-down 7in screen Zoostorm Fizzbook with just 2GB of solid-state storage and 512MB RAM; and the more capable 9in-screen Fizzbook that we tried, featuring 1GB RAM and a 1.8in hard drive. Usual capacity of this storage device is 30GB, although our sample had been fitted with 60GB. All versions come only with Windows XP Home.

See also: Intel Classmate PC preview

The rest of the Fizzbook's running gear is very like an off-the-shelf netbook, with two USB ports (one each side), SD Card slot, ethernet, wireless-g connectivity and even a built-in webcam. The main concessions to the junior audience are the Zoostorm Fizzbook's chunky construction, tougher than normal keyboard and big spongey mouse-click buttons.

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We had tried the SSD version intially, but due to the limited capacity we couldn't install any of our usual benchmark apps. Moving to the model with an iPod-style hard drive relieved that congestion; but also means a return to the weakness of a traditional laptop, namely a fragile mechanical hard disk which does not appreciate being moved around while spinning. We didn't actually throw the Zoostorm Fizzbook around by its all-too-convenient leather handle but would imagine that enough routine childhandling could threaten the long-term integrity of its spinning drive.

On the bench, the Zoostorm Fizzbook scored 30 points in WorldBench 6, placing it little below average for an Atom netbook. Battery life was an admirable five hours-plus (304 minutes); although in the real world that might not necessarily take it through a full school day.

Zoostorm Fizzbook Bang: Specs

  • 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270
  • Microsoft Windows XP Home SP3
  • 8.9in (1024x600) LCD display
  • 1GB DDR2 RAM
  • 1.8in 60GB 4200rpm PATA HDD
  • Intel 945GSE chipset
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 802.11b/g wireless
  • ethernet 100BaseT
  • SD Card reader
  • 0.3Mp webcam
  • 1.5kg
  • 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270
  • Microsoft Windows XP Home SP3
  • 8.9in (1024x600) LCD display
  • 1GB DDR2 RAM
  • 1.8in 60GB 4200rpm PATA HDD
  • Intel 945GSE chipset
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 802.11b/g wireless
  • ethernet 100BaseT
  • SD Card reader
  • 0.3Mp webcam
  • 1.5kg

OUR VERDICT

The Zoostorm Fizzbook Bang is little more than a modern netbook with some ruggedised casework and leprechaun livery, but that may be enough to make it of interest to well-heeled primary schools and parents. A lower price, usefully large solid-state memory and maybe an option on an alternative OS could make it even more attractive for education.

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