We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
Laptops Reviews
15,670 Reviews

OLPC XO laptop review


Manufacturer: OLPC

Our Rating: We rate this 3.5 out of 5

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO laptop may have been designed as a small cheap computer for children in developing countries, but it's become the antecedent of all netbooks - UPDATED 23 JANUARY 2009

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO laptop may have been designed as a small cheap computer for children in developing countries, but it's become the antecedent of all netbooks

It's bright green and white, runs Linux and could be the most important laptop you're never likely to use. The OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) XO was designed expressly to put modern computing into the hands of children in developing countries.

And it's been something of an inspiration to commercial laptop manufactuers such as Asus, to make small and cheap laptops for the rest of us.

If you've ever used, owned, or wanted a netbook... think of the XO as its spiritual and more academically tuned predecessor.

A target price of $100 was set for manufacturing, although production costs are currently closer to $200. With nascent demand from the developed world, the OLPC organisation started a Give 1, Get 1 (G1G1) scheme, so that around $400 would buy you one of these unusual gems, while putting another in the hands of a child elsewhere in the world.

For the latest laptop reviews, visit Laptop Advisor

The XO has been engineered as a robust, low-cost computer able to withstand the conditions of working outside in hot and dusty countries. With the help of a special dual-mode screen technology, it can even be used in direct sunlight.

Putting an XO in the hands of an experienced laptop user, meanwhile, can be an exercise in entertainment. Because the designers have rethought almost every aspect of the XO's construction, to enable it to perform best with its target audience of young children in an outdoors environment, it's a devil to get open the first time you try it.

First you must open the bunny ears - actually twin antennae for send/receive mesh networking, where wireless access points can be extended by every connected XO-user - then pull the main ‘body' up. This is actually the screen, which has the electronics built behind it. The keyboard is a water- and dust-resistant type with a rubbery green membrane to protect it. Anyone familiar with a ZX Spectrum will be right at home here.

It's not the easiest keyboard to work with, as there's less tactile feedback - but once you get used to that it's easier to type with confidence.

With the screen open, it's actually possible to rotate it 180º and fold it flat, rather like some tablet PC laptops, and use the XO as an ebook. But this blocks the keyboard and trackpad, so you'll probably want to swing the screen back and explore the operating system.

Again, experienced windows, Mac and even Linux users will have to scratch their heads initially to find the apps they need. There are plenty of programs here, 26 of them splayed out in a graphic ring on the Home screen. These range from predictable inclusions such as Write (for writing) and Web (for browsing), to more bizarre inclusions such as Scratch (for stop-motion animation, naturally).

In use, it's no speed demon, but web pages load almost as fast as a modern netbook, and there's certainly enough power for word processing and light creative duties.

NEXT PAGE: Earlier US review from January 2008 >>>

OLPC XO Expert Verdict »
433MHz AMD Geode LX-700 processor
7.5in (1200x900) dual-mode LCD display
Fedora Linux OS with Sugar GUI
graphics controller integrated with Geode CPU
wireless 802.11b/g, plus 802.11s (mesh networking)
3 x USB 2.0
MMC/SD Card slot
water-resistant membrane keyboard
audio in jack
headphone jack
3100mAh Li-Fe battery
  • Build Quality: We give this item 7 of 10 for build quality
  • Features: We give this item 6 of 10 for features
  • Overall: We give this item 7 of 10 overall

While the last G1G1 scheme from late 2008 is no longer running, the OLPC XO can be donated to children in developing countries for $199 via laptop.org. Or it can now be bought for personal use through Amazon UK. If you're looking for a tough laptop for your own kids, the XO fully deserves your investigation.

There are currently no price comparisons for this product.
  • Zoostorm Fizzbook Bang review

    Zoostorm Fizzbook Bang

    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, you'd be half-right as this small laptop is aimed especially at children.

  • Intel Classmate PC preview

    Intel Classmate PC preview

    Intel last year launched the Intel Classmate PC – a low cost UMPC aimed at children in developing nations, just like OLPC’s XO.

  • HP 2133 Mini-Note review

    HP 2133 Mini-Note

    HP recently entered the affordable mini-laptop category with its eye-catching 2133 Mini-Note PC. UPDATED: July 29 2008

  • Asus X550LDV-XO610H review: respectable battery life makes the Asus X550 a good desktop replacement laptop

    Asus X550LDV-XO610H: respectable battery life makes the Asus X550 a good desktop replacement laptop

    A good desktop replacement laptop that will earn its keep without breaking the bank, we like the Asus X550. Here's our Asus X550LDV-XO610H review.

  • WD TV Live media streamer review

    WD TV Live media streamer

    The WD TV Live media streamer supports the streaming of many different video and audio formats, is easy to use and it performs well.

IDG UK Sites

Where to buy iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in the UK: Launch day price, deals and contracts

IDG UK Sites

Is Apple losing confidence in itself?

IDG UK Sites

Professional photo and video techniques for perfect colours

IDG UK Sites

How (and where) to buy an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus in the UK. Plus: What to do if you pre-ordered...