Carphone Warehouse is selling free notebooks again. This time, it's got Elonex on board and has come up with the Web book – a Windows XP Home Service Pack 2 machine with a 10.2in viewable screen and that runs on a VIA C7 processor at 1.6GHz. It comes loaded with 512MB of RAM and an 80GB hard disk.
The timing is sweet: last week saw a rash of new mini notebooks, so it makes sense for Carphone Warehouse to ride the wave.
Naturally, Carphone Warehouse isn't simply handing out free laptops and expecting nothing in return. To get one at nominal cost, you have to sign up for a TalkTalk broadband package and sign over your BT landline to them for an 18-month duration. Still, it beats interest-free credit or paying on tick now we're all feeling the economic pinch.
It's also a smart move on Elonex's part. Having ridden the storm of misfortune itself, the company was bought out a year ago and needs to get back into the public eye. Its first move was into the education market with the Elonex ONE – a £99 mini laptop unveiled at the Education Show in March with orders set to be fulfilled from this month.
The near-final version of the Web book we looked at was a chunky model, though we're told that may not be the exact model that goes onsale next week. The final version is expected to come in at 1.3kg though (the model we tried came in at 1.42kg), which is still hefty for a so-called mini laptop.
Size-wise, it qualifies for the Windows XP extension program Microsoft has sanctioned – only models with screens smaller than 10.5in need apply – but the Web book is far from dainty.
What's more, it doesn't have an optical drive with which to install applications, so you'll need to copy items across using USB or download them. Of course, the Web book is not the only laptop that has this compromise – Apple's Macbook Air is another example – but that machine is both lighter and has a far larger, 13.3in screen.
Another laptop we looked at in the past few days, the Asus U2E-1P014E, is an 11.1in widescreen model (so, granted, not as deep), comes with a DVD writer and yet weighs only as much as the Web book.
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