OLPC or Eee?
November 2, 2007 9:18 PM   Subscribe

I want a small cheap (under $450) laptop. I want to get either an OLPC or an Eee PC. Which would be more worth my while in the long-run?

I am wondering, can the OLPC be used for more than a toy, I.E. be used by an adult in a productive environment or should I get the Eee. I would not mind if I could run the Sugar Interface on top of Ubuntu (which can be installed on the Eee) but how hard it that? I don't want a device like the Nokia Internet Tablet as that is too small. Any suggestions?
posted by ooklala to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm also considering an OLPC--I was curious about the keyboard. Is it only good for kiddie fingers?
posted by dobbs at 9:40 PM on November 2, 2007

Eee has a bit more power, but doesn't have a crank to power it by.
posted by furtive at 9:45 PM on November 2, 2007

I'm pretty sure the current model of the OLPC doesn't have a crank either. (Don't have a reference, but I heard this mentioned recently on one of the twit.tv podcasts.)
posted by dixie flatline at 10:01 PM on November 2, 2007

You can get a pretty good laptop, of the real and full-sized variety, for $450, if you don't mind buying last year's model on eBay. Hell, I get daily Dell flyers with CURRENT laptops for only $100 more than that.

I'm interested in the OLPC and EeePC too, but only when they're actually $99 or so.
posted by rokusan at 10:16 PM on November 2, 2007

The OLPC no longer has a crank.

The EEE specs are better than the OPLC specs. The current version of the EEE for sale is 900MHz, 512Mb ram and has a 4GB flash drive. The OLPC is 450Mhz, 256Mb ram and has a 1GB flash drive. The OLPC does have a nicer screen, so you'll have to look closer if you care about anything particular.

The OLPC is half the price and that is reflected in the hardware. They're both $400, but that's because the OLPC buys another computer with the money to send to a child in a developing country.

(Buying a computer for a child is an excellent thing to do, but the question was about the computer itself).
posted by Gary at 10:45 PM on November 2, 2007

I would not mind if I could run the Sugar Interface on top of Ubuntu (which can be installed on the Eee) but how hard it that?

Here are the instructions on installing Sugar in Ubuntu. I haven't tried it, though. Ubuntu has some issues on the EEE. I'm sure they'll get resolved, but you might want to wait. Linux and incompatable Wifi drivers are not a fun mix.

One last comment to answer your original question. The OLPC appears to be very concerned with keeping the system completely open source. So while the eee has more power, I'm sure you can do productive and useful things on either machine. Even if their software is aimed at children, I'm sure someone will figure out how to put different flavours of Linux on it.
posted by Gary at 11:06 PM on November 2, 2007

Best answer: On one hand, I think the EEE will probably be a better deal, since the OLPC will run you twice what it 'should' cost, due to the fact that you're not buying a consumer product per se; you're making a donation and getting a really nice thank-you gift.

On the other hand, the EEE just launched, and we haven't seen the usual swarm of mainstream reviews yet; nor have the gadgeteers and early-adopters gotten their OLPCs yet to play with. So there's a dangerously high (IMHO) conjecture element here; we don't know if - as a totally hypothetical example - the EEE crashes easily, or somesuch. As someone who's also looking at both, I don't think we'll be able to come to a meaningful conclusion until both have been available for at least a couple of weeks.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:18 PM on November 2, 2007

i got a compaq laptop- nothing special, but a 'real' laptop- for about $450 new, from best buy. this was like last year.

disregard if you want/need linux, or if you like the geek-chic factor of the olpc, but i don't think you necessarily have to rule out a more 'standard' model due to cost. if you need small this won't work.

it's pokey, kinda heavy and so on, but it's been extremely handy as a secondary machine. it's been my primary for a week or two since my monitor broke....
posted by tremspeed at 12:33 AM on November 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you can wait, it sounds like Everex, which just launched a $200 linux PC through Wallmart, is planning on releasing a $300 linux laptop sometime next year. (I think, but I'm not sure, that they expect to get a cut of the google ad revenue from people using the default config of the included browser.)
posted by Good Brain at 1:19 AM on November 3, 2007

I think if I had a bit more than $450 (like $500) to spend on a laptop, I'd get the low-end Dell Vostro and put Linux on it.
posted by oaf at 4:51 AM on November 3, 2007

Best answer: I have big hands, have played with an XO, and sadly, the keyboard simply isn't big enough for touch typing. Also, it's made of a sort of rubberized material, which is bad for tactile feedback but good for serviceability: you basically don't have to worry about spilling stuff on the keyboard.

None of these are meant to criticize the XO—it's a truly awesome machine—but they're holding me back from buying one myself.
posted by brett at 6:24 AM on November 3, 2007

Ok - but if I can piggy-back on this question - what about for a child?

Looks like my daughter will need to use a laptop in-class - so we want something small, portable with good battery - but she needs to be able to touch-type as well (so - the OLPC keyboard may interfere with that).
posted by jkaczor at 7:58 AM on November 3, 2007

You can get a great lightweight and thin used laptop on craigslist in any major city. Even a three or four year old model will be fine for almost anything you need on Ubuntu. Then you simply wipe the Hard Drive and install whatever OS you like.
posted by willie11 at 8:11 AM on November 3, 2007

Good Brain mentioned that Everex linuep that's got me a bit interested (when the 12" model comes out) as well. I think these would be good laptops for a child of any age who wants something functional on a budget.
posted by altcountryman at 8:16 AM on November 3, 2007

Walmart's been advertising a 15-inch no-name laptop with 1GB of RAM for $478.
posted by jbickers at 8:19 AM on November 3, 2007

I too have big hands. I can palm a basketball, but I don't have fat fingers. I have also played with the XO. I found the keyboard to be a non issue.
posted by advicepig at 9:12 AM on November 3, 2007

Response by poster: I already have a MacBook, so what I am looking for is something freakishly small like the XO and the Eee.
posted by ooklala at 10:36 AM on November 3, 2007

The Eee started shipping on Thursday, and the initial reviews have been very positive. Mine is on a UPS truck and should show up Monday. The most active Eee website is eeeuser, which is a good place to find out more information about it.

I have to admit that a lot of why I picked the Eee is that it looks more like a laptop and less like a speak-and-spell. Also, you can buy one right now. They have also done a lot of things right: external vga support, internal SDHC slot, wifi, solid state HDD, upgradible RAM, small ac adapter, runs Linux, etc. The Eee is also smaller, weighing less than 1Kg (The OLPC is 1.45)
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 12:21 PM on November 3, 2007

David Pogue's review in the NYTimes includes a video of him using an XO. The highlights for are when he pours water on it, throws dust and sand on the keyboard, drops it on the ground.

Since it sounds like you're getting this partly for hack value, I'd definitely go for the XO. They are trying to save the world, lots of people are excited about it, and it is totally open-sourced. That combination seems likely to lead to some interesting software, not to mention many interesting conversations.
posted by alms at 12:29 PM on November 3, 2007

The XO has much longer battery life (6-24 hours, vs 3 hours for the Eee).
posted by mbrubeck at 4:54 AM on November 4, 2007

There's a new comparison by Laptop Magazine here.
posted by gecko12 at 6:14 PM on November 29, 2007

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