As a frequent rail traveller I need at least one portable machine – and it should run Windows, have four cores or more, have a touchscreen and be small and light, but not TOO small. And it should be CHEAP – because I don’t wanna churn out a thousand EUros or more should it get stolen or smashed up or simply fall apart through vibrations.
So, 10 inch touchscreen is too small. 12 inch is acceptable; I’d LOVE to have a 14 inch touchscreen but those do not exist by now.
The Windows requirement is due to my own software I want to use which is currently Windows-based. I might come up with a Android and Linux version eventually but I’m not there yet.
Note: All prices mentioned are in Euros, if you’re American, that’s about equal to your US Dollars in buying power at the moment, given that we pay VAT in Europe, which eats up the slightly higher value of the Euro.
Keeping all these constraints in mind – a notebook-like, at least 12 inch thing with a touchscreen – the CHEAPEST BY FAR device is the ASUS TP 200SA.
So I got me one a few months ago. For the astonishingly small price of 300EUR – in my local mall, not even by scanning at EBay or Amazon or looking for a used device.
Everything else in this class is 700 EUR onwards. There’s an ACER for 720 EUR… I love Acer, but I’m so keen on saving 60%…
And here’s the caveats.
- It has only 32GByte SSD. 20GB are consumed by Windows 10. But it has a MicroSD slot. Get a 64GB MicroSD, 80MByte/s speed, for 25EUR or Dollars straight away.
- It has only 4GB of RAM. Firefox is a huge memory hog, expect some problems there. Prepare to restart Firefox when memory alerts pop up; usually when watching video.
- It crashes due to the built-in WLAN. After a few months an internal (antenna?) connector starts to fail, leading to crashes (BlueScreen, followed by restart) of the Qualcomm Atheros driver. You get no updates for the driver. This is a known bug of the TP 200. This is what I found in reader comments on a Microsoft forum. SOLUTION: Buy a Wifi USB stick for 10EUR; install it; deactivate the built-in WiFi AND BlueTooth – both go over the Atheros driver which is a BITCH. In the photo above, the WiFi stick is to the right with the green LED.
And that’s the reason this tiny computer is so cheap. With the exception of the Wifi and BlueTooth it’s a great little machine as long as you don’t want to do Video processing or high resolution Photoshop. Disabling the Qualcomm Atheros Driver and with it the built in WiFi and BlueTooth gets rid of the crashes.
Battery lasts 10 hours; CPU is a Pentium Mobile quadcore N3700 , runs at up to 1.6 GHz and consumes a measly 6 Watt max. Not the fastest machine but acceptable for web browsing, editing text, running compilers and such while on the go.
Could I buy one, wait for the WiFi driver crashes to occur and complain and get it repaired on warranty for free?
Well, maybe. I could have tried but I need this machine now. Maybe I’ll buy another one and send this one in. For the moment I’m happy with the USB stick workaround.
UPDATE: I had one bluescreen now when I unplugged the power supply – which should have led to smooth transition to battery. Even though the built-in WLAN was switched off and I was running WLAN with the WiFi stick. So… next I will try to completely deinstall the QualComm driver… This stays interesting and maybe I will really have to give the machine into warranty-covered repair. So. If you want one… at your own risk. Definitely not a machine for the weak. But such fun to use when it works.