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I have been trying out Zyrex Ubud, a subnotebook which is based on VIA Nanobook design. It is VIA’s answer to Asus EeePC machines. There are some differences, but they are similar in build and size.

The unit I am testing right now uses Windows Vista Starter Edition. Vista sounds horrible for machines of this class. And it shows. For example, boot time of this notebook is about 1 minutes and 30 seconds. I measured it from pushing the power button until Windows taskbar and wallpaper came. If I waited until all startup programs were loaded it was much longer, about 3 minutes.

For comparison I timed the boot time of another machine which also used Vista, Acer Travelmate 6262. I got about 50 seconds starting up time. Meanwhile, EeePC stated boot times for newer models is about 30 seconds for Linux versions and 50 seconds for XP. It is easy to blame Vista for this, but I suspect the culprit was the hard disk. Using hard drive as storage means Zyrex Ubud has a lot more space compared to EeePC or Classmate machines, but the boot time suffers.

But after the booting Vista with Ubud is actually quite usable. The speed is adequate for browsing and simple word processing (which is the most probable scenario for journalists). Still, I wish Zyrex would choose another operating systems for this machine. The menu is too large for the screen, for starters. And talking about starters, Vista Starter Edition is a crippled operating system. It is even worse than Home Basic, which at least let you run applications as many as you want.

Vista can handle the 800 x 480 resolution, but it is very clear that Visa, (or XP in that respect) is not designed for this kind of machine. The dialog box sometimes too large and the buttons were hidden.

The keyboard are nice. Sure, it is rather small and make the user prone to typing mistakes. But it is much more comfortable than EeePC keyboards. The same cannot be said for the pointing device. The touchpad, is very, very small for proper pointing gestures. Sure, Zyrex (or, perhaps more appropriately, VIA) has to work around the size constrain. But why not use trackpoints, which also can save space as well, and in my opinion, much more usable?

VIA processors have bad reputation, but I cannot report any dissatisfactions with the performance. Yet.