77netbook A putative $100 netbook has been spotted a couple of times. Once, we reported on the offering from a certain company that those who ordered from found to be a bigger talker than it was a shipper (and which took umbrage when we pointed this out).

Another time, David Rothman pointed me at a $100 Chinese netbook being sold through a particular online vendor—but once I checked the vendor in ResellerRatings and discovered an extremely low customer satisfaction score, I decided not to report on it. Fool me once, shame on you…

Now Wired reports on a $77 Chinese netbook being sold on eBay. (Wired incorrectly calls it a $37 netbook—but the eBay seller charges $40 to ship it from Hong Kong. Standard eBay seller trick: set the price low, but charge through the nose for shipping. Still a decent price, though.) It’s probably the very same computer as those other two, given the source.

It runs Windows CE on a 300 MHz ARM VIA processor with 128MB RAM and a whopping 2GB storage. The huge bezel around the tiny 7-inch 800 x 480 screen has space for a pair of speakers either side, and you even get an ethernet jack and a couple USB ports (take that, iPad) along with Wi-Fi. You can also slot-in an SD card.

Apparently these are “factory seconds or items which have failed quality control tests” but the eBay listing claims they have been tested to work and they have a 14 day return policy—and eBay, at least, has some consumer protections built in. Still, caveat emptor, very much.

The Windows CE OS does not impress me—but I suspect it would be possible to install Linux in its place. If I had a little more money I might actually risk it. It might make a decent portable writing, web browsing, and e-book-reading machine, though the little hamster powering it probably wouldn’t run fast enough for anything else.

On the other hand, there’s no harm in waiting. Moore’s Law being what it is, sub-$100 Chinese netbooks will probably find a more legitimate route to market sooner or later. Who knows, someday you might get them by sending away cereal box tops.


  1. Agree that Win-CE is not exactly cutting edge when it comes to netbooks. I’d prefer to pay a little more and go with Win-7. As for whether Linux can run, it doesn’t sound like this device has a hard drive. If the OS is in firmware, it might be a challenge to get Linux operating. Not saying it would, just wondering.

    Seems to me that a $100 native Linux (or Android?) tablet should be possible in the near future. Give me wi-fi, USB (for a keyboard), and a decent sized hard drive and I’ll buy one.

    Rob Preece

  2. Got one from a US seller on eBay. $80 delivered. Not expecting a lot, just curious to see what could be done with it. Came with a VM8505 chipset, Wince 6.0, 400mhz speed, 256MB memory. 2GB flash storage. Works fairly well given it’s constraints. Pretty sturdy and light. Good screen and track pad. Sometimes won’t connect to the internet. Turning the WIFI off and on again gets it working. Anemic battery charger with short cord. Took an 8GB SD card. Does surf all right, slow on many “busy” sites. Probably worth the $80 for someone willing to work on it. It’ll do for my carry back and forth to work unit. Probably will be cheaper soon.

  3. Great Idea wrong OS, wince sucks no apps they should of gone Linux and included an office suite. You can put Android on it, but this thing will boot windows then android so bootup takes longer. Also Android is a bit beta, and is really made for phones not the Ideal OS for this. But its your only other choice, as windows CE is embeded. My guess microcrocrap twist arms to make sure no computer goes out the door without them on it, and no one cares if it works right.

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