Review: Pioneer Dreambook Light IL1

[ Monday, 20 October 2008, obi_gl ]


Cheap notebooks with preinstalled Linux distributions conquer Western markets. Polish hardware distributors did notice it and one of them launched a new subnotebook in the Polish market. They call it: Airis I-Design IL-1 Nanobook.

Attention: The reviewed model is not the market version so the models available on the market may differ from it!

There is no mistake in the paragraph above – IL-1 (short for “I’d Love 1″) will be distributed together with “normal” laptops. Linpus will be the OS preinstalled by default, however, Windows XP freaks will be able to get it (they will have to pay extra for it of course). It will be distributed in Poland by: Lognetmedia

Appearance:

Specification:

  • Processor – VIA C7-M 1 GHz
  • Memory – 512 MB RAM (1 GB as far as final market version is concerned)
  • Display – 7” WVGA (800×480)
  • Chipset – VIA VX800U
  • Hard drive – 40 GB 1,8” Toshiba
  • Ethernet – Realtek 8139
  • WiFi – Realtek 8187B 802.11 b/g
  • Graphics – VIA Chrome9 HC3
  • Ports – 2x USB 2.0, 2x mini jack (headphones, microphone), 1x D-Sub
  • Others – built-in web cam, microphone, stereo speakers, MMC/SD/SDHC cards reader, modem (market versions may be equipped in USB mouse with a USB hub containing two ports)
  • Weight – 800 g
  • Dimensions – 240x170x35 mm
  • Price – 1499 PLN (683 USD)

This laptop casing is made of shiny plastic where each finger touch will be easily noticeable, but it seems to be solid. There are numerous air holes at the bottom of the laptop. When you hold it, it won’t creak, which is quite often in cheaper constructions. Each port is clearly described as what can be seen in the pictures. The screen, like in most subnotebooks, is much smaller than the lid itself. Its resolution (800×480) will be enough for surfing or creating documents, such as with OpenOffice, which is included. Even so, it will not be very comfortable (a nine-inch WSVGA screen would be perfect). Both the touchpad and the keyboard are smaller than in normal laptops, so one will have to get used to them. The keyboard’s layout matches the one known from Asus’ Eee PC. The notebook stays cool even if it is used intensively and, above all, it is quite quiet. Battery life is very long – up to 4,5 hours. These are not empty promises – after 3 hours of watching DivX films, the icon in the tray displayed 30% of battery life.

What lacks the most is bluetooth, which could enable Internet connection via a mobile phone from almost all around the world. The next disadvantage is its low processor efficiency, which is too low to watch films encoded with H264 codec. The hard drive is also not very efficient but it could compete with these known from laptops equipped with P3 processor.

Linpus

Linpus Lite 9.4, which is the preinstaled OS, does not require any user or root passwords by default, so anyone who prices security will have to set them manually or disable autologin in gdm. The system itself is easy to handle thanks to a modified interface, which has already been described by Riklaunim. Available applications are the most popular or the most interesting based on their category (browser – Firefox, email client – Thunderbird, Office – OpenOffice.org, IM – pidgin, VoIP – ekiga, movie player – smplayer, picture browser – f-spot and so on). Like gOS, there are icons which open Google Docs, Wikipedia, Youtube or Gmail in the browser. There is Flash or mplayer-plugin in Firefox but no java is installed. Unfortunately there is no repository, which significantly decreases the level of Linpus’ usefulness. Moreover, locale setting is not easy to perform (by clicking), some files have to be edited.

Linpus’ localization

No program on Linpus has its localization file removed. It means you have to modify these lines in /etc/sysconfig/i18n to set your language (procedure described is for Polish but it is analogical for any language):

from:

LANG=en_US.UTF-8
LANGUAGE=en_US.UTF-8

to:

LANG=pl_PL.UTF-8
LANGUAGE=pl_PL.UTF-8

The next step is the keyboard’s layout. You can modify it by changing the 45th line of /etc/X11/xorg.conf to look like this:

Option "XkbLayout" "pl"

But it will not suit all applications because some of them may not have localization files with the language chosen by you. These may be: pidgin, GnomeBaker or Evince. It is better as far as OpenOffice, Firefox and Thundebird are concerned, as you can download the language files, but it is not as simple for OOo. You have to download the files from the website. Open the terminal and type:

su - (by default no password for root requiered)
cd /home/linpus/Desktop
tar -zxvf OOo_2.3.1_LinuxIntel_langpack_your_language.tar.gz
cd OOG680_m9_native_packed-1_your_language.9238/RPMS
rpm -Uvh *rpm

Linux support

Attention: Everything checked without any complicated configuration under console (no compilation)

It is a common truth that VIA is not well supported by Linux. Unfortunately IL-1 is no exception – 3D acceleration works on none of the tested distributions. Some LiveCD’s did not succeed to enable the X server. The maximal resolution to be set in GUI is 640×480. The memory card reader works under nonpublic VIA drivers, modem under nonpublic argmodem module – but it was not tested as I don’t have any phone line to test it on.

openSUSE 10.3, 11.0 Beta

Unfortunately, YaST freezes the system while hard disc detection (both in test and stable versions of openSUSE).

*buntu 7.10 i 8.04 Beta

7.10 version did not detect the hard drive, however, 8.04 beta was installed without any problems. The unstable version detected the sound card, webcam and special keyboard keys (for brightness regulation) correctly. WiFi was enabled thanks to ndiswrapper (which needed to be extra installed on xubuntu). The sound is not working after hibernation but I got a patch to the bios during the test which may fix this problem, but because of lack of windows installed I was not able to install it.

Mandriva 2008.1 Spring

The new Mandriva can be installed without any problems. You can choose the 800X480 resolution during installation but it does not work, and you will have to accept the 640×480 resolution, which cannot be changed. As far as hardware recognition is concerned, it is like in beta version of Ubuntu but I did not launch WiFi because of lack of any nice GUI for ndiswrapper.

To sum up

Lack of producer’s cooperation (who is just since few days Open Source receptive) is what causes hardware problems. Everything signs of fast becoming obsolete of this part of the review :)

I found it difficult to part with IL-1 after four days of using it. It is a perfect addition to a mobile in terrain and it can be a multimedia center at home after loudspeakers were connected. Thanks to the small size and the weight, IL-1 becomes no burden after few hours on the go. Not very wide screen is no problem if it’s just for chatting or video conferences, but as far as daily surfing is concerned, I would prefer a wider screen. The processor’s efficiency can be described as “acceptable” but can be too low for beagle or amarok users.

Staff note: This notebook is known one the market overseas as:Pioneer Dreambook Light IL1. No one knows why Polish distributor sells it as Aris which is another rival for Asus Eee — Airis Kira 100.

Proofreading: Nazar Rusli, Typesetting: oZz

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