Would you buy Coby's 7-inch smartbook for $85?

Would you buy Coby's 7-inch smartbook for $85?

Summary: I know netbooks have driven down the prices on laptops quite a bit, now spawning so-called smartbooks, but this may be a little too much. Bargain electronics manufacturer Coby has been a showing new portable this week at the CeBIT expo that will cost, according to Engadget, just $85.


I know netbooks have driven down the prices on laptops quite a bit, now spawning so-called smartbooks, but this may be a little too much. Bargain electronics manufacturer Coby has been a showing new portable this week at the CeBIT expo that will cost, according to Engadget, just $85. Yes, you read that right.

How does Coby get the price so low on the NBPC722? For starters, the screen is just 7 inches, which places it squarely between most 10-inch netbooks and smaller MIDs. It also eschews an Intel Atom processor for a 624MHz Marvell PXA303 one, and provides a mere 2GB of flash-based storage. You also have to live with Windows CE rather than Windows XP or Windows 7 as your OS. But most importantly, it has built-in 802.11b/g (but not 802.11n) Wi-Fi for checking email and viewing Web pages.

Is this Coby portable cheap enough that you'd buy it to give it to your kids so they can surf the Internet without pestering you about using your own computer? Frankly, mine are persistent enough to make me think about it.

Topics: Operating Systems, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobility, Software, Windows

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  • CE's lack of support

    It would be worthless to me since most of the kids
    would need it to support the new adobe flash,
    shockwave, java and few other technologies that
    aren't fully supported by windows ce.
    • CE supports Flash Lite


      Plus, the engadget article mentions a YouTube desktop shortcut (which may or may not use Flash)
  • RE: Would you buy Coby's 7-inch smartbook for $85?

    For sure I'll buy one!

    At that price it's perfect to check the mails in the coffe store.

    Also, I wouldn't mind if it gets stolen or lost, or broken with the rain and stuff... I'll leave my laptop at home (where I do the heavy stuff), and this one would be just to take out in the streets
  • WinCE is the killer here

    I understand why they did it, to fit inside of a 2GB flash chip, but it renders the product useless. Essentially this sound like an old PDA design reworked around 7" screen and a keyboard. But PDAs are almost extinct now, and this is just way too late. I wouldn't be surprised if this was actually built around surplus PDA boards that Coby picked up somewhere for a couple of dollars per unit.

    Here's the kicker: most of Coby's market strategy is based around impulse buys, not product quality or performance. The expected usage of the device is a few hours, once the buyer determines that yes, the device sort of does what's written on the packaging, but no, it's not really usable at all. Then it goes into a drawer somewhere, never to be seen again.

    Take a look at Coby's previous offerings around MP3 players, video cameras and other consumer electronics gadgets and you'll see what I mean. This is no different. Tempt the user into gambling a "modest" sum, then deliver the absolute minimum.
    terry flores
    • I might buy one

      because of CE! Well, not really because of the OS, but because what this device is really a better take on the PDA. My Palm Pilot finally died, and I can't get a new one. I don't want a smartphone that I'm going to have to pay a lot to replace every couple of years. The Coby computer will make a great PDA, with wireless (which I've never had on a PDA), and I can load the old Palm Desktop software on it, which is still my favorite organizer. (I've always liked the Palm Desktop software better than the Palm itself.)
    • Battery life ...

      ... longer than total time ever used? Sounds about right. I have a Colby
      DVD player that I used once. Am too embarrassed to simply throw it out.
    • Slap Ubuntu or Android on it

      I would think someone could hack a fairly
      straightforward kit to put a decent Linux or
      Android OS on this thing - it's a decent ARM
      processor. It could be a real sleeper hit. 7"
      is a good size, and you wouldn't really care
      that much if you accidentally left it at the
      Of course, I expect quite a few companies to do
      bargain pads like this with Android 2.0 or
      Ubuntu MID or MeeGo, so I'd rather wait for
      that. Have no idea why they went with crummy
      old WinCE - which they actually (presumably)
      had to pay for. Yech.
      • It's not ARM, it's Marvell nt

        • It's probably ARM

          Marvell bought the ARM operations of Intel
          so this is likely ARM based. At one time,
          Intel was one of the largest ARM licensees
          (making CPUS that went into the Compaq iPaq
          PDAs, among others). Funny that what goes
          around comes around. Now ARM is Intel's
          biggest rival in the phone factor space.
        • Marvell is certainly ARM

          What else would it be? Marvell is pretty much an
          ARM house exclusively, duh. ARM is a chip
          architecture licensed to many manufacturers.
    • They are just testing the waters...

      @terry: Coby's is just testing the waters. They know few people will actually buy this thing, but the mere comments they get at such a bargain basement price will help them segment out any future release.

      My best bet is that they will either unveil an Android based alternative (using the same Marvel chip) or up the ante with a $150 Snapdragon with Chrome OS, at the end of the year.

      As for Windows (Embedded) CE, its UI has never gotten a refresh past the first attempts before Windows Mobile.

      Microsoft erred the track and should have evolved the UI to an XP class OS in advance for this types of devices.

      The problem's they forgot what they did on Windows NT 4.0 when they ported the Win32 API from Windows 95 to the NT kernel. They could've made the same transition to the CE kernel, but didn't do 'cause they saw no need for it, as they were focused on WinMo. Windows Phone 7 Series apparently uses the same kernel (Win Emb CE) but with a Silverlight front end.
  • Sure

    GPS for one thing
    RDP to a more capable computer
    Light Web 2.0 office applications
    Portable video player (this CPU can handle it)
    Universal remote (if you can get IR receivers and drivers, etc)
  • Start the trend.....

    This particular machine may not pack a punch or be wonderful enough to display in public, but it may start other manufacturers looking at lower priced machines.

    Imagine a machine with Window CE embedded or Linux embedded onto the machines hardware. It would spell the end of reinstalling operating systems, while limiting viruses.

    When the system gets too outdated to be useful just toss it in the recycle bin and buy another.

    I like it. :)
  • I Coby could make this a 7" eBook with eInk

    for under $100, it would be a real winner. Shame no one will do this.
    • I don't know about eInk, buuuut . . .

      You can get Ebook reader programs for WinCE, so you could definitely use it as an eBook reader.

      What I see this being used for, if you could either:

      a) put Linux on it, or;

      b) make sure you could access Google docs;

      is use this for a true cloud computing environment. All of your docs on google (or windows live; remember this IS WinCE so it will have some version of mobile office with it), so you could edit docs, do email, and surf basic net sites (I don't see this thing doing youtube very well, if at all, let alone sites like Hulu).

      If that's all you want, this would work very well.
      • I mention eInk so that would save battery charge

        Reading books on a pc with regular LCD, is very eye tiring. eInk save your eyes.
  • RE: Would you buy Coby's 7-inch smartbook for $85?

    Would I buy a Coby's 7" smartbook.......NO. I can't even understand why people buy a netbook, iPhone, Blackberry, iPod and now an iPad!!!! A prepaid cell phone with 'pay as you go' with no contract is more than enough.
    • You know you're on ZDNet, right?

      I wonder how you're accessing this site anyway.... did you get an extra long spool of string for your set of tin cans?
  • accept it's limitations

    Like AM radio in the car. 100 year old tech that still brings you the news or the ballgame. It would make a great kitchen pc. streaming radio. recipe lookup. quick email. For $85 I wouldn't care about crumbs or grease.
  • RE: Would you buy Coby's 7-inch smartbook for $85?

    Maybe. No experience with WCE, or Coby products. They do look as though you get what you pay for, in other words you aren't buying a Caddilac, but a Yugo. I am sure someone could hack the unit and change the OS if he were [i]persistent[/i] enough!

    In your case the word is persistent, not persistence.
    [b]Persistence[/b] (N) is defind as "the act of persisting; stubborn or enduring continuance"
    [b]Persistant[/b] (ADJ) is defind as "refusing to relent, continuing esp. in the face of opposition, interference, etc."