Attack of the Sylvania Smartbook

Attack of the Sylvania Smartbook

Summary: The pseudo-laptop known as the Smartbook is alive and on store shelves to this day.

SHARE:
17

Before the Ultrabook and before the netbook, there was a pseudo-laptop from Sylvania called the Smartbook. These ran a mobile OS instead of Windows, and were designed to be super cheap Internet devices. Some Smartbooks ran Windows CE, a precursor to Windows Mobile, and eventually some shipped with Android. These Smartbooks didn't have good hardware inside, so they were mostly slow and stripped down laptop wannabes. You probably never saw one in the wild as not very many of these sold.

See also: Coming, an iOS laptop? I'm not so sure

What kicked off this trip down Smartbook memory lane? This weekend I stopped in my local CVS pharmacy and did a double-take to find the Sylvania Smartbook on the shelf, waiting for a buyer. The price tag was $99.99, and it surprised me to find these beasts still being sold.

A quick web search showed me that CVS is not the only outlet still selling these Sylvania Smartbooks, Sears has them too. This model is about what you would expect, with a Via ARM processor, 256MB of memory, 2GB internal storage, SD slot to handle up to 8GB of external memory, 7-inch display (800x600), keyboard and trackpad. The Windows CE that runs it is Windows CE Embedded 6.0, and it has Microsoft Office viewers for common documents.

I couldn't resist sharing that this is still out there, so buyer beware. When I mentioned this on Twitter, my friend Joanna Stern (@JoannaStern) didn't want to be reminded of them. That's not the way to handle it, when we forget history we are destined to repeat the mistakes made. That's what they say, anyway. Let's not repeat this one.

Topics: Hardware, Mobility, Security

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

17 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • It Would Be Viable with Linux - More Powerful Ones May Be Windows 8 Devices

    This would be a viable device with Linux for ARM on it instead of Windows CE. It might not even be too bad with some kind of Android.

    It's quite possible that we will see more of such devices in the future with Windows 8, but I think they would have to be a bit more powerful to be viable, with a better ARM processor and at least 512MB of memory.
    CFWhitman
    • RE: Attack of the Sylvania Smartbook

      @CFWhitman - Honestly with those specs, it doesn't matter what O/S you are using. Many many web sites for desktop browsers these days require tons more processing power than this hardware could deliver.
      webmaster@...
      • I'm Fairly Familiar With the Hardware Class

        @webmaster@... <br>It really depends on a factor that I don't see much information about, and that's the video chipset. I've run a device with very similar specs with Linux and Android and found it useful enough. I'm not saying it's going to satisfy all your computer needs, but it's not useless.<br><br>I currently have a palmtop device with Linux on it that has a more recent iteration of an ARM CPU and the same amount of RAM, and I do a lot on it. This appears to be similar in power to the GamePark Holdings Wiz and Caanoo devices. YouTube won't work (although MiniTube might do OK), but you can browse the web, listen to music, play simple games and run emulators to play selections from your old console game collection. You can obviously also use it for email and office applications.<br><br>Like I said, though, those things would be much easier with a Linux install, as long as all the hardware was supported. It's much more difficult to find additional apps for Windows CE at this point. Of course, even then you'd find this more interesting if you are a bit of a hacker (not in the cracker sense) rather than just a regular user.<br><br>For browsing the small screen resolution is probably the biggest impediment other than embedded video not being viable.<br><br>The other question mark is the battery life. I've heard that some similar devices get as little as two hours of battery life. That defeats the whole purpose of a low powered device like this. With that little battery life, you might as well use an old laptop. My palmtop device gets over ten hours, and even the old mini-tablet that was similar in power to this got around 5 hours. Really, though, 7 hours plus is what would make it worth it.
        CFWhitman
  • RE: Attack of the Sylvania Smartbook

    Used to see these things on eBay all the time. Never found a good, thorough review or youtube hands-on of one of these things. Would love to play with one, if only for a couple of minutes to see what sort of computing experience $100 will buy you.
    dsf3g
  • RE: Attack of the Sylvania Smartbook

    I saw one of these at my local Wal-Mart on Sunday. I laughed out loud I do not think the staff at the counter was too impressed with me.
    scotth1354@...
  • RE: Attack of the Sylvania Smartbook

    I would prefer this over a tablet. At least you can type on the thing with some degree of accuracy. This is really a good fit for someone that just does email, light web surfing, and Facebook. I don't see how the author can call it a mistake without saying anything about it other than the specs. Each device has a target demographic and this will satisfy the needs of those with no interest in downloading "apps" or watching video, for a very attractive price compared to laptops, netbooks, computers, or tablets. Perhaps the author and his Twitter friend are gadget snobs?
    lippidp
    • RE: Attack of the Sylvania Smartbook

      @lippidp
      snobs? um no. There is a minimum price for certain things to be at all useful.
      deathjazz
      • RE: Attack of the Sylvania Smartbook

        @willyampz
        You are also a self-centered gadget snob. The way you used "um" in your post is a dead giveaway to your superiority complex. This device is useful to people that have basic Internet needs.
        lippidp
  • RE: Attack of the Sylvania Smartbook

    My mom bought one of these. It is a total waste. No option to add software beyond what was delivered, and never did get it to connect to WiFi, even though it had a WiFi card built in. Complete pain and suffering, no joy.
    grant@...
  • RE: Attack of the Sylvania Smartbook

    That's funny - I just saw the same thing at my CVS before christmas. I did not realize they had been around a long time.
    deathjazz
  • RE: Attack of the Sylvania Smartbook

    Instead of a Sylvania Blu-Dot it's a Sylvania Blu-Screen!
    dheady@...
  • Its a POS

    I bought one for $75 on black friday from Toys R Us for my kids (the are elementary school age) for christmas. I wasn't expecting much for $75, I just wanted them to be able to access the internet on it for their school related work and games. But I've never even been able to get the thing to turn ON. So here it sits still in the box, because it's more hassle to send it in to Sylvania to get it fixed than its worth. I will never buy one of their products again....And yes I did call them and received less than par customer service.
    Krystle Lange
  • They are great with Android installed.

    My wife bought me one of these used on Amazon. After a lot of researching, I figured out how to install a custom developed version of Android, called modroid. I now have a very useful tablet running Android 2.2, and it only cost $55 and the time to figure out how to install Android on it.
    matthewt0144
  • They are great with Android installed.

    My wife bought me one of these used on Amazon. After a lot of researching, I figured out how to install a custom developed version of Android, called modroid. I now have a very useful tablet running Android 2.2, and it only cost $55 and the time to figure out how to install Android on it.
    matthewt0144
    • HELP, Matthewto144!

      I purchased one for my 10 and 11 year old step kids. Could you please direct me how to install "Android" on this?

      Please?!

      brookeo@hcpaper.com
      brookieO
  • funny...

    my husband and i just went to a camping time share talk today above placerville, ca. this is what they gave as a "gift" for listening to their schpeel.....they stated that it was worth $250.....i had to laugh inside.....then come to notice after we got home that the thing is probably used or refurbished somehow, as some of the stickers were scratched off the box and the gadget itself is scratched with a lable torn off the bottom...weird.....they told us it needed to charge for 24 hours before using it or the battery would not hold a charge. it will be interesting to see how it works out.....after all it was "free".......aaaaahahahaha!!!
    minisport
  • funny...

    my husband and i just went to a camping time share talk today above placerville, ca. this is what they gave as a "gift" for listening to their schpeel.....they stated that it was worth $250.....i had to laugh inside.....then come to notice after we got home that the thing is probably used or refurbished somehow, as some of the stickers were scratched off the box and the gadget itself is scratched with a lable torn off the bottom...weird.....they told us it needed to charge for 24 hours before using it or the battery would not hold a charge. it will be interesting to see how it works out.....after all it was "free".......aaaaahahahaha!!!
    minisport