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Apricot PicoBook Pro: First impressions

Blimey - it's less than two days since I asked for a review copy of Apricot's netbook, and here it is in the office already. Admirable PR work.

Blimey - it's less than two days since I asked for a review copy of Apricot's netbook, and here it is in the office already. Admirable PR work. So. Where to start.

It came in a box listing it as a "Mini-note". Now, that's what HP calls their netbooks. This is definitely not one of those. There's a couple of Apricot stickers on the box, but I can't tell who originally made the thing. Anyway.

I try turning it on. It starts to boot up, then hangs and starts emitting an ominous ticking noise. It can't find the operating system. The hard drive is clearly stuffed.

I take it over to Rory Reid, CNet.co.uk's illustrious PC editor. "It's ticking," I say. "Have you tried this?" he asks, then throws it to the ground. And guess what.

Now that the hard drive was magically returned to functionality, I went through the setup process. The PicoBook uses SUSE Linux, and this was the first time I'd ever really tried using it. It is clearly not made for consumers. Hell, I'm a tech hack and I was confused by some of the options at startup. Figuring out how to get the speakers working beyond a whisper was a pain in the proverbial. Finding the Wi-Fi tool was a similar experience. And the damn thing keeps falling asleep.

But that's SUSE. How about the hardware? Dodgy hard drive notwithstanding, I do quite like the screen. The speakers aren't great. The keyboard is awful, but arguably no more so than the keyboard on, say, the Eee 900.

What is truly astonishing is the trackpad. It's the smallest one I've ever seen. I am a man of average finger size, and I am not joking when I say the trackpad is the size of the top half of my thumb. Ruler out... yep, 4cm diagonal. Wow.

Oh yeah, and the machine won't sit flush on a flat surface - seems to rock slightly, for some reason.

Don't forget this netbook uses a 1.2GHz Via processor, rather than Intel's superior Atom. And it could be yours for the bargain price of £279! I'm going to take the damn thing home for the weekend, and will report back further. Once I stop laughing.

UPDATE: Laughing aside, the issue of who makes the thing was kind of bugging me, mainly because the guy showing me the PicoBook at that show a couple of nights ago swore that Apricot was making it themselves. Oh yeah?

Next to that tasteful sticker is the product's FCC ID, which takes us here, which in turn takes us here. Yes folks, you're looking at FIC's CE2A1 netbook. With an Apricot sticker on it. Nice work.