3K RazorBook Now $299. Ready to Buy Now?

Yesterday I spent a lot of time with 3K Computer’s RazorBook 400. At the time, the system was priced at $399 and compared with the $399 Eee PC 4G (Xandros), it just couldn’t hold a candle. I noted the system’s inability to load on new programs and Flash to view streaming video. Today the company has announced that the system is now priced at $299! Coincidence? I think not. I received an e-mail this morning from 3K Computers in response to my concerns. It read:

The 3K RazorBook 400 is not designed to support the functions that they [LAPTOPMag.com] are attempting at this time. Its intended as a low cost, portable computing appliance, for basic internet browsing, word processing, spreadsheets, e-mail, media/video playback, online Flash Games, and instant messaging.

Not intended to support what we’re attempting? Dude, it’s not like we were trying to turn the thing into a Web server. We were just “attempting” to view YouTube!

A 3K IT Manager is working to fix the Flash issue, I was also told. Additionally, today’s press release quotes 3K Computer’s CEO Dan Jacobs:

“The day has finally arrived and the 3K RazorBook 400 is now hitting the US market. We just lowered our MSRP to $299 as part of this exciting announcement. There has been a lot of comparison from bloggers to the Asus eeePC due to its similar 7-inch LCD form factor. The 3K RazorBook 400 is a unique product that was designed as a low-cost ($299) portable Internet appliance, not to replace your home PC or Notebook computer.

Does the RazorBook’s lowered $299 price change the game for the small system? Not if you’re comparing it to the Eee PC 2G Surf, a $299 mini-notebook which offers flash, an up-to-date version of the Firefox browser, OpenOffice.org office applications, a faster-processor, and a working battery than can be removed and swapped out. That said, the form factor on the Razorbook is unique. I am impressed with the small size of the system and its light weight. However, the inability to install Flash to view videos in the browser and to install additional programs on the mini-notebook is a deal breaker. If you are looking for a small system to check your e-mail and read some blogs, the RazorBook will work but so will the Eee PC 2G Surf.

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  1. Mike Cane Says:

    WTF? In the press release, it says 8-second boot time. In the product description (which notes FULL SIZE KEYBOARD, wtf?), it lists 15-second boot time.

    Didn’t your video show 40-second boot time?!

    Product description also calls it a “Mini media mogul” — wtf?
    http://www.3kcomputers.com/razorbook400.html

    I’m really wondering about this thing. I have a killer portable USB keyboard I could connect to this. As it is crap for Flash video, I wouldn’t be distracted while mobile writing…

  2. Mike Says:

    It’s an interesting new format in the low cost ultra portable market.

    About flash, I’ve seen somewhere they were opening the source code, so the problem here (different architecture – other than x86) can be overcome recompiling the flash player from source.

    Linux is my favorite OS almost *anywhere* – You just need to understand the philosophy behind, and almost *everything* becomes possible.

    I think this device can be seen as half way to a clamshell PDA with a reasonable keyboard (beter than other PDA’s and mobile phones)

    Let’s see if they can publish the source code of this platform and apps, so that more improvements start to become available from other developers…

  3. netbsd Says:

    I noticed just yesterday on a German blog, eepcnews.de, that the specs of this machine were identical to a 200 euro machine, which is about 300 USD.

    I think what they are doing is against the GPL, the license for probably 99% of the software (Linux kernel, C library, busybox, etc) they are (or might be) using. They infringe upon the rights of the programmer under the GPL to inspect, change and improve the software. They are under obligation to disclose their changes to all GPL source code.

    Now, somewhat ironically, if they had been using NetBSD they could indeed have locked down the software.

    IMHO these marketing guys haven’t the faintest idea what they are (re)selling.

  4. Mike Cane Says:

    @netbsd: you left out an e in that name! Do you mean this 199eur one?

    http://www.eeepcnews.de/2008/05/09/netbook-one-a110-fuer-199-euro/

    Totally different beast. That one has C7-M, like the Cloudbook.

    http://www.one.de/shop/one-mini-notebook-a110-p-2667.html?tab=2#tabs&osCsid=82d861b3529eb3df497efd52078e3804

    The Razorbook has a CPU I’ve never heard of.

  5. Mike Cane Says:

    @netbsd. Oops! My error. Yes, this is it:
    http://www.eeepcnews.de/2008/05/19/eee-pc-alternative-der-jupiter-kl-pc701/

  6. netbsd Says:

    Mike, that one only has 128 KB RAM and 512 MB flash. The one I meant is the Jupiter 0708l here:
    http://www.datacask.com/pageID_5983429.html
    with 512 MB RAM and 4 GB flash, just like the razorbook.

    The cpu (actually SoC, System on a Chip) is not x86-compatible (AMD/Intel/VIA), but MIPS32-compatible, as you can see if you check ftp://ftp.ingenic.cn (mips_toolchain_guide.pdf might ring a bell).

    The big question is why they say it runs at 400 MHz, while the Ingenic site’s “top model” is a Jz4740 @ 360 MHz (Jz4720 and 4730 run at lower speeds). I really would like to know which chip is used (it also could be the Jz4732, which does exist but isn’t mentioned at http://www.ingenic.cn/), and if the 400 MHz rating is typical marketing BS, or if they overclock the Jz4740, or if this mysterious Jz4732 in fact does run at 400 MHz.

    If you buy a laptop with an Intel chip, wouldn’t you like to know if it was a Core 2 Duo, Celeron or Atom?

  7. geegee Says:

    with an os that you can’t access
    inability to add or remove programs
    …sounds like someone’s collecting info =P

    i pass

  8. netbsd Says:

    The reason people aren’t allowed to upgrade software on their own machines (as if they were simply telephones or MP3 players) is that the marketing department fears returns because of failure to install Windows XP :-)

    OTOH they are also pissing off the open source programming community that could easily supply updated and optimized software for this class of machines.

    To answer my question, according to two different sources a Jz4730 cpu is used. That means USB 1.1 according to Ingenic, not USB 2.0, another “inaccuracy” (such as the Internal 56K V.92 Data/Fax PCI Modem listed on http://www.3kcomputers.com/razorbook400.html, when there is no PCI bus).

  9. netbsd Says:

    There have been some new developments in the exciting field of Skytone clone research. Dutch hackers have jailbroken their new toy (sold in Holland, appropriately, by Intertoys) during the last few weeks, and they have learned a few things.

    The 400 MHz claim is likely to be hyperbole for all these clones (Yinlips, Bestlink, Elonex, etc). The Intertoys clone was cracked open and has a Jz4730 (nude pictures are available), the same cpu said to be present in the Razorbook. However, it runs at the blazing speed of 336 MHz.

    If you still have a Razorbook around, may I suggest a small experiment. Nothing else is needed but firefox; the machine will not be harmed. Just replace the current url with file:///proc/jz/cgm (followed by enter). If you see a line containing something like

    ICLK : 335.46 MHz

    you know you have been fooled by 3K Computers. If you get an error message, that probably means the configuration differs from the Intertoys clone and you need the jailbreak in order to mount /proc. Full credits go to:

    http://wiki.kwaak.net/twiki/bin/view/Main/CoolGadgetAlpha400
    http://people.fruitsalad.org/adridg/bobulate/index.php?/archives/614-Lowest-end-stuff-for-KDE4.html

  10. Acid_1 Says:

    One thing that I hate is when reviewers compare one processor architecture to another, while, particularly their clock speeds. Remember when the PPC was what Macs ran on? The clock was lower, but that didn’t matter because the processor handled instructions differently, and didn’t the the high clock speed. The same goes with ARM and MIPS. You can’t give a no go to a different architecture until you’ve actually tested it out. Toss Debian MIPS on it and it’ll be good to go!

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