First Look at VIA’s OpenBook
We got our hands on the reference design VIA is shopping out to the OEMs, but it’s missing one thing: the much-anticipated Isaiah processor. Just a tad deeper than the HP MiniNote 2133, VIA’s latest brainchild, the Open Book, offers two webcams, a built-in GPS receiver, Bluetooth, and integrated Wi-Fi and even Wi-MAX antennas. But inside, you’ll find the same 1.6-GHz C7-M processor that was in the first-generation CloudBook. We were hoping to see the much-anticipated Isaiah chip, in the hopes that it would add battery life or performance for a price that would sway potential Intel Atom OEM partnerships, but VIA actually has no plans to include the Isaiah processor in mini notebooks anytime soon. Company spokesperson Richard Brown says VIA is not concentrating Isaiah on mini notebooks, but rather, that the chip is intended for higher-priced 12- to 14-inch systems. Brown also insists that the C7-M can still beat out Intel’s Atom processor in terms of voltage, battery life, and performance, so long as it’s paired with the right graphics chipset (in this case, the VIA VX800 digital media IGP chipset). Despite that surprising setback, the Open Book doesn’t look like a bad system. It’s not quite as sleek as HP’s current MiniNote, but it has its strong points. For instance, we like that the touchpad is the traditional design, with the mouse buttons underneath, instead of on the side, like they are on the MiniNote. The dual cameras (one for videoconferencing and the other for recording lectures) are a nice touch, too. The system we looked at had Windows Vista Home Basic loaded on it, and VIA assures us that OEMs will have no trouble integrating XP or various open-source flavors on it. We like that it has an 8.9-inch screen supporting up to 1024 x 600 resolution, as well. Hard drive options will include up to 2GB of a SSD, or a traditional 80GB (or larger) hard drive. As for pricing? Somewhere in the sub-$800 field; the OEMs will decide that for themselves. Graphics will consist of a VIA Chrome9 DirectX 9.0 3D card. And VIA claims that this, combined with a VMR-capable HD video processor and eight-channel HD audio, make for “a highly media-rich mini-notebook platform.” It supports MPEG-2, MPEG-4, WMV9, VC1, and DiVX video formats. It also comes with 2GB DDR2 DRAM and a 4-cell battery with a rated 3 hours of battery life. Ports were plentiful for system so small. We found three USB 2.0 ports, VGA and Ethernet ports, and a 4-in-1 memory card reader. We expect to start seeing this reference design popping up in July or August, and suspect Everex will be first to market (if not the only one to market). Stay tuned for a full review.