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Windows-CE Based FirstView PC-706 Netbook Spotted at CES

We were on our way out of the Sands Expo Center when we walked by a booth filled with tiny, colorful netbooks we'd never seen before. We were immediately drawn to a tiny powder blue system with a Windows CE logo on its desktop. The PC-706, along with the other netbooks, are made by a Chinese company called Shenzhen FirstView, but will not be sold in the U.S. under that name. The company is here at CES talking to vendors so we don't know yet exactly what the PC-706 will be called, when it will appear, or how much it will cost when it hits these shores. Nevertheless, we were fascinated by the PC-706, because it is so very tiny, runs Windows CE 5, and features:

  • A 250MHz ARM 926EJ-S RISC Processor
  • A VIA 8430 Chipset
  • Up to 512MB of RAM, but potentially as little as 128MB
  • 802.11b/g Wi-Fi
  • A 7-inch 800x480 screen
  • An integrated 1.3 megapixel webcam
  • Windows CE 5 or Linux (we're not sure what flavor)
  • Available in black, green, light blue, pink or gray

Sure, this system isn't very powerful, but the Windows CE 5 OS booted in just over 20 seconds and was snappy in loading  the built-in IE and Wordpad almost instantly.The 7-inch 800x480 is bright and crisp and fortunately the built-in Windows CE applications really maximize the limited vertical real estate by eschewing large toolbars. The keyboard is tiny, and, like many other netbooks, the shift key is to the right of the up arrow. Still, the keys gave solid feedback when we hit them and the touchpad had a good feel to it. The mouse buttons also give the right amount of feedback, but they do straddle the left and right sides of the pad, which saves space but is not what most people are used to.

Unfortunately, though the system sports both Ethernet and 802.11b/g connectivity, the units at the Shenzhen FirstView booth were not connected to the Internet so we were unable to see how quickly Web sites loaded or how they rendered in the Windows CE 5 version of Internet Explorer. From what we could see, we were really impressed with how thin and ight the system was, how quickly it booted and loaded its apps, and how the bundled-CE apps made the most of screen real estate. If the Web browsing experience is good, the battery life is decent, and the price is right, this could be a compelling value-priced netbook for those who want to perform basic wordprocessing or Web surfing. Check out our hands-on video below and boot video after that. The PC-706 wasn't the only netbook at Shenzhen FirstView's booth. There were actually a couple of others, including the PC-101, a larger, Via C7-based netbook. There's a lot more info about these at the  efirstview.com site. [flq:aed31c4126b2cee3fa77c3a330a11521] [flq:74116d8b60399992231cc3a9267107ab]

The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.