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Summary:

Taking two successful products and combining them has to make one even better product, right? Not necessarily. Case in point: The $234 GoNote available in the UK. It crams Android 4.0 into a very low-end laptop and suggests that it’s just right for students. Not likely.

Reaching out for the GoNote touchscreen

UK-based ErgoElectronics released a 10-inch Android notebook on Tuesday, calling it the creation of a “new product category.” That’s debatable because we’ve seen Android-based laptops in the past.

Called the GoNote, this one uses Google Android 4.0, a touchscreen and webcam, just like a traditional laptop. But for several reasons, this is a product category — and maybe even a product — that shouldn’t exist.

Here’s an overview of what £149 (US $234.76) buys you with the GoNote:

  • 10-inch 1024 x 600 resolution, resistive touch display
  • 1.2 GHz Rockchip RK2918 ARM processor
  • Support for 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • 9000 mAh battery rated for 6 hours of web browsing
  • Access to the Google Play store but no support for movies or television shows from Google
  • 1.3 megapixel front facing webcam
  • 1 GB of RAM; 8 GB of internal storage, expandable via microSD card slot
  • 4 x USB ports and micro HDMI-out

If this sounds like a low-end or netbook-like set of specifications, it is; although a netbook would have more processing power. The GoNote is essentially an Android tablet in a netbook that likely won’t excel at either form-factor.

Obviously, at this low price, corners have to be cut in terms of hardware. But in 2012, the time for resistive touch screens is long gone, in favor of capacitive touch displays. Forget the fact that it’s not ergonomically efficient to reach out and touch a notebook screen, you don’t want one that relies on pressure to register touch; it simply is a terrible user experience. We call it “gorilla arm” and it’s not pleasant.

Using Android is another cost-conscious decision: ErgoElectronics doesn’t have to pay a licensing fee to use the platform. But it could have done the same with Linux or chosen another operating system that’s meant for the desktop experience. Android is designed as a touch-optimized environment; not for a keyboard and trackpad. There are some exceptions here, of course. The Asus Transformer has an optional dock with keyboard and trackpad that works well for certain applications. These are tablets first, however; the dock is an add-on, not the primary input method.

The GoNote is targeted towards students and perhaps some will buy this Android-powered laptop. I think they’d be better served by a different device however: Perhaps a Google Chromebook, low-priced Microsoft Windows netbook or the Asus Transformer tablet / dock combo. Even the $199 Nexus 7 with a Bluetooth keyboard could be a better option for some.

Nearly all of these are more expensive, yes, but it doesn’t matter how much money you save if a mobile device doesn’t do what you need it to do. That’s the reason these type of Android-powered notebooks don’t make any sales headway: Combining two great but unlike items doesn’t mean you’re creating a better device. In fact, the opposite is often the case and it surprises me that companies haven’t learned that by now.

  1. I actually like the idea of Android in a netbook. The software for Android is in many cases better(and cheaper) than desktop alternatives. Try downloading mail from an exchange server on the desktop without an expensive Microsoft Office license for example. Not to mention the lack of movable parts and the longer battery life that is possible. I use Android for everything and love the tablet form factor, but some things, like typing this post, would certainly be a lot easier with a real keyboard and trackpad.

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  2. I sense a feeling of dismay in your article because Android is slowly but surely getting to the “standard” desktop which Microsoft has monopolized for decades.

    Android has all the tools that Microsoft offers (as compared to, say Linux) and with Windows 8 not likely to win many converts on its own, this is the right way to go for Android.

    So, maybe it is not perfect as of now but not sure if students need all the extra junk that comes with Windows anyway.

    Finally, there is a keyboard, right? So why complain of the resistive touch screen? ASUS tablets with keyboard docks are rather good. Ask me, I own one of them.

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    1. “I sense a feeling of dismay in your article because Android is slowly but surely getting to the “standard” desktop which Microsoft has monopolized for decades.” Nope, Microsoft has nothing to do with this post although I don’t agree that Android has all of the tools that Microsoft offers. I’d be more inclined to say ChromeOS offers more of those tools in a better form factor and implemenation. I use a Chromeboook as my daily machine (and the prior was a MacBook Air – so again; nothing to do with Microsoft in my POV)

      Why complain of the resistive touch screen? Because it’s not optimal at all. It requires pressure. And if you reach out and add pressure to a laptop display, what happens? The screen moves back in response; not even close to ideal for touch input. I do agree that the Asus tablets with keyboard docks are good. In fact, they’re excellent. Ask me, I reviewed one and linked to it in the above article, saying it was the best Android tablet available at the time. ;)

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  3. damn i really wanted it
    ohhh but am glad i read this review
    am a student btw.
    and yeah i think its an amazing product
    it is touchscreen yet a notbook
    its all i wanted but i might
    reconsider later thanks thought.

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    1. I really hope you’re not studying English.

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  4. Well – okay – I’m a student and yes I’ve got one of these. It does exactly what it says on the tin – I didn’t want all of the extra junk that I have on my laptop – I wanted to be able to carry this easily – I travel 60 miles a day to Uni twice a week for my MA – it’s convenient, does the job and we can’t all afford the netbooks that we would like.

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  5. I love my GoNote, it really is the best of both worlds. The keyboard makes work so much easier while the touch screen works perfectly if you use your finger nail instead of your finger tip!

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