Review of my Advent 4211 laptop

Some text I seem to have been looking at reviews of these little laptops forever - at first there was just the EEEPC 700 which had a great price but a bad keyboard, tiny screen and no storage. Every month a new device would be announced which added some new feature and a little more to the price. These new machines never seemed to get to the shops , at least not any shops near me. Youíd read about some fancy new machine one month , the next month youíd find the price had increased by 30% and the delivery date had slid into the next quarter, the month after that youíd find that there was now a new version of the same device about to be announced. It seemed each machine was obsolete before it even hit the shops. Iíd pretty much decided on getting the MSI Wind but while I was waiting for the Wind to actually arrive in the shops a friend sent me a link to the Advent 4211 - it was a straight copy of the MSI Wind, it was 60 GBP cheaper and it was actually on sale right now at PC World. I hit the buy button and it arrived 4 days later.

The box it comes in is tiny The box it arrives in is tiny, Iíve had paperback books arrive in larger boxes, though thereís little else in the box apart from the laptop. Thereís no protective case but you could probably use a large jiffy bag if you really felt the need. There was no manual either but to be fair most people are familiar the XP operating system and most supplied manuals are a waste of space anyway. There is a manual on the web though.

I plugged it in and pressed the on button with geeky excitement. The excitement faded almost immediately when the laptop turned itself off straight after the initial boot screen - the one that states press DEL to enter setup F11 to do something else. The battery was charged and it was plugged into the mains so it couldnít be a power issue . I tried again, and again, I tried different combinations of power sources but all to no avail. I contacted the PC World help desk but after a few tests they suggested sending it back. This seemed very defeatist so I tried holding the power button on for different lengths of time - this did nothing. I tried frantically pressing the DEL / F11 keys to get the BIOS screen up and eventually on the 10th attempt it worked . The fact that I could go through the various BIOS screens suggested that the hardware was working fine so the issue was probably with the boot up procedures etc. I did note that the time was wildly wrong so I corrected that. Once Iíd saved the new time it booted up into XP - perhaps Iíd fixed it just by changing the time! - I restarted the machine and of course it still had the same problem. It seemed that I could only get into XP if I went into the BIOS screen first. I read on the web that there was a newer BIOS available, and seeing as I had nothing to lose, I followed the simple instructions and installed it. I tried restarting again and this time everything worked fine. I was a genius!!!

The screen is very readable and XP works well Everything now worked except the WIFI which refused to see my network. I knew you needed to press a function key to turn the WIFI on and the light indicated that it was working but I still couldnít see any networks. I was still flushed with success from installing the new BIOS so I tried downloading the latest driver - in fact I tried 3 different drivers but the end result was always the same. I then read on the web that the WIFI channel had to be between 1 and 11 so I checked my router and sure enough it was set to 13. I quickly reset it to 11 and hey presto, everything was now working perfectly!

At last the internet! I installed most of the software I use from the web but if you need to use a CD then I guess youíll have to buy a cheap external CD drive. To get my all media files and documents across from my PC I just set up a shared folder on the laptop and then copied files into it from the PC - this worked far faster than using a USB stick or emailing the files to myself. I will need to install some antivirus software and Iím pretty sure Iíll use AVG as itís worked perfectly on all my PCs at home. I needed to install the DIVX codecs to play my films but after doing this they looked pretty good on the Advent. It also seemed well suited to reading ebooks but I missed the two finger touch pad controls of the EEEPC but Iím sure someone will release an update that will support this. It would also be really neat if it had a scroll wheel on the side to allow easy navigation of ebooks and web pages. (EDIT: I now realise that you can scroll up and down the page by moving your finger up and down the right hand side of the track pad, a single tap on the mouse mat is also the same as pressing the left mouse key - this confused me at first as I was playing a board game (Go) against the Advent and couldnít work out why it would suddenly make a random move for me every now and then)

For development work I installed a web server and a database (Apache and MySQL using XAMPP) and everything worked fine. In fact I didnít even notice they were running in the background so itís going to work just fine for development. The only limitation seems to be the battery, a 3 cell, which is limited to 2.5 hours before recharging . Itís not an issue at the moment but I might buy a larger battery (or another small one) when they become cheaper. I did read somewhere that the larger battery tilts the machine a little and provides a better angle to type on.

This picture was taken with the on board web camera At the moment the laptop comes with XP and this seems a good choice. There are lots of applications etc that work with XP and everyone is familiar with it. I wouldnít consider using Vista on a laptop but then I wouldnít consider using it on a PC either . If there was a Unix version of the laptop that was cheaper then I might consider that, I use Unix at work and so development work might be easier. It would also probably improve the battery life and mean I wonít need a virus checker either but sadly I find there is so little good software available on Unix that Iíd lose all the fun software that Iím used to.

Everyone who has used the laptop has been impressed - my son just thought it looked neat, my wife liked the size and the looks, my brother in law has ordered one for taking into the city and working on film scripts while the IT guys at work just liked the technology that goes behind it. Itís the size of a hardback book and weighs about the same - it could easily be used on a flight or train journey. Itís well built, well priced and can do everything a normal laptop can - in fact I didnít notice any major difference in performance between the Advent and my current PC at home. The sound is adequate if youíre working in a room by yourself but might not be adequate in more crowded environment but then youíd use headphones wouldnít you. The viewing angle of the screen is pretty good and the screen is bright. The web cam works well and the pictures appear very clear. I couldnít find anyone I knew to talk to via Skype but I donít expect any issues. The fan does seem to stay on most of the time but it doesn't make much noise - in fact I thought the slight clicking was the disk drive always being accessed and I was convinced I had a virus! It does get mildly warm near the touchpad which I guess is where the new atom processor sits but nowhere near as hot as a normal laptop. I also understand that the processor canít be switched between high speed and low power modes by the press of a key - Iím not sure about this and I havenít tested it. Maybe this will change with future versions of the BIOS etc but I canít say it bothers me either way. Remember the Advent doesnít have a DVD tray so any software you use will need to work without a CD though I guess you could buy a small USB powered CD drive if necessary.

I canít think of anything more to say except that overall Iím very impressed with the device and at this price (280 GBP), itís a steal. I know I had issues getting the laptop to work but I guess this is the price you pay when going for the latest technology. Iím sure things will improve shortly but for the moment Iíd just recommend picking up your Advent from the store and just testing that it works in front of them.