- 32 MB memory
with 16 MB flash memory
- 200 MHz Winchip
- 9.33" x 11.96"
x 3.5" · Weight: 5.08 lbs.
- 10" LCD screen
(800 x 600 resolution)
- 56k call waiting
- On board video
- Shortcut keys
on the keyboard
- Printer and USB
connectors on the rear
About a year ago there
was a buzz circulating that computers would be supplanted by "internet appliances."
The rational was that the average consumer had no interest in learning an
operating system, much less did they care what a machine could do other than
browse the internet and send e-mail. Time has come and gone and I still wonder
if any of those predictions have any accuracy. Keep in mind that AOL and Compaq
have recently announced plans for their own IAs that will work with their
own ISPs. Whenever big corporations begin to move to a market you have to
pay attention. Today we take a look at the first widely available IA to come
to market. The unit under the microscope is the Netpliance i-opener. While
much media attention has been brought to the unit, very little so far has
been a review of the unit in its as delivered state. I have commitments from
at least one other manufacturer, and possibly more, to have their IA's reviewed
so we'll see what this market has to offer soon enough. I have to make two
1. I realize that most
of the visitors to this site are tech savvy and may not be interested in a
product such as this. However, keep in mind that this product is geared towards
our parents and grand parents. This is a group of people who have thus far
not thronged to the internet.
2. The manufacturer did
not supply the reviewed unit to me. Although I did attempt to contact their
press relations people several times, I got no responses from Netpliance.
I was able to locate a friend who ordered one and so I got to see the machine's
performance, warts and all.
When I looked the i-opener
over for the first time I was fascinated by its size. In a compact package
everything is included. The only things not on the actual unit are the PS2
keyboard and the wall mounted power supply that plugs into the rear of the
unit. I powered on the unit and found that the display was not as bad as I
thought it would have been. 10" is very small by modern standards, but the
unit's display is very crisp and with its 800 x 600 I had no problem reading
the text. I do wonder how near-sighted adults and elderly adults would cope
with that display since that is the target audience for the machine.
The unit sits on its built-in
stand and the screen can be tilted to better the viewing angle. On the front
of the casing there are controls for contrast, volume, power, and a built
in Mic. Above the display are small LED's which display when there is new
e-mail received and when the phone is ringing (call waiting feature). There
is no discernable sound from the unit other than what comes from the speakers.
This is because there are no cooling fans attached to the unit.
I spun the machine around to see its back I found the USB and printer ports.
Adjacent to these are the phone line and telephone hook up as well as the
power connector. There is only one USB connector on the unit even there is
a second area that is labeled for a USB connector. Netpliance apparently decided
to not use the second USB. Browsing the Netpliance web site I found that there
are currently no USB components supported by the i-opener and the only printer
that can be used with it is the Canon BJC 2010 Color Printer, which Netpliance
can throw in for $99. For $19.95 you can also upgrade to a mouse with your
unit. No mouse? The stock unit features a pad on the keyboard, which operates
as the pointing device with two buttons to the left of all the keys. These
buttons serve as the two buttons on a normal PS-2 mouse. Missing from this
keyboard are all the function keys (F1-F12) as well as insert and escape.
The pointer did take some getting used to but functioned well enough to be
useful. I only wish that the two buttons that went with it were located nearer
that pad so that browsing wasn't a two handed affair.