So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Datawind Pocket Surfer 2
- Low cost, some cool features
- Sluggish at times, horrible navigation, signal strength is not always perfect
The Pocket Surfer 2 is a very cool concept, however its combination of poor interface, horrible navigation and somewhat sluggish load times means an Internet-enabled smartphone is still probably a better option unless you're really on a budget.
Price$ 399.00 (AUD)
The Pocket Surfer 2 is a perfect example of a great idea that is poorly implemented. Operating via GPRS it provides an extremely cheap option to keep yourself connected to the Internet on the road, but suffers from numerous technical and design problems that make it a frustrating product to use. We can see it having some usefulness, but most people after mobile Internet will be better served with an Internet compatible smartphone.
One of the key features of this unit is the relatively low cost. While the device itself is far from cheap, it comes with 20 hours of free Internet access per month which should be adequate for many users. If you wish to upgrade, you can move to 50 hours a month for $9.99 or an unlimited number for $19.99. However, you should note that after owning the device for a year you'll need to pay $50 for another 12 months access.
These prices are quite competitive with most mobile Internet services, although these days there are much speedier options on offer. The Pocket Surfer 2 isn't slow by any means; it uses a special kind of compression that helps Web sites load in a relatively speedy fashion, but GPRS is an aging technology and thus you're still going to get faster load times using HSDPA compliant smartphones and such. One noticeable factor of the compression is that regardless of how long it is left to sit on a specific site, it only loads the part visible on the screen. Anything below will still load in blocky chunks as you scroll downwards, which becomes quite irritating quite quickly.
Another painful feature, or rather lack thereof, is the very limited navigation options. There is no scroll wheel or trackball present, instead you are given a simple four-way directional pad that pushes a mouse cursor around the screen. At the best of times this is sluggish and annoying and at the worst it is downright frustrating. A simple scrolling device would have added so much to this device's usability.
The keyboard also needs a little work. Its stiff metal keys are difficult to press and can be quite unresponsive at times, particularly those on the outside edge. On the plus side all the letter keys are large enough that we had no troubles with accuracy; however, the menu and number keys are a touch smaller and those with big fingers will likely struggle with them.
A decent array of features is available, including e-mail (although no hotmail support) and IM support, as well as Web browsing and a GPS tracker to tell you where you are. You can also get a variety of feeds directly to your unit containing things like sports results, business addresses, directions and weather reports.
Despite the company's claims that this unit will work wherever a mobile phone does, we did encounter some connectivity issues. In several instances it simply didn't find any GPRS connection at all when we were sitting in our office, and even when it does it sometimes takes in excess of 30 seconds to do so. Once a connection was established it remained fairly consistent, with only the occasional slow down or pause.
As you'd expect for a portable communications device, the Pocket Surfer 2 is extremely slim. It sports a 5.2in 640x240 widescreen display and while the resolution of the images on the default quality setting is quite poor, you can increase this in the options menu (at the expense of load times) and on the highest setting they don't look too shabby. Five hours battery life is promised which is decent but not exceptional. The unit charges via a mini-USB slot on its right-hand side.
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