The Websurfer has been recently launched by Elonex but isn't entirely new -- the Via NanoBook chassis on which it's based was first seen at Computex in 2007, and various rebadged models have been available since then. The difference now is the price. While those early models were selling for a silly £500, the Websurfer is available online for around only £150, which perhaps explains why it's a top seller at many online stores.
Solid build quality
The Websurfer is essentially an alternative approach to the portable problem first solved by the Asus Eee PC 701. Both models are a similar size and weight. Both also have a 7-inch screen, but the Websurfer's sits off-centre in a lid that's raised on two tall hinges. The arrangement looks very peculiar, but it at least puts the screen at a more comfortable viewing position than you get with other small-screen netbooks.
The lid folds well beyond 180°, but the base is heavy enough to prevent the Websurfer tipping over when the display's fully tilted. When closed, the widely spaced hinges leave a gap for the angled top edge of the battery to poke through, and this makes a convenient carrying handle. The lid itself is chunky and reassuringly solid. In fact, the whole plastic case feels very well-made and able to withstand being knocked about in a bag.
The off-centre screen leaves plenty of empty space on the right-hand side. Elonex has chosen to fill this slot with a small, rechargeable, wireless VoIP phone. That is, we suppose, handier than carrying around a separate headset.
As with the 701, the Websurfer has a keyboard that's best described as 'adequate'. Children will find the tiny, cramped keys comfortable to use, but few adults will find the keyboard comfortable enough for prolonged typing.
The keyboard sits towards the front of the Websurfer's base too, leaving little room for a trackpad. The Websurfer does have one, but it measures just 19 by 13mm, with an equally shrunken button on either side. You'll need to swipe several times to move the mouse pointer from one side of the screen to the other, but the trackpad works better than you might think, although we'd still prefer a standard-size pad.
Should the tiny trackpad prove too small, the Websurfer is available with a touch-sensitive screen for an extra £40 or so. Since the screen can't be folded back to turn the Websurfer into a tablet, this isn't really that useful, particularly since a standard version of Windows XP Home is supplied.
Like the 701, the Websurfer's 7-inch screen has a low native resolution of 800x480 pixels, but this can be artificially increased to 1,024x768 using the display driver. This makes it far less legible, but it's fine for temporary use, such as when you need to fit a tall dialogue box on the screen. A DVI port also means than an external monitor can be connected, although the provision of just two USB ports means you'll need a USB hub if you want to connect more than an external mouse and keyboard for more comfortable desktop use.
As you might expect from its 1.2GHz VIA C7-M processor, the Websurfer isn't the speediest machine around, taking a good 2 minutes to boot from cold. In the PCMark05 benchmark test, the Websurfer achieved a lowly score of 583. It feels snappy enough for Web surfing and other general-purpose productivity tasks, though.
The base got rather warm during our benchmarks tests, but the Websurfer is unlikely to be pushed so hard in day-to-day use. Annoyingly, the tiny cooling fan has a habit of spinning up and down every few seconds, even when the Websurfer's idling, and it's distractingly loud at its highest RPM.
In Battery Eater's intensive Classic test, the Websurfer's battery lasted almost exactly 2 hours, while it lasted 3 hours and 53 minutes in the less intensive Reader's test. That's pretty average.
Given how cheap it is, it's easy to see why the Elonex Websurfer is so popular, but, like any similarly sized netbook, it's not ideal as a main computer. It's a fine first computer for kids, though, and a perfect portable machine for anyone who doesn't want the power or price of a larger netbook.
Edited by Charles Kloet