With consumers snapping up netbooks faster than companies can make them, what makes Elonex think it has the solution with the Webbook? We took a closer look to find out.

Available from Carphone Warehouse the Elonex Webbook offers a 10.2-inch screen, 1.6GHz VIA C7-M processor, comes with an almost full-sized keyboard and measures 252 x 183 x 31.8mm.

Weighing in at 1.3kg, this isn't the lightest netbook on the market, but nor is it the heaviest, and the weight gives the design a solid feel rather than the sometimes lightweight feel of the early Eee PC models.

The hinged design sees a black outer case with silver inside and there was no Carphone Warehouse or Orange branding to be seen on our unit. There is, however, a big Webbook Logo on the top of the laptop for all to see when you’re using it.

Get past the colour scheme and the laptop sports a QWERTY keyboard and trackpad with two buttons beneath it rather than to the side, a power switch and two shortcut keys for calling up a browser or a calendar. The front of the unit also features six different lights to let you know that you're on, being charged, accessing the hard drive, have Wi-Fi turned on or merely have number or key locks on.

When it comes to ports, the Elonex shouldn't let you down. There is an Ethernet port, headphone, mic, SD card, three USB sockets and a VGA out so you can connect it to a monitor when in your house or office and of course has b/g Wi-Fi options as standard. Considering this is part of a mobile broadband offering via Carphone Warehouse we are surprised you'll still have to have use a USB dongle instead of something internal.

Inside the Elonex Webbook and you get an 80GB hard drive and 512MB of memory to go with that VIA processor and while that means plenty of storage for files it means that you can’t expect too much on the performance front from this machine. Try and go beyond basic document management, web surfing or chatting and you'll start to hit problems. That's not to say this is slow, but to remember that it's a netbook not a fully blown laptop.

The Webbook comes with the option of two operating systems - Windows XP or the Ubuntu variant of Linux.

We tested the Ubuntu version, which comes with the Firefox browser, Evolution email client and OpenOffice already pre-installed amongst other packages like chat client Pidgin and Wine.

Those new to Ubuntu shouldn't find it too difficult to use, although the only complaint we had with the system is that you can't easily turn of the tap click feature on the trackpad unless you start digging around in system's registry (check out Ubuntu forums to find out how).

The overall interface is very similar to Windows XP or KDE Desktop on the Asus Eee range and while there are little differences like the "Start Bar" at the top rather than the bottom you'll soon get the hang of it if you've opted for this OS. Ubuntu has the added advantage of faster startup than XP, so great for workers on the move, we found it typically took just over a minute.

For those choosing the XP variant, you'll get demo versions of Office, as well as Outlook Express and Internet Explorer for your browsing needs.

Battery life came in at about 2.5 hours during our tests, so compares favourably with the MSI Wind variants we have looked at recently.

Although there is a hole for a webcam, there didn't appear to be one included.


So how does it fair against other netbook offerings on the market? The 10.2-inch screen will match the Asus 1000 and MSI Wind for its quality, and the keyboard was easy to use with.

The trackpad, although not suffering the same annoying fate as the HP Mini-Note, was a bit on the flaky side to use and the annoyance of not being able to easily turn the tap click feature off for us made it almost unusable (I seem to flex my finger too much).

However (and here is the interesting proposition) if you're willing to sign a 24- month contract at £25 a month with Orange, you get it for free. If that's not appealing enough you can buy it without contract for £249.99 making it £30 cheaper than the Advent 4211, although you will be getting less memory.

It might not be the prettiest looking netbook on the market, but if you are thinking of getting a mobile broadband card from Orange in the near future upgrading the account to get one of these for free my be something you should seriously consider doing.