Country of Origin: Australia
Condition: Very Good
Although not the first time small form-factor laptops have come about, the years between 2007 through to about 2012 became prime time for netbooks. Touted as being ultra portable and inexpensive, most netbooks were rather much alike with their specifications and offered little point of difference. In the end, their lacklustre performance contributed to their demise, and were largely replaced with tablets.
This is where the Onkyo gets more interesting, released only for the Japanese market originally for a fairly pricey sum of over 70,000 yen (~$650 USD, ~$850 AUD). Many netbooks were only half that price. It is effectively a re-badged Kojinsha DZ.
Firstly, the vast majority of netbooks consisted of Intel’s Atom processor in some form. Onkyo decided instead to go with AMD’s Athlon Neo MV-40 processor which proved to be a little more zippy for tasks one would do with these, such as typing e-mails and browsing the web. Based on scores from Userbenchmark.com, it was closely aligned with the AMD Athlon XP 2200+ dating back to 2002 found in desktop PCs. Newer Atom processors however have the advantage where multiple cores are of benefit, and reduced power consumption.
In respect to RAM it was common for netbooks to be shipped with 1 GB of DDR2. Worked perfectly fine for Windows XP, but not so adequate with Vista or 7. Typically these can be upgraded to a mere 2 GB, however this netbook supports 4 GB. It arrived with 2 GB, so I ended up buying Samsung RAM from China for $12 AUD, to upgrade to the maximum capacity.
But what made this netbook truly unique is the fact it has dual rotatable screens, powered with an ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics adapter. In order to set up for dual screens, the primary screen slides to the left for half the screen width, then for the second screen to slide right. Once expanded, the total width is 52 cm (just over 20 inches). As typical with netbooks, the resolution is still 1,024 x 600 for both screens, but you get the option to start utilising panoramic style desktop wallpapers. Onkyo did release a similar model with a pair of 1,366 x 768 screens of the same size which would have been nice.
Alternatively rotate and flip the screen into a more tablet-style position. Unfortunately these aren’t touch screens, though along the bezel there’s alternatives for using the mouse. A button is also present to rotate to portrait mode – handy for reading manga going by the pre-installed software.
Not only that but it has a built-in digital TV tuner with an antenna that can pulled out from the side. Japan however uses 1Seg signalling so unless you live there or elsewhere such as the Philippines, or much of South America you’ve got no chance picking up stations. The software of choice was Presto! PVR to operate TV functions.
As I tend to do with any computer received from eBay, I went to commence a refreshed Windows installation. Given this netbook had a 64-bit processor and the ability to upgrade to 4 GB of RAM, it was decided to give Windows 10 a go replacing the existing 32-bit copy of Windows 7 Home Premium. Prior to doing so, I copied the contents from what was the “drivers” folder as a backup.
In the end however installing Windows 10 proved to be problematic. Setup was fine until the Windows OOBE (Out of Box Experience) kicked in towards the end where it simply became stuck in a loop despite attempts to circumvent it. Later it was also discovered the ATI Radeon HD 3200 was not supported, which led me to head back to Windows 7.
Installing 64-bit Windows 7 went without a hitch, though the drivers and applications copied before attempting Windows 10 were hit and miss. So it wasn’t going to function as well as intended. It’s a common dilemma with Japanese laptops that I’ve experienced before – drivers aren’t available on manufacturer’s websites, and the only way to have everything working as it should is relying on having the original recovery hard disk image. At this point, the recovery partition on the hard drive normally hidden was appearing as a second hard disk. With a USB thumb drive, I copied over the entire contents from the recovery partition.
The critical files for reinstalling the original 32-bit version of Windows 7 was spanned across seven files at 700 MB a piece, saved as what appeared to be in the rather generic IMG file format. But no utility would want to play with them, until I hunted down from Symantec’s FTP server a copy of Ghost Explorer. Great – so really it was just a Ghost image with the file format changed. Using Ghost Explorer I created new image files using the original GHO file extension.
The intent was to create a bootable USB thumb drive, as I wasn’t able to boot from the recovery partition. Using a utility named Rufus I formatted a thumb drive with FreeDOS, followed by copying across the new Ghost image files. The next dilemma was figuring out which version of Ghost would work with these files. Searching the web, I attempted an old copy of Norton Ghost 2003 – no luck. Next was a DOS copy of Ghost 8.3 that would lead to an incompatible error message. Finally a copy of Ghost 11.5.1 saved the day and commenced formatting and imaging the hard disk.
Once completed and the netbook restarting it was now finally operational. I expected to lose out a little by not being able to utilise the full 4 GB of RAM, though in the end it didn’t really matter. The ATI graphics adapter ended up consuming over 1 GB for video memory which seemed excessive. Checking over the BIOS and software drivers however there was no option to reduce the threshold for shared video memory. So all in all, I’m left with odd amount of RAM over 2 GB.
Whilst I’d be interested replacing the existing 160 GB 5,400 RPM hard drive with an SSD drive, it will only improve a machine like this by so much. It is quite a solidly constructed netbook with a responsive and nicely spaced keyboard. The main criticism is that when sliding the screens back and forth gives the feeling that it could be prone to damage rather easily.