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AuthorTopic: Efika MX Smartbook Review (Part 1)  (Read 12904 times)

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Offline takemehomegrandma

Efika MX Smartbook Review (Part 1)
« on: March 18, 2011, 09:01:52 PM »
[size=+2]Efika MX Smartbook Review, Part 1: "The First Encounter"[/size]

OK folks, here comes a short report with lots of pictures of my first-time experience from the Efika MX Smartbook from Genesi!

My thought is that this might be of interest because the Amiga operating system AROS is reportedly being ported to it. (And the people behind Genesi (and bPlan) has a long time Amiga History, even though this is not an "Amiga").

I'm also thinking of doing a follow up review after spending more time with it, but I won't make any promises! :) Here is my "First Encounter" report:

OK the Efika MX Smartbook has the following specifications:

- 10.1" TFT-LCD, 16:9 with LED backlight, 1024 x 600 resolution
- Freescale i.MX515 (ARM Cortex-A8 800MHz)
- 3D Graphics Processing Unit
- Multi-format HD video decoder and D1 video encoder
- 16GB Nand Flash
- External MMC / SD card slot (up to  SD v2.0 and MMC v4.2)
- Internal MicroSD slot
- 802.11 b/g/n WiFi (with on/off switch)
- Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
- 2 x USB 2.0 ports
- Phone jack for headset
- Built-in 1.3MP video camera
- Built-in microphone
- Built-in stereo speaker

-Size: 276 x 181 x 21mm (with battery) / 10.87 x 7.13 x 0.83 inches
-Weight: 930 grams / 2.05 lbs

The Efika MX Smartbook comes in a nice cardboard box with a handle, perfectly suitable for store shelves or shopping windows (unlike those beige cardboard boxes more suitable for hiding in warehouses).

It looks really good! :)

Here it is, front and back:




The goods are carefully packaged within the box. The Smartbook is carefully wrapped in all kinds of protective plastics and films in order to protect its “Piano surface” and keep any scratches away:



And here are the complete contents of the box:



One Efika MX Smarttop computer
One 3-cell (I think) battery
One user manual
One transformer, coupled with (in this case) a European power cord

The battery goes in the back, as customary when it comes to Netbooks...



...but *before* you put the battery in place, you might want to observe two slots that will be covered by it:



To the left, we have a slot for the SIM-card, if you bought the model that has a built-in 3G modem (which I have).

In the middle there is a Micro SD memory card slot. The Efika MX Smartbook comes with a 16GB SSD. This is soldered on the PCB and cannot be replaced/upgraded. But in addition to that, the Efika has 2 more memory card slots. The first one is this (the "internal" one), and I reckon it’s meant for a more "permanent" upgrade to storage capacity, since it’s located behind the battery (which you usually won’t remove unless you have to). There is a second, more easily accessible memory card slot as well (read on).

To the right it’s just the battery connector.

Anyway, this is how the Smartbook looks, once you have attached the battery! :)



Look how my windows are reflecting in the "Piano surface" :) But while the finish is very nice, it’s *not* very *practical*. It doubt it will look this fly once you have put your fingers all over it after eating a bag of potato chips! ;) Anyway, I can live with that...

OK, let’s continue “the tour”!

On the left side, you will find (from left to right)...



...a switch to physically turn off the built-in radio (WiFi (and Bluetooth and 3G?)). Then there is a connector for the power cord, followed by an Audio Out connector, and then the second Memory Card slot.

OK, let’s move to the other side. There you will find...



...two USB 2 connectors, usable for external HDD’s, scanners, a mouse or whatever you need and want! :)

And that concludes the “Connectors and Slots” guided tour!

Let’s open the lid! Then you will find the following (click to enlarge somewhat):



The touch pad has left/right “mouse buttons” built-in underneath it; you press down the lower left (or right) corner of the pad itself in order to click the corresponding mouse button. This is instead of having two physical buttons below the pad. An effective way to squeeze in functionality in a limited space! :) However, In My Humble Opinion, you have to press a bit too hard for it to be really convenient. But it works just fine!

Naturally, all electrical components have the proper CE (and whatever) markings:



The user’s manual comes in four languages:



OK, that concludes the “What’s in the package” tour. Let’s fire it up! :)

When you start it for the first time you get struck by the fact that it’s *completely* noiseless. Not “ultra silent” or yada yada, what I’m talking about here is *nada* sound! Not one single moving part in the whole computer. Not the ever so silent little fan, not “the most silent HDD ever made”, there *nothing* that makes noise! The only thing you hear is your fingers tapping the keyboard. I thought I had had silent computers before (and silence has always been very important to me), but there has always been some noise from PSU, HDD’s or whatever. But here it’s “void”! I can’t really explain it, you must experience it!

Anyhow, you are greeted by the Genesi logotype, and after a few seconds the OS (Ubuntu 10.10 “Maverick”) begin its set-up procedure. This is done only on the first boot, which makes this one take a little more time than subsequent boots. The procedure is similar to most other OS set-up procedures; you create a user account, you specify language, keyboard, time zone and so on.

The keyboard identification guide concluded I had got a Romanian(?!) keyboard. OK whatever, I changed it to a Swedish key map later on anyway. Speaking of that, there are (currently) 16 keyboard nationality configurations available, unfortunately no Swedish/Scandinavian variant. But who is looking at the keys when you’re typing anyway, right? ;-)

The display offers a crisp, bright and colorful experience at 1024 x 600 pixels. The LED Backlight can be changed from very bright to much less so if you want to save energy. And you can make the usual customizations to energy savings settings (like having the display dimming down after x amount of idle time when running on battery, etc).

Wi-Fi was configured in a very quick and easy manner. It just worked! And on the Web I was! :)



Then I ran the system update tool to get the latest fixes.

In the update tool settings there is a link to Genesi’s Efika MX site, so that the mainstream Ubuntu update packages is complemented with Efika MX specific packages directly from Genesi. Works flawlessly!



I have been using it for a couple of days now. It’s not the fastest computer in the house, but it’s the fastest booting, except perhaps my Mac Mini with MorphOS. But this is so very *ultra mobile*! I don’t have to sit at my desk and boot up some stationary computer, just to browse my regular websites and check my mail! The Efika MX Smartbook is so small and ultra light-weight and easy to just pick up, throw yourself in the sofa, and fire it up!

I also have a HP Mini netbook with an Atom processor, and I haven’t used it one single time since I got the Efika. Maybe I’ll do a follow-up on this review later on and compare the two?

I am thinking of adding some videos as well, to show the real world performance. I’ll have to borrow a video camera though...

To sum things up: I think this is a very nice product, especially when it comes to the HW. It’s no power horse, it’s “Efika” (you might want to Google that Esperanto word! ;)). In my opinion the HW leaves a *very* complete and solid impression, courtesy Pegatron (ASUS development company) I guess.

Maybe the SW isn't quite there yet though. Don't get me wrong, it's a perfectly usable system for most normal Internet usage (Web and Mail, etc), and I have used this computer more than any other in my house for "checking the news" online. There is no Flash however, but I don't *really* suffer from that in MorphOS either. I suppose some (media) HW acceleration and some other stuff isn't quite there yet as well (correct me if I'm wrong)?

But it comes with a rather complete SW package installed (and you can of course easily download and install SW by simply a few clicks on the mouse); I used Open Office to open and work with some Excel files I got e-mailed to me from work, for example. Worked flawlessly, it connects very nicely to my home LAN with NAS servers, etc! :)

Anyone interested can follow the developments on the Efika MX Blog:

http://blog.efikamx.info/

More info about the product is here:

http://www.genesi-usa.com/
http://www.genesi-europe.com/

:)
« Last Edit: March 18, 2011, 09:53:53 PM by takemehomegrandma »
MorphOS is Amiga done right! :)
 

Offline jj

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Re: Efika MX Smartbook Review (Part 1)
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2011, 09:11:21 PM »
You have got me interested now.  SO you would say more responsive than these crappy atom netbooks  or about the same ?
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Offline Franko

Re: Efika MX Smartbook Review (Part 1)
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2011, 09:14:21 PM »
Gawd... what a long post, nicely done but terribly long, wondered if I would ever reach the end... :)

Now that's got the niceties out of the way time for a short rant... :(

Begin Rant... :furious:

Methinks this site should be renamed AnythingButAmiga.org, seems so long ago since I last read anything interesting on it about a little known computer called the Amiga on it... :(

Rant Over... :afro:

Anyone want to talk about how many nuts the average 12 foot tall squirrel has... :D
 

Offline takemehomegrandma

Re: Efika MX Smartbook Review (Part 1)
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2011, 09:32:43 PM »
Quote from: JJ;622925
You have got me interested now.  SO you would say more responsive than these crappy atom netbooks  or about the same ?


No not really.

This one starts faster, shuts down faster than my Win7 HP Mini, and works totally OK for browsing the web, mailing, etc. So personally I tend to use it more often than my Atom netbook. Because it's a lot easier, faster and more convenient!

And while I wouldn't call the HP Mini "snappy" (not at all) it *does* show better performance. And it has flash, better drivers and HW acceleration, etc. At least this is the situation as of now. But it was actually more expensive (when I bought it), it's twice as thick, at least twice as heavy, it takes forever to boot and shut down (in comparison to the Efika), and though both the HDD and system fan is probably quite quiet in comparison to other computers, there is this annoying whining sound that in comparison to the Efika sounds like a stone crusher! :)

This doesn't replace a x86 true laptop. You have to take it for what it is. Something that weights practically nothing, is thin as a tablet, and works fine for what you probably spend 80% of your time doing in front of your computer (i.e. browsing amiga.org, hehe)! :)

I'm not trying to trick you into anything here. I think the HW is solid, but I have a feeling that the SW side isn't doing it justice quite yet.

If in doubt, wait! :)
MorphOS is Amiga done right! :)
 

Offline takemehomegrandma

Re: Efika MX Smartbook Review (Part 1)
« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2011, 09:47:50 PM »
You shouldn't underestimate the impact HW acceleration has on the overall perceived "snappiness" on these kind of chips. For example, look here how Windows 8 performs on various ARM hardware (especially the Tegra):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKc_XGuvNIk

This chips aren't based on A15 or such (or the promised "x86 killer" nVidia has coming), it's *current* ARM/GPU/accelerator technology, used smart.

:)
MorphOS is Amiga done right! :)
 

Offline Franko

Re: Efika MX Smartbook Review (Part 1)
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2011, 09:55:59 PM »
Awe gawd... I've just realised the title of this thread says "PART 1"... :cry:
 

Offline takemehomegrandma

Re: Efika MX Smartbook Review (Part 1)
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2011, 10:04:00 PM »
Quote from: Franko;622931
Awe gawd... I've just realised the title of this thread says "PART 1"... :cry:


Muahahaaaa....

MorphOS is Amiga done right! :)
 

Offline Franko

Re: Efika MX Smartbook Review (Part 1)
« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2011, 10:06:53 PM »
Quote from: takemehomegrandma;622934
Muahahaaaa....



Ahh... that's better you've got me hooked now... ;)
 

Offline mt12345

Re: Efika MX Smartbook Review (Part 1)
« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2011, 11:20:27 AM »
No wired networking ? No audio jack in ?
 

Offline Andre.Siegel

Re: Efika MX Smartbook Review (Part 1)
« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2011, 12:26:48 PM »
No wired networking. This is a netbook device specifically designed for mobile use, so wi-fi, 3G and bluetooth should provide sufficient connectivity options. If you are looking for a desktop device, you might be interested in the Efika MX Smarttop which features an ethernet port.

As for audio, the Efika MX Smartbook has a combined line-out / mic-in connector (as opposed to separate input and output ports) in addition to a built-in microphone and speaker.
 

Offline Kesa

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Re: Efika MX Smartbook Review (Part 1)
« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2011, 01:03:21 PM »
I can't believe how cheap this thing is! I guess not coming with Windows saves a few hundred $ :hammer:

This is really nice so i might have to think about getting one. But it's a shame it doesn't run Morphos, but the AROS will be cool on a dual boot with Ubuntu :)
Even my cat doesn\'t like me.
 

Offline mt12345

Re: Efika MX Smartbook Review (Part 1)
« Reply #11 on: April 18, 2011, 12:05:15 AM »
I've been trying to find more info about  ST/SB but all I find is basic reviews. Could you guys share some links, (if you know any) ?
 

Offline ender184

Re: Efika MX Smartbook Review (Part 1)
« Reply #12 on: June 13, 2011, 08:02:08 AM »
So, when can we expect the Part 2 of your review?
 

Offline takemehomegrandma

Re: Efika MX Smartbook Review (Part 1)
« Reply #13 on: June 13, 2011, 01:04:39 PM »
Quote from: ender184;644655
So, when can we expect the Part 2 of your review?

Hi! :)

Well, I was planning to shoot some videos to show the thing in action, but since they have announced that an upgrade to the software will come soon (which AFAIK will improve speed and bring HW acceleration), I thought I'd better wait until that is released. It seems it is a little overdue, but I'm sure it'll get here eventually! :)

In the meantime, here are some photos of the Efika Smarttop (let's call this "Part 1.5" ;)):

The Efika MX Smarttop is a cloud computer with the following specifications:

Freescale i.MX515 (ARM Cortex-A8 800MHz)
3D Graphics Processing Unit
WXGA display support (HDMI)
Multi-format HD video decoder and D1 video encoder (currently not supported by the included software)
512MB RAM
8GB Internal SSD
10/100Mbit/s Ethernet
802.11 b/g/n WiFi
SDHC card reader
2x USB 2.0 ports
Audio jacks for headset
Built-in speaker

Size: 160x115x20mm
Weight: 250 grams

Not one single moving part! No fan, no HDD, no *nothing* that creates noise! :)

The Efika MX Smarttop comes in a much smaller box than the Smartbook...


...but everything is carefully packaged and well protected inside the box. The Smarttop computer itself (you can see it underneath the user manual) is wrapped in some plastics to protect the nice surface from scratches:


And here is what you get in the box; One Efika MX Smarttop computer, one user manual, one transformer with a power cord:


On the front side of the Smarttop, you will find the following, 2x USB 2.0, and one SD memory card slot:


The Backside of the Smarttop has the following connectors (from left to right): Power, HDMI, 100Mbit Ethernet, Audio Out, and Audio In:


The Smarttop has all the relevant Safety Markings:


And for reference I have placed a standard DVD disk on top of it. Look *how small* the thing really is! :-)


Hardware wise, the Smarttop is very similar to the Smartbook. The Smarttop obviously doesn't have a built-in screen and no batteries. It also lacks Bluetooth compared to the Smartbook. It has a 8GB SSD instead of the Smartbook's 16GB. But it *does* have an Ethernet connector as well as HDMI (both lacking in the Smarttop). Other than that, it's built on exactly the same ARM SoC, so it has the same performance and the same HW accelerators.

The delivered OS is also the same; Ubuntu "Maverick". I quickly connected it to my living-room TV and fired it up. The OS then runs the set-up procedure (just like on the Smartbook) which sets the system up in the way you like (create user account, localization settings, language, keyboard, time zone, etc). My WiFi was quickly recognized and Internet was up and running before the set-up procedure had even begun. :)

The screen resolution is set to 1920x1080 (1080p HD). This is very nice on a monitor at your desk top I guess, but the default font sizes etc made the text a little difficult to read when sitting in a sofa and using this on a TV. I think I might want to change the resolution to 720p instead, and this resolution is also what the on-chip video decoding accelerator can manage according to the specs (lets see when the SW support for this is released).

It would have been nice to have Bluetooth built in as well for easy transfer of data from your mobile phone, as well as using nice wireless keyboards like "Logitech diNovo Edge", which would sit perfectly besides my sofa ;).

But all in all - this is an extremely nice little machine, *totally* worth its price! :)
« Last Edit: June 13, 2011, 02:07:21 PM by takemehomegrandma »
MorphOS is Amiga done right! :)
 

Offline digiflip

Re: Efika MX Smartbook Review (Part 1)
« Reply #14 on: June 13, 2011, 02:27:27 PM »
maybe interested in this when they use nvidia kalel chipset with quadcore arm cpu chipset
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