At first glance, we had trouble believing that the Elonex Websurfer was a real piece of consumer technology. Boasting a built-in VoIP phone and a truly abysmal seven-inch notebook screen, this ultra-basic netbook looks more like a piece of 1970s sci-fi memorabilia than a pioneering business laptop.
But Elonex insist that the system is aimed at consumers, most notably those in need of constant on-the-go computing power. Remarkably different from its competition – some could say that it’s a ‘revolutionary’ piece of technology – the Elonex Websurfer combines the netbook and the mobile phone in a way that we’d never considered possible: by essentially gluing them together.
The end result is, as expected, not all that useful. The Elonex Websurfer appears to be built for those relatively new to computing, particularly users aiming to capitalize on the rise of broadband calling. In that regard it succeeds; the system is almost impossible to fault from a usability and simplicity perspective, though we question how worthwhile such a limited model is in the first place.
The seven-inch netbook screen is equal parts miniscule and frustrating. Carrying out all but the most basic tasks is impossible due to its tiny dimensions, while the vast majority of software is incompatible anyway due to the laptop’s limited specifications. Designed as a basic computer and mobile business workstation, we can’t see the Websurfer proving useful for either function.
The system’s screen does have its positives. It’s a full-function touchscreen, giving users a fair amount of mobile usability and minimizing reliance on the frustratingly small keyboard. It’s not completely unresponsive either; our touches were recorded with a reasonable degree of precision, though the way colour is reproduced on the screen is reminiscent of ageing mid-90s cathode ray tube displays.
What’s even more frustrating is the wasted potential. Almost half of the Websurfer’s potential screen real estate is taken up by a bulky VoIP phone handset which, quite frankly, should never have been there in the first place. The vast majority of professionals place their broadband calls through a headset or bluetooth device, leaving the phone achieving little more than taking up valuable space.
Alongside the questionable screen is a cramped, spongy, and infuriating keyboard. Strokes rarely register and adjusting to the unit’s small size is frustrating for those used to working on a full-size laptop or a desktop computer. The Elonex Websurfer’s touchpad is annoyingly small, proving almost completely useless even for a machine with such a limited screen resolution.
Performance is expectedly poor, a reflection not just on the machine’s £200 price point but its questionable design and construction. Portability is good – one of the Websurfer’s few strong points – with the battery lasting in excess of three hours and the system’s weight surprisingly low.
All in all, the Elonex Websurfer is a frustrating mix of new ideas, outdated technology, and truly abysmal execution. With mobile phones able to browse the internet and low-cost netbooks available with greater onboard performance, the machine is utterly useless for almost anyone. We admire the laptop’s new outlook and lack of insecurities, but we couldn’t possibly recommend it.