A Hong Kong-based manufacturer is shipping a Linux-based ultra-mini PC (UMPC) laptop for only $250 ($180 in volume), which appears to give it the lowest price yet for a Linux laptop. Bestlink's Alpha 400 offers a 400MHz CPU and a 7-inch, truecolor display.
The Alpha 400 is based on a 32-bit XBurst CPU from Ingenic Semiconductors clocked to 400MHz. Based on an "industry standard" RISC-based architecture (possibly MIPS?) the chip reportedly runs Windows CE as well as Linux. It also uses SIMD (single instruction, multiple data) instructions to accelerate media performance, and uses an "xburst" pipeline. Fabbed on 0.18-micron technology, it boasts low power requirements and a small footprint, Ingenic claims.
The Bestlink Alpha comes with 128MB RAM and 1-2GB of internal flash. Storage options including 32GB of memory via the provided SD card slot, as well as a USB-attached hard drive with up to 160GB. The 7-inch TFT "truecolor" (typically 24-bit) screen offers 800 x 480 resolution, says Bestlink.
Broadband Internet access is available via an Ethernet port or an optional WiFi dongle for one of the two external USB ports. Other USB-based options include GPRS, CDMA, and ADSL, and there are also earphone and mic jacks and a mouse port. The 8.3 x 5.6 x 1.3 inch laptop weighs only 1.5 pounds and is available in six colors.
The Alpha 400's pre-installed, open source software includes Xiptech's Xip Word and Xip Table, which Bestlink claims to be compatible with Word and Excel. Bestlink also provides software for web browsing, Flash support, chat, MPC and AVI playback, photo sharing, paint, email management, an e-book reader, and other basic utilities.
Bestlink is primarily a manufacturer (by way of its mainland China factory) of consumer electronics devices such as MP3 players. The company did not indicate the type of Linux distribution used for the Alpha 400, except to say it used a Linux 2.4 kernel. However, it used the operating system as a selling point. "With Linux OS, you don't need to worry about the virus infection," says the company.
The Alpha 400 is available for order now, for $250, including courier cost, and is available for $180 in quantities of 100, with greater discounts available in higher quantities. More information may be available here.