We unboxed the Averatec Buddy and immediately felt a sense of deja vu. We'd seen this Netbook before--dare we say, this Buddy felt like an old friend from the start. After taking stock of the Netbooks in CNET Labs, we traced this feeling back to the MSI Wind. Aside from a slight difference on the front edge, these two Netbooks feature the same chassis with a 10.2-inch display. Inside, the Averatec Buddy supplies a familiar Netbook configuration that includes the Intel Atom N270 processor, 1GB of memory, and Windows XP Home. While we had generally positive things to say about the MSI Wind when we reviewed it this past summer, we are less enthused with the nearly identical Averatec Buddy because between then and now, Dell and HP joined the Netbook fray and did so with highly desirable models in the HP Mini 1000 and the Dell Inspiron Mini 9.
There's nothing inherently wrong with the Buddy (aside from its name), but our same complaints from the Wind remain: there's no option for a solid-state hard drive and the three-cell battery loses its charge far too quickly. Averatec's shopping site lists it at $479--same as the Wind, though the Buddy has a larger hard drive and no Bluetooth--but you can find online from other resellers for $449. Though it costs a bit more, we favor the HP Mini 1000 for its keyboard alone, while the Dell Mini 9 delivers a solid-state drive in an otherwise similar configuration for $449, while also delivering superior battery life.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$449|
|Processor||1.6GHz Intel Atom N270|
|Memory||1GB DDR2 SDRAM|
|Hard drive||160GB, 5400rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel 945 Express|
|Operating system||Windows XP Home Edition SP3|
|Dimensions (width by depth)||10.2x7.3 inches|
|Thickness||1.0 to 1.6 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||10 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||2.5 / 3.3 pounds|
While the MSI Wind offers you a choice of white, black, or even pink, the Averatec Buddy offers no such personalization. It's available only in black. The lid is a glossy black, while inside the keyboard, wrist rest, and screen bezel feature a matte black finish. The only difference between it and the MSI Wind is the Wind's front edge was angled somewhat while the Buddy's front edge remains straight and flat.
The Averatec Buddy's keyboard runs edge to edge, leaving no wasted space, which is key in any Netbook design. We liked this keyboard when we saw it on the MSI Wind earlier this year, because it was easier to type on than the cramped keyboard on the 9-inch Asus Eee PC 901. However, after experiencing the flat, wide, and roomy keys on the HP Mini 1000, the Averatec Buddy's keyboard feels merely average for a Netbook, with some keys forced to be narrowed. In this case, the comma and period keys are roughly half the width of normal, as are the four arrow keys in the lower right corner.
The touch pad is a tiny 2 inches wide by 1.5 inches tall. There isn't any room to make it any taller, but it would be more useful if it were a bit wider to match the wide-screen display's aspect ratio. The touch pad features a vertical scroll region, though it might more accurately be called two vertical tap regions. While most laptops let you scroll up and down Web pages and other long documents by moving your finger up or down the right edge of the touch pad, the Averatec Buddy's touch pad page scroll function works differently. You tap the upper and lower right corners of the touch pad to move up or down a Web page or document. Lastly, the mouse buttons are combined into one, rocker-style button, which is never our favorite arrangement. We prefer the tactile feedback that you get from two separate mouse buttons.
With configurations so similar across most Netbooks (choosing a solid-state versus spinning hard drive, and Linux versus XP, are probably the only two specification choices of note in any Netbook) and dimensions so tight, we think the keyboard is the single biggest differentiator, which is why we rated HP's Netbook so highly, despite a few warts. I set out to put the Averatec Buddy to the test and set it up to use as my primary work system for a day. I was back at my regular work desktop within the first hour. The keyboard is just too small for anything more than e-mailing, instant messaging, and updating your Facebook profile. I'm not saying the HP Mini 1000 would have made it for an entire workday, but I bet it would have lasted until at least lunch.
|Averatec Buddy||Average for category [netbook]|
|Audio||headphone/microphone jacks||headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, 4-in-1 media card reader||2 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
The Averatec Buddy's 10.2-inch display features a standard Netbook resolution of 1,024x600 pixels. It provides enough room to view Web pages without needing to scroll side to side, though you will find yourself scrolling vertically more than you might like. The display's matte finish means you won't suffer from glare and reflections when traveling with the Buddy and seated in a bright coffee shop or sunny park bench. At the top of the display sits a 1.3-megapixel Webcam. Also, the Buddy's tiny stereo speakers emit predictably tiny sound, so you'll want to make use of the headphone jack whether you're listening to music or even watching a clip on YouTube. I tried watching a few SNL skits on Hulu.com while working on the review, and I couldn't hear the dialogue over my typing at max volume.
The Buddy serves up the standard 10/100 Ethernet and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi network connections. We're still waiting for a Netbook to include WWAN for true mobile connectivity out of the box. The 4-in-1 media card reader supports SD, MMC, Memory Stick, and Memory Stick Pro formats.
We ran the Averatec Buddy through CNET Labs' Photoshop benchmark, and it finished the test in similar fashion as other Netbooks, all of which feature the same single-core 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 CPU. In anecdotal testing, we felt some drag when having more than one application open at the same time--nothing too terrible, but we did notice frequent, short pauses during simple commands such as switching from one open application to another.
Netbooks are designed in large part to run for long stretches when you're away from a power outlet, and, unfortunately, the Averatec Buddy was unable to top the 2-hour mark on CNET Labs' battery drain test, thanks to its three-cell battery. In anecdotal testing, we never made it past 2 hours either. That's a far cry from the 5 hours, 15 minutes we got from the Asus Eee PC 901 and its six-cell battery. The MSI Wind turned in similarly terrible battery life with its three-cell battery, though you can now find some MSI Wind models with six-cell batteries. The same cannot be said for the Buddy; a three-cell battery is your only option.
TriGem, owner of the Averatec brand, backs the Buddy with a one-year parts-and-labor warranty. Calls to technical support require a toll call; lines are open weekdays from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Pacific. Averatec's sales e-mail address doubles as its support e-mail.