Is the future of Netbooks something smaller, or is that all in the past?

Is the Viliv S7 onto something evolutionary, or is it clinging to yesterday's idea of the future?

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
2 min read
The Viliv S7: ahead of the curve, or missing the point? Sarah Tew/CNET

The Yukyung Viliv lineup ultraportable of mini-computers is, in a way, a bit of a throwback to the days when UMPCs and MIDs ruled the pocket-gadget landscape and laptops were bulky and expensive and didn't have any great battery power to speak of. Back in the days of the OQO and the Samsung Q1, you didn't expect an ultraportable to have the same productivity power as a full-fledged computer...you were, in fact, happy when it just did one or two things right. Those days are over, though. For $300 you can now get a Netbook which, while lacking the horsepower that modern PC users expect, can still run rings around laptops from the days when the Patriots still won Super Bowls.

On the other hand, portables are also the future. From flip-keyboarded smartphones to tiny clamshell "smartbooks" running smartphone processors and mobile operating systems, the old-fashioned concept of a flip-up laptop is bound for a change.

This is where the Viliv devices lie: one foot in the past, one foot in the future, they're transitional evolutionary devices. In some ways, their tablet forms are refreshing. In others, they're less functional than basic Netbooks. And that's a shame, since they also happen to cost significantly more.

The Viliv S7 and X70EX are two different form factors with the same internal components: both have Intel Atom Z520 processors and 7-inch resistive touch screens, 1GB of RAM, and a smaller-size hard drive or SSD. The X70EX, however, takes the form of a tablet computer, a bigger-screened improvement on the S5. The S7 breaks the mold a little more by adding a convertible laptop/tablet swivel screen to the equation, much like the Asus EeePC T91.

Would either of these be appealing to someone looking for mobile horsepower, or is a smartphone like an iPhone still the way to go? Can either of these Vilivs provide a compelling amount of Netbook in their small-form style, or are these higher-priced items stuck between a phone and a hard place? And here's another question: would you rather see Netbooks get back to these 7-inch sizes, or are you happier with the move to 10 inch and larger Netbooks with better graphics and HD screens?

Or is the future in fact something else entirely--custom-designed tablets like the ones that seem to be around the curve from Apple and Microsoft?

Read our X70EX and S7 reviews.