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Hands-on: HyperSpace by Phoenix joins the instant-on fray

Phoenix is jumping into the action with its HyperSpace OS, as featured on a handful of new Lenovo laptops including the S10 Netbook.

Does your laptop take too long to turn on? Linux-based instant-on operating systems have turned up on plenty of recent laptops, such as the Splashtop-powered Asus N10J, and now Phoenix is jumping into the action with its HyperSpace OS, as featured on a handful of new Lenovo laptops including the S10 Netbook. We got a chance to get a hands-on preview with HyperSpace.

Hyperspace boots up automatically when you start your laptop, instead of Windows. The emphasis is clearly on Web surfing, as the landing screen is a custom Web browser with a sidebar full of links and settings. Shortcuts on the left side are basically just bookmarks for popular Web sites and services.

One of our problems with these instant-on environments has always been the networking options. Users comfortable with Windows XP or Vista know how to find and join a Wi-Fi network--but many of these quick-launch operating systems bury that info in confusing Linux-flavored menus. HyperSpace gets points for putting a big Wi-Fi button right at the top right of the screen, which simply brings up a list of available networks.

From the HyperSpace desktop, you can hit a button with a Windows logo on it which will reboot the system into Windows (you may have to hit the F4 key during the reboot). Laptops more powerful than a Netbook will be able to run both HyperSpace and Windows at the same time, and switch between them at will.

Using a Lenovo S10, we timed the HyperSpace OS as taking 24 seconds to fully boot, compared with 50 seconds for Windows XP.

One point worth noting--these pre-Windows OS systems (more on them from our pal Rafe Needleman here) are useful for getting quick access to vital information on the go, or extending battery life--but they're not exactly mainstream. We know several people who have them preinstalled on laptops and either never use them or don't even know they're there.