Available from: Fast Track Europe.
Price: 249.99 + VAT
- 266Mhz CPU
- 64 Meg RAM
- 4 Meg Flash Memory
- 24 x CD-ROM drive
- 56 K Modem
- 10/100 Mbit/s Ethernet
- Customised Keyboard
- 2 Button Mouse
- 2 USB ports
- Linux 2.2 Kernel
- Netscape 4.76
- Citrix Enabled
- Macromedia Flash and Real Player plugins included
- Available in White and Black
We found the NIC very easy to set up and configure with the guidance of the interface and the manual.
When the NIC is first powered on it boots (quickly) from the included CD which contains the Operating System and prompts you to configure the internet connection.
You must now choose your desired connection method - Dialup Account, DSL, Cable Modem or Network Connection.
If you choose Dialup Account you are given a list of (US) ISPs which are no use, you will need to select ‘other’. You must then enter your ISP details and you are even given the choice to disable call waiting when you dial. Once you have clicked on ‘finish’ you are ready to connect to the Internet!
You may now simply click on ‘connect’ on the ‘NIC Home’ page.
This page also has links to the NIC’s online partners. For example, if you click on news, you are taken to an Internet news site. There is also an Internet search box in the top-right hand corner.
Now that you have the Internet connection working there are a few more things that you may wish to configure. If you click on the ‘NIC Setup’ button on the top toolbar you can also configure a printer (either a local printer or a network (not SMB) printer). The NIC supports the following (USB only) printers: - Canon BJC-2100, BJC-3000 and S450, HP Deskjet 648C and Deskjet 842C and Epson Stylus Color 670, 680, 740 and 777. This is a little disappointing as many common printers are not supported. A generic driver is planned for the future.
On the home page you may also (re)configure your connection, browser homepage, display (either 800x600 or 1024x768 resolution) and mouse settings.
There is also a small amount of software included with the NIC if you go to the ‘Tools’ menu on the main toolbar. There are SSH and telnet clients, 3 (strange) Real Videos, games, an audio mixer, calculator, an IRC client and an AOL Instant Messenger Client.
Pros and Cons: -
The Pros: - I think that the keyboard is very useful as it has all the buttons on it as are on the main page (including connect, hang-up and sleep buttons). It is also an ideal size to hide away for use in a hotel for example and it is also very quiet (compared to a normal computer). It is also quite nice not to have to worry about shutting the machine down before you switch it off as there is no hard disk to get corrupted. Another pro is the price. At 249.99 + VAT (the monitor is not included in this) it is a lot cheaper than a normal PC and can surf the web just as well. The interface is easy to use and comes with help at every stage of the setup. Because the NIC does not have a hard disk it means that it is impossible to download things to the machine. However, it comes with intergrated support for Internet hard drive providers which allow you to save things to a drive on the web and then download them onto another machine.
Now onto the Cons... One thing that was a little annoying at times was that the NIC came with a US keyboard - I’m not sure if the ones they sell do - but our review machine did. I also missed having a mouse with a scroll wheel which would improve the browsing experience. I think that the number of sites you can view is also limited by using an older version of Netscape (4.76) and it may be worth upgrading this in a future release (although this may not actually be possible due to the Spec of the machine). I also suggest this because this version tends to be unstable.
I also feel that the lack of a hard disk was slightly annoying when I wanted to download something but I don’t suggest including one. I think it would be quite useful if you could mount and use network drives for saving things onto.
I think it was a bit wasteful to include two USB ports when you can only have one printer set up at a time!
According to Fast Track Europe hotels use the NIC for providing Internet access to their customers. But what happens when the ‘customer’ finds the setup page and decides to start changing things? The machine stops working. I think that a password for this are would be essential when using the NIC for this.
Overall I found the NIC to be reliable, user friendy and quick (apart from the odd problem with Netscape). It does the job it was intended to do well and is reasonable value for money. I would recommend the NIC to anyone who wants a machine just for the Internet and to hotels, hostels etc. who want to provide their customers with access to the Internet (due to the low cost compared to a PC).