Product Review: Medion Akoya Mini netbook

8 Sep 2008

Unpacking the Medion Akoya Mini was somewhat of a shock for me because, this being my first netbook, I wasn’t actually prepared for how small these hybrid laptop/tablet creatures are. Yet weighing in at 1.2kg the Medion Akoya is practically obese in comparison to the Asus EEE PC 900, which is a mere slip of a thing at .99kg. Having said that, I don’t think this would sway me – the Akoya could be easily thrown into any of my bags and brought around with ease.

I must say, I like the shiny and stylish metallic exterior but opening up the netbook brought on a flood of nostalgia as the 10-inch screen reminded me of laptops from the late Nineties. Obviously, the TFT screen is of much higher resolution and clearer and brighter but the thick frame surrounding the display is a bit retro, yet not off-putting.

The keyboard is compact but it posed no problem and I happily typed away without longing for a bigger version. However, my main quibble was with the mouse pad. I’m not a fan of these most of the time but the tiny left/right click meant that I kept overreaching and tapping further up the mouse pad in error. Also, I missed my scroll functionality an awful lot. I’m quite keen to see what the mouse pad on other netbooks are like. I found this one a bit, well, small.

However, this aside I was pretty excited to be booting up my netbook to Windows XP instead of Vista. I know the Dell, Acer and Lenovo netbooks also run on XP – so why don’t we just bring this OS back for good until Windows 7 comes along and kicks Vista to the kerb?

Okay, this is not an anti-Microsoft rant because I actually missed the Microsoft Office software package and could not run off and install my old Office CDs from my other laptop as there was no DVD drive. Oh well. Still, this is the way it is going and there are three USB 2.0 slots, as well as a media card reader and Ethernet cable, so that’s a lot for one little netbook.

Despite the netbook being a relatively new creature, road-testing one as an ‘on-the-go’ replacement for your laptop doesn’t throw up many surprises – it is bound to have most of the functionality, albeit in a pared down package, ie smaller screen, compact keyboard, no optical drive and less storage and memory. But what if you decide to take the term ‘netbook’ literally and forgo all the traditional applications that you would have taken for granted on the PC desktop or full-sized laptop in favour of web apps only?

In light of Google turning its hand to the web browser market with the release of Chrome, and essentially going full circle with the idea of living off web apps, I decided to ‘Googlify’ the Akoya Mini and put aside my desktop applications. First of the bat, as mentioned, the Akoya does not come pre-installed with what I normally use – Microsoft Office – so I had no problem substituting the unfamiliar Corel WordPerfect for Google Docs, and with the ‘create application shortcut’ button on Chrome I set about making shortcuts to Google Docs, Calendar, Mail, Reader and Picasa.

While on the go or out of the office I would never see the need to use anything else apart from the aforementioned, some security software and perhaps Skype. But wait, Google has this covered too with the downloadable Google Pack, which has Norton Security Scan, Adobe Reader, Spyware Doctor and StarOffice 8 (containing applications for spreadsheets, slideshows and other useful things).

I tried out YouTube – had to download the latest version of Flash first – don’t remember having to do this for any PC I’ve bought in recent years.

To be honest, I had no problem using Google Docs, accessing my work mail via the web and generally getting through the work day on the netbook, but I did find myself hunching forwards and squinting at the screen – something I reckon I will be doing with all netbooks until I get used to the size.

One last point: after plugging in my earphones and listening to streaming music online via, I kind of expected a somewhat diminished sound experience but the sound was frankly fantastic. Obviously, the external speakers are a bit tinny but this is the case with most laptops in my opinion.

So two thumbs up but … is it weird to say that though there is nothing wrong with this netbook – it is practically perfect in every way as netbooks go –  I’m just … not in love with it? I’d never replace my shiny widescreen laptop with a netbook – but would be very glad of it for travelling and bringing to meetings.

Price: €399 (available from Aldi stores nationwide)
Pros: Robust, lightweight and ready-to-go
Cons: Lack of DVD drive may annoy some
Verdict: Nice little machine, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything by substituting my main laptop.

By Marie Boran

Pictured: Medion’s Akoya Mini running on Google power