What do New coke, the DeLorean DMC-12 and Virtual Boy by Nintendo all have in common? They were spectacular failures. Computer vendors tend to be among the worst offenders. No matter what you’re working on, there’s a laptop to match your needs and budget. Sometimes simple is all you need. But there’s a reason why you only see certain types of laptops around coffee shops and campuses. In what follows we profile a handful of the worst laptops ever made. Just how bad were they? Some are no longer made. Still others were so bad that the manufacturer just gave them away. No, these laptops won’t win any prizes for specs or features. But here we go anyway.
1. AlphaSmart Neo2
This is our top choice because though marketed as a laptop, it’s not really a laptop. The Neo2 has a tiny, green monochromatic LCD with only one function – word processing. Even the simplest things we take for granted like, browsing the web, firing off emails or just watching videos are out of the question. When new in 2007, the Neo2 cost hundreds of dollars (if you can believe it) before it was discontinued in 2013.
Clunky and ugly, it was intended for the education market as a low-cost word processor for kids. In its defense, the keyboard is actually pretty good. And it can run for weeks (or months) on a single set of batteries. But it has just the barest amount of memory. Another upshot, however, is that if you decide to pick one up today. It’s so rugged that you can find many used models in good condition.
2. HP SlateBook 14
Android laptops? What users look for in a laptop is an interface that works well with a keyboard and touchpad, plenty of windows for multitasking and plenty of storage space. The stock Android HP chose to put in a tablet that doesn’t fold or detach and doesn’t support multiple windows.
To add insult to injury, Android apps aren’t designed to take advantage of such a large-screen 14-inch notebook. So, mobile apps look “comically” large on the 1080p screen. And after you finish getting it all setup, there’s only 11 GB of usable storage left. But the most crippling aspect of this machine was the tired Android 4.3 Jelly Bean operating system.
3. Google Nexus Q
This one’s not a laptop. But we felt it was still worth mentioning. In season 10 of an episode of the Simpsons titled, “Lisa Gets an A”, Lisa is criticized for being, Springfield’s answer to a question nobody asked. In the same spirit, Google’s Nexus Q attempted to solve a problem no one had.
It was a heavy black orb that allowed users to stream music and videos at the same time to the same home theater. But not from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon or most media services. And it only worked on Android 2.3 and newer with limited functionality compared to Roku, Apple TV and Boxee. It was also expensive at $299 when new. Can you see the problem? The company had such a hard time moving the Nexus Q that they eventually just gave units away to get rid of them.
4. Acer Aspire R7
A touchpad that sits behind the keyboard. Who was asking for this? It’s one of the least intuitive laptops you’ll ever experience. While other laptop manufacturers were tinkering with detachable and convertible 2-in-1s. Acer’s Aspire R7 is another product that endeavored to solve a problem no one had.
It’s a clamshell laptop that flips backward so the hinge is closer to the touchpad and the keys are closer to you. The custom Ezel Hinge lets the display pivot in the middle at various angles when the notebook is open. This was Acer’s attempt to cater to the touch screen experience. The idea was that when you want to move the screen closer to you, you won’t sacrifice any keyboard space. But then the touchpad becomes totally hidden. Jarring doesn’t even begin to describe the user experience. There’s a newer version that sets things right with the touchpad where it should be.
5. Asus Eee PC 701
The Asus Eee PC 701 helped kick-start the netbook phenomenon. The idea behind it was to show that attractive laptops need not retail for a bundle. It had a plasticky, toy-like nature ill-befitting a laptop one can take seriously. It was a Vista-powered machine equipped with a weak Celeron processor.
The 7-inch screen had an unbearably low, 800×480-pixel resolution. The 4GB of storage is down-right stingy compared to today’s 160 GB average. And the microscopic keyboard added to making it better suited for children rather than the full-grown adults it was marketed toward. On the flip side, it was a lightweight budget PC. And the best part, it had no crapware.
6. HP 2133 Mini-Note PC
Touted as the anti-Eee, this sleek alternative had an aluminum chassis. A larger, 8.9-inch screen. And a wonderful keyboard that surpassed its netbook aspirations. But it too had a dark side.
The HP 2133 Mini Note PC was more expensive, for starters. Though it cost twice as much as the Eee PC 701, it was universally maligned for offering about a tenth of the performance. This is mainly due to using the Windows Vista operating system and an asthmatic 1.2 GHz C7-M processor.
To say that it was slow is an understatement. And if you work in the sunlight or in any environment where there’s a lot of light. The screen turns into a mirror, making it more than challenge to see what you’re working on.
7. OLPC XO-1
It even looks like a toy, right? The OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) XO-1 had altruistic intentions. It was Nicolas Negroponte’s ambitious plan to bridge the global digital divide. But from the joke of a keyboard. To the calculator-spec AMD GeoD LX700 APU. To the paltry 256 MB of RAM. It would have to work up to unusable.
As you can see by the design, the audience is primarily children. But you wouldn’t know that from the Linux-based Sugar graphical interface. Launching a simple app required a degree in computer science to understand the built-in program language. Yet the target market was for the the kind of user that’s never seen a computer before?
9. Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Mini Ui 3520
The Amilo Mini Ui 3520 was the first netbook with interchangeable covers, which was a novelty that was wearing off even on smartphones at the time. Though it looked great, its what’s beneath the skin that counts. And the 3520 was horrific.
Its tiny keyboard was difficult to use unless you’re a child. And the mouse with its side-mounted buttons was ludicrously designed. Design aside, it used an anemic 1.6 GHz Atom N270 CPU and a relatively slow hard drive, so intensive tasks were completely out of the question. It was best suited for web browsing, checking emails and the odd standard-definition video. But you wanted to stay close to a power outlet because the battery power was dismal, even by netbook standards.
10. Dell Inspiron Mini 12
Where many rivals offered an 8.9 or 10-inch display, the Inspiron Mini 12 bucks the trend with a relatively massive-for-the-segment 12-inch screen. The chassis is even large enough to accommodate a full-size keyboard.
But while there was a market for an over-sized low-power netbook at the time it was created. The low-power part is what did it in. It uses a 1.33 GHz Intel Atom Z520 CPU, which struggles with even the simplest tasks. And although Dell sold a faster version with a 1.6 GHz Intel Atom N270. You’ll likely expect more power from a machine of its size. Oh well. Although it’s gone the way of the dodo. You can still pick one up from Amazon if you’re feeling masochistic.
11. Packard Bell EasyNote XS
Remember Packard Bell? Remember the EasyNote XS? It had the opportunity to capitalize on the shortcomings of the Eee PC 701. It offered several advantages, including a digital DVI video output port, 30 GB hard drive and more storage than its contemporaries. So, what went wrong?
Well, it featured a C7-M chip that made you yearn for the Atom N270 CPU ubiquitous among netbooks at the time. The dwarf-sized keyboard is just as tedious to use as the postage stamp-size touchpad located on the top right of the keyboard deck. Just as frustrating to use were the lilliputian selector buttons, located on top left. Smh. Using this netbook comfortably was next to impossible.
12. Elonex Websurfer
Related to the EasyNote XS, the Elonex Websurfer also attempted to bring something new to the netbook game. Namely, a removable VoIP phone located just right of its 7-inch display. It goes by many names, including the Via NanoBook and Everex Cloudbook.
But just look at the laptop. The design looks like it came out of the mid-90s. We find the fact that it was a notebook offered as late as 2009 perplexing. The screen, keyboard and touchpad are so small, they render the device practically unusable. We’re pretty sure that anyone would rather give up the phone for a larger display.