Sylvania g meso Netbook – Review
I once had an Asus Netbook. Asus bad. Asus very bad. To replace that very bad netbook, I went shopping and looked at the MSI Wind, Acer, Dell, Everex, and Lenovo, and I settled on probably the least known of them all, the Sylvania g meso. Hey, doesn’t Sylvania make light bulbs? Yeah, like I haven’t heard that one before.
Although the others had a lot going for them, the Ubuntu Linux distribution with Netbook Remix from Canonical that comes native on this little guy is what sold me. I was able to load Ubuntu NBR on the Asus, but it was a nightmare and took three days and all for nothing because the hardware failed a couple days later.
I use my netbook while traveling. I pack light and need something that is light and small and easy to handle. I use it for storing and managing my pictures from my camera, writing my travel journal, uploading said journal and pictures to my blog, email, web browsing, phone calls via Skype, and watching movies and TV shows while on the road. I wouldn’t want to do serious graphic design, or gaming or other processor intensive work or heavy keyboard work on it due to its size.
- 8.9 inch display (1024 X 600)
- 80 GB hard drive
- 1.6GHz Intel Atom Processor
- 1 GB DDR SDRAM
- Multi Card reader
- 3 USB ports
- 10/100 Ethernet port
- Wi-Fi 802.11b/g
- Integrated web cam
- External VGA monitor port
- Audio in and out ports
- Built in mic
- 4 cell Li-Ion battery
- Touch pad with 2 finger support
- Integrated stereo speakers
- Weight: 2.2 pounds
- OS: Windows XP Home or Ubuntu with Netbook Remix
I find the matte display easy to read and view from multiple angles and it supports video quite well with no jumping, glitches or pixelation.
The 80 GB hard drive is a spinning drive rather than a solid state drive found on some other netbooks. SSDs tend to be more rugged since there are no moving parts but they are more expensive. The advantages of a spinning drive are less cost and more space. I was a little worried that the spinning hard drive may not survive being lugged in a backpack on hiking trails and being tossed around on my most recent road trip / hiking trip. Mine survived that as well as a couple of accidental drops to a hard floor.
I’m not an expert on processors and so can’t speak to that. I like to max a PC out and wanted to upgrade the RAM to 2 GB, but the unit only supports the 1 GB RAM that it comes with. That concerned me a little. This processor and the lowly 1 GB of RAM outperformed my 2 GB upgraded ASUS magnificently. I couldn’t watch a movie on the ASUS without suffering pauses and pixelation. They play just fine on the g meso.
Initially, the Wi-Fi radio worked fine on an open system but I had a hard time getting it to work on WEP or WPA encrypted networks. When it did work it seemed like the range was lacking. But, after playing with the configuration over time, it started working fine. I can’t say I did anything in particular, I just noticed that it was always working fine on the encrypted networks as well. I don’t know if it was something I did or if a driver update occurred in the background, or what, I dunno. It works.
The web cam is blurry, but there is apparently a driver update at the Sylvania support site that fixes this. I’ve never gotten around to addressing this because I never use the web cam.
I have a headset at home that I use for Skype and it works find through the audio in/out ports on the meso. I don’t however travel with it and I find that I can use the built in mic and speakers to make calls with only a little bit of echo reported by the person I’m talking to. I can also just use ear buds and speak into the built in mic.
The speakers are just OK. When listening to music or watching a movie, it sounds a little tinny. It sounds better through ear buds. Most other netbooks I checked out sounded better than the g meso.
The battery performance is middle of the road of those I played with. I can get three hours or so with the radio off. I can usually watch two feature length movies on a single charge. The selection of accessories for the g meso seem to be almost non existent. It’s hard to find cases or spare batteries or other gadgets for it. I did find a spare battery eventually for about $90.
The keyboard is small and there’s no right hand shift key and the enter key is right where the apostrophe should be for us touch typists, so I keep entering when contracting and being possesive. Some have referred to the keys as chiclet keys. Well, it’s a netbook, it’s supposed to be small. It does take a little getting used to and when you use it for awhile you will get used to it. I find it more difficult getting used the larger keyboard on my desktop PC when I come home from a long trip. I do find the keys and their feedback better than the Asus.
The touch pad is slightly textured which promotes easy sliding of my finger tips regardless of how dry they are and it supports the two finger scrolling like a Mac.
The only gripe I have about the USB ports is that they are next to each other in a row. If you are using certain USB adapters for things such as SD cards, you may not be able to use all three ports due to the larger size of the adapters.
There’s no CD/DVD ROM drive, but that’s to be expected on a netbook. Pick up an external optical drive if you need one.
All of the software that comes loaded on the g meso (Ubuntu version) is free as is most all software you may want to download and install. That’s all part of being in the open source community.
As I mentioned earlier, Netbook Remix sits on top of the Ubuntu desktop and if the mood strikes you, you can switch to that and back again. Sometimes you just need a change, ya know.
The g meso comes with a full crew of useful software including the Open Office suite which is compatible with Microsoft’s Word, Excel, and Access. Also included are apps to manage your network, manage and edit photographs, an email client, Skype, the Firefox web browser, a music manager, games, accessories, etc.
I bought my g meso with Ubuntu just before Christmas for $350 from Amazon. It’s now down to $269. The g meso with Windows XP Home is $299. Mine is yellow and it sure gets a lot of attention while traveling; people are very interested in it. I’ve been very pleased with the Sylvania g meso and like it much better than the ASUS, even when, you know, when the ASUS was working.
Youtube video review by TigerDirect: