Hands on Use
The first thing to do out of the box is install RAM, a storage drive and an OS. For my testing OCZ sent along 2GB of RAM and a 60GB Apex SSD. Installing the RAM into the machine is a snap, literally. You simply snap the RAM into the slot after taking the bottom panel off the netbook. Installing the SSD was equally as easy and the entire hardware installation was done in about 10 minutes.
Above shows the Neutrino geared up with both the RAM and SSD installed.
After installing the hardware the next step is installing the OS. OCZ provides clear and easy to follow instructions on how to install the hardware in the manual included with the netbook. However, when it comes time to install the OS you are on your own. This is likely because there are so many OS choices and being able to go into the detail needed for each would be impossible.
For my test unit I installed Windows XP Pro. You will need an external optical drive to install the OS. Once all the installation and setup was complete, installing the drivers from the included CD is straight forward, assuming you have an available optical drive.
After the machine was all ready to use I set about using the Neutrino as I would any other notebook or netbook. The keyboard is smallish and takes some getting used to. This is not limited to the Neutrino and it is something that all netbooks suffer from. The keyboard is spaced well for a netbook and offers good typing feel. The keys are clicky and not spongy feeling at all. The right shift key is well sized and placed correctly, unlike the ASUS Eee 1002HA I reviewed a while back.
The screen of the netbook is very good. The matte finish is much more glare resistant than glossy screens and offers good color reproduction. The little netbook is great for streaming video from Hulu. The onboard sound system is impressive for a netbook with plenty of volume, though it has little bass. This is again indicative of netbooks and notebooks as a whole and not limited to the Neutrino alone. The volume levels from the Neutrino are much better than many notebooks I have tested and I could easily hear audio from streamed movies and music without straining.
The little machine is a bit plain in the looks department, but it is a decent looking machine in all black. The fact that it has a 34mm PCI Express slot is fantastic. That is something that the vast majority of other netbooks lack.
The track pad is placed below the shift key and offers dual buttons underneath the track pad surface. If you are using the netbook in a dark room the all-black color makes it very difficult to find the mouse buttons on the machine. Otherwise, the track pad is decent and what you expect to find on a netbook.
The real issue for many users with the OCZ Neutrino is that if you don't happen to have RAM, an SSD or HDD and an OS around, adding these components to the Neutrino quickly runs the price up to what you could get a fully ready to run netbook for.
I mentioned before that OCZ was specific about the type of user the Neutrino should appeal to. OCZ is going after the enthusiast that has storage, RAM and the OS lying around. For the user with all of these components in place the Neutrino offers decent value. You can also add an SSD to the Neutrino for less than you can typically buy a netbook sporting a SSD for. This could be the perfect machine for the netbook user looking to explore alternative OS'.