We know what you're thinking. You're thinking that this is just another netbook by yet another manufacturer trying to ride the wave of popularity -- and at a glance, we'd say you're right. Upon further investigation, however, you'll find that OCZ Technology's Neutrino is actually a horse of a different color, so to speak. Design-wise, it's a perfectly average netbook, and if you check out the basic specifications, you'll see more of what you're used to. But if you read a little further, you'll notice a few key omissions. And unlike most machines, it's what the Neutrino lacks that differentiates it from the pack.
Somehow or another, OCZ has managed to deliver a unique netbook well over a year since the category was formed. Rather than squeezing in new features, tweaking the hardware or just pricing it competitively, the company instead decided to strip away some of the major components in order to both lower the barrier to entry and provide end users with more flexibility. OCZ admits that its "DIY netbook" isn't for everyone; in fact, it's for a rather narrow niche. But in many ways, this is the best netbook to get for PC users who wouldn't typically bother with getting one.
You see, this semi-barebones approach -- one that's definitely new and interesting -- attracts a different crowd. Generally speaking, netbooks have been appealing to average Joes (and Janes, to be fair) looking for a simple, small notebook that can handle basic tasks at a low price. Most netbooks even have the same specifications, by and large, giving users very little choice when it comes to selecting one. OCZ has decided to go against the grain and offer loads of options in a segment where the lack of choice is typically a selling point. Obviously, this machine is far too new on the market to determine whether this approach will end up being successful, but so long as the company doesn't expect to move a million of these, we suspect they'll be happy with the results.
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Just so we're clear, the Neutrino ships without a hard drive, a multi-format card reader (though there is a slot for one), RAM or an operating system. And trust us, if there were an easy way to add a dedicated GPU, OCZ would have left that option open as well. OCZ reckons that this netbook will appeal to a class of PC buyers that have been largely ignored by the likes of Acer, Asus, Dell and HP: the enthusiast or at the very least, the tech savvy end user. You know, the PC buyer that already has a spare hard drive or two laying around. The same person that has more SO-DIMMs collecting dust than they care to count. In other words, not your traditional, stereotypical netbook buyer.
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Honestly, we love the idea here. There are literally dozens of options for folks scouting a pre-fabricated netbook, but outside of the Neutrino, there are no options whatsoever for those looking to pay for only the basics. For consumers who already have a few spare components laying around, this seems like a no-brainer. You get a netbook for less than you'd spend on one that's fully spec'ed, and you simultaneously find a home for parts you thought were useless. It's the barebones approach that's commonly used on desktops and the occasional notebook, but not for netbooks.
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The only thing that would make this proposal more intriguing would be a lower starting price point. We understand that this is a small market device, but charging $269 for a notebook that lacks a costly HDD, a stick of RAM and an OS seems a bit steep. Of course, if you already own those, $269 is still better than the overall price of most other netbooks. We've seen Dell's Mini 9 stoop below that point a time or two before, but again, those who already own an SSD will likely save lots by choosing this route over paying other vendors a steep premium to add one. Check out the following pages to really get a feel for the first ever netbook to ship in a non-bootable configuration.