OLPC vs eeePC

The other night after DemoCamp, kk+ asked me about my eeePC and how it might compare to the OLPC (aka One Laptop Per Child project). I got to play with one at SXSW earlier this year at the MAKE booth and wanted one very BADLY at the time. Of course, it wasn’t available to the general public yet.
I’m a sucker for just about any tech in green and this is a green laptop! Granted it really is geared more towards kids (that didn’t stop me from getting a Nintendo DS or many other toys/gadgets), it’s still a fully working computer with a number of cool features. At that time, it was rumored to be waterproof, have fabulous battery life and even have a hand crank so that you could keep it going if you were away from an outlet.

Show'n the eeePC

Both are about the same price except the OLPC actually gives you two machines for the price of one eeePC – except one goes to you and the other goes to a child in need somewhere in the world – which is a really cool thing. I can only imagine what it would be like to be a kid and get one of these things.

I didn’t have much more than about 20 minutes to play with the OLPC whereas I’ve had my eeePC for just over a week now so this comparison is a little biased towards the eeePC.

Let’s start with their keyboards:

eeePC The eeePC’s keyboard is a much smaller version of a regular laptop keyboard

OLPC Keyboard The OLPC’s keyboard

As you can see from the above photos, the OLPC might actually be a better keyboard for typing since it’s not quite as squished together as the eeePC’s but it’s a rubbery button style that may not be as nice to type on….I think it would boil down to personal preference. At least you could spill your coffee on the OLPC’s keyboard and still be fine. The eeePC’s keyboard is your standard keyboard – one thing that bugs me about it versus any kind of keyboard Apple makes is that you see all the metal bits and pieces underneth the keys….Apple always seems to make them disappear by either painting them to hide or simply engineering them differently like on the new MacBooks and their new aluminum keyboards.

Size comparison
The above chart shows the size of the physical units and their relative screen sizes. The OLPC has a bigger footprint and a slightly taller viewable screen size than the eeePC.

When I decided to get an eeePC, it was for a couple of reasons:

  1. size
  2. weight
  3. hack/expandability
  4. formfactor
  5. price
  6. can I upload my DSLR photos to flickr with it
  7. availability

The last item was pretty important at the time since I had just sold my Powerbook and wanted a replacement. The OLPC had just started shipping and I figured it would be a hassle getting one up in Canada. The eeePC was available at my local computer store and they had stock. The flickr aspect was also pretty huge and the eeePC has a built in SD card slot so uploading photos to flickr is dead simple.

I also figured that while both devices are the same price, you are actually getting two laptops with the OLPC which sends one to a developing country and you get one whereas you are potentially getting more computer with the eeePC. If I had kids, I’d definitely get them an OLPC over the eeePC since it seems to be a bit more durable and geared towards them, not unlike Nintendo products (which I also love).

According to ASUS, the eeePC is also geared towards kids and seniors but I suspect the majority of their sales has been to geeks like me that want a decent notebook that travels well. I’d feel more comfortable bringing the eeePC to a meeting than the OLPC….but from a philanthropic perspective, the OLPC is definitely a better choice. If I had tons of money, I’d have both machines.

I haven’t seen one of the shipping OLPC’s around town yet, but I’m sure it won’t be long before one pops up at some nerd event. My eeePC has been pretty popular so far and it’s not even green…yet. I’ll post again on the OLPC once I’ve had a chance to further compare it to the eeePC.

UPDATE: Of course, I post this and then Laptopmag.com posts an in-depth comparison ;)


  1. kk says:

    i want one of each! ;)
    great post. thx.

  2. Jordan says:

    Nice comparison, John. I’ve been coveting one of those OLPCs since they announced they would be developing them.

  3. David says:

    I just found out from Pam today (she couldn’t wait) that she got me one (and some kid somewhere as well)!

    Am really anxious to play with it, see how it works, and see how it works here. I think it would be super cool to bring it in as a note-taking machine at a meeting at IBM. Yeah, that would be sweet!

  4. John says:

    That’s awesome David! We’ll have to compare our ultra-sub-mini-nano notebooks when you get yours.

  5. Dobbs says:

    I have both. Not sure if you’ve heard yet but the OLPC keyboard sucks for adult hands when it comes to typing. I love everything else about the machine but the keyboard pretty much makes it useless for writing on, which is a shame. As a result, I’ll keep the eeePC (which has a good keyboard but worse everything else) and ditch the OLPC.

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