Novero's Solana is an $800 netbook running Windows 7 and Android, we go hands-on

The last time we saw the Novero Solana, we were prowling Intel's booth at CES in search of prototypes. Because it was Intel, not Novero, showing the device, the emphasis was on that Cedar Trail processor inside, as well as that kooky form factor -- a netbook with a titling, easel-like touchscreen. What we didn't know then was that the Solana also runs Android, and that it's almost ready for prime time: it's expected to hit Europe and North America within the next two to three months, priced at about €699 or $799, respectively. We had a chance to play with some more polished hardware here at Mobile World Congress, and also see the machine running Gingerbread. Follow past the break for some early impressions or, if it's too early in the US to stomach reading, have a gander at our quickie demo video.


A pretty piece of kit this is not. Though the lid and bottom cover are fashioned out of smooth metal, the interior is coated in glossy, fingerprint-prone plastic. And while the hardware is just about final, many of our first impressions remain unchanged. For starters, the hinge mechanism isn't nearly as smooth as this, and that 9.7-inch (1024 x 768) 4:3 display seems like an odd choice for a device that's as much a laptop as it is a tablet. (Do you really want that aspect ratio when you're using this as a clamshell laptop?) Still, at 1.3kg (2.87 pounds), it feels lightweight in the hand -- especially considering that touchscreen and elaborate hinge it's got in tow.

At first blush, at least, the chiclet-style keyboard is comfortable, with a slightly textured finish that makes it easy to plant your fingers as you're typing. The touch buttons feel a bit stiff, but this is easily the most minor of our complaints.

Take a tour around the sides and you'll find two USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI socket, microSD reader, SIM card slot, headphone / mic ports and a 3-megapixel webcam nestled in the upper bezel. This also might be a good time to walk through the internals: on board you'll find a dual-core 1.6GHz Intel Atom N2600 processor, Intel GMA 3600 IGP graphics, 2GB of RAM, Intel's Centrino Wireless-N 1000 WiFi radio, Bluetooth 2.1 plus EDR, and between 32GB and 128GB of solid-state storage, depending on the configuration. And that, friends, concludes the first summary of netbook specs yours truly has had to write in a long time.

Dual operating systems

To switch from Windows to Android, you'll need to double click a shortcut on the desktop. Right now, the transition takes about a minute, but the company hopes to shrink that load time to several seconds before it starts shipping this thing. Once the machine is finished booting up Android, you'll see the familiar Gingerbread lock screen, which you'll naturally need to swipe in order to reach the home screen.

As you can see in our hands-on photos, there's a trio of familiar-looking, touch-sensitive Android controls lining the right bezel, allowing you to pull up menus, go to the home screen, et cetera. Unfortunately, though, these buttons weren't functional on the pre-production unit we handled, so we instead had to use hotkeys to find our way around. These include "Esc" to navigate backwards, as well as a menu button to the right of the Space bar. In its final form, you'll be able to do these things using either the bezel or the keyboard.

Without a doubt, the Solana would be more of a steal at $799 if it ran Ice Cream Sandwich or even Honeycomb, but we think the even bigger problem right now is that there's no Android Market access (the app store GetJar comes pre-loaded instead). A company rep told us Novero is still negotiating possible Market access, and if that comes through we might not mind quite so much that it's saddled with Android 2.3.7. If nothing else, Novero's wisely decided not to add any custom skins, and the netbook is quick to launch apps and transition from one screen to another. From what we can tell, too, the touchscreen is precise -- it responded briskly to our various taps and swipes in both Android and Windows 7.


All told, we'll reserve final judgment until we can get our hands on some final hardware -- hopefully with Android Market on board and some faster transitioning between operating systems. We'll be curious to revisit all of this when it ships sometime this spring, but for now, count this as the most interesting tablet (and, er, the only netbook) we've seen here in Barcelona.

Show full PR text

novero to launch Solana – a lightweight, laptop/tablet hybrid

- Flip-rotating design for smooth and easy conversion between laptop and tablet mode

- Instant switch between two operating systems: Genuine Windows® 7 (Windows® 8 ready) and Android®

- Maximum productivity and fun: business machine and entertainment tool in one device

novero at MWC: Hall 2.0, booth 2C15

Düsseldorf, Germany/Barcelona, Spain, February 23, 2012 ­– Today novero announced the introduction of Solana, a lightweight, 10-inch laptop/tablet hybrid with a flip-rotating design at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Designed to deliver the best combination of everyday business computing and mobile entertainment, Solana offers optimal flexibility and state-of-the-art features in one unique device. Whether converting between laptop and tablet mode with just one flip of the screen, or switching between the two operating systems Genuine Windows 7 (Windows 8 ready) and Android within seconds, or staying seamlessly connected through high-speed 3.5G (HSPA+), WiFi or Bluetooth®, Solana is the premium lifestyle mobile device built to work, watch, listen, play and connect in multiple ways. Its capacitive sensing multi-touch panel, built-in video camera, stereo loudspeakers and six row full QWERTY keyboard all support the requirements of today's mobile life. Solana is endowed with the most energy efficient Intel® dual-core Atom® processor available today, and with up to 128GB SSD extendable storage via a micro SD card, storage capacity will never be an issue. The lightweight, 1.3kg laptop/tablet hybrid is expected to be available at the beginning of Q2/2012. The recommended retail price is an estimated 550 EUR (699 USD) for the standard configuration, with 64GB SSD.

Solana will be showcased during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (February 27 - March 1, 2012) at novero´s booth in hall 2.0 / 2C15.

"By introducing Solana we have marked the next milestone in offering intelligent and affordable, multi-feature products which perfectly match today's professional consumer needs", says Razvan Olosu, CEO, at novero. Olosu adds "the idea to merge a laptop and a tablet as such is not ground breaking at all. However, the way we have designed Solana´s body and brain, combining two of the most widely used operating systems, Windows and Android, and addressing the needs of the mobile business community to carry a single device for both productivity and entertainment is unique and outstanding. I am proud that the esprit and the extraordinary capabilities of Solana do mirror the teamwork and brainpower of our development and design teams in Canada, Germany and Denmark. That we have our finger on the pulse of the time has already been confirmed by the great feedback we received from developers and other experts who already could experience the look and feel of Solana's first prototype at the Intel Developer Forum 2011. Now we are ready to launch Solana, and offer everybody more for less with the freedom to smoothly flip between work and fun, between laptop and tablet mode, and between Windows and Android applications."

Being the slimmest in its class, novero´s Solana laptop/tablet hybrid combines mobile entertainment and everyday business computing. It offers flawless conversion between tablet and laptop mode in one motion with its flip-rotating screen design. Solana works with the most powerful and yet most energy efficient Intel Atom Dual-Core N2600 Cedar Trail processor backed by an Intel GMA3600 graphics processor. An extended 32 Whr battery, 2GB DDR3 RAM memory and configurable 32-128 GB SSD storage are part of Solana's core features. Solana´s 10-inch LED back-lit display comes equipped with a capacitive touch panel with multi-touch option, a video camera, an ambient light sensor, as well as an accelerometer. The main body is constructed with high quality magnesium, and detailed with stylish black piano-lacquer elements. In addition to the full QWERTY keyboard, a track pad with multi-touch and gesture support is also integrated. Stereo loudspeakers and ports for DC power, USB (2x), SIM card, microSD card, audio and microphone jack as well as video (HDMI) support round up the feature offerings. The weight of the laptop/tablet hybrid is 1,3 kg – significantly less than the weight of the lightest laptop and tablet combined.