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Review: Viliv S7 Premium

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True story: About two months back I was walking through my house with the then-new Viliv S7 convertible netbook. I started babbling to my wife while she was tending to the kids about how much I loved this little netbook. Even though she clearly couldn’t care less, I went on to proclaim that if Apple would have gotten in on the netbook craze, its model probably would have been something a lot like the S7. You can probably guess that at the time I was ready to write a glowing review of the Viliv S7. But then I went to turn it on and discovered it was borked. My wife laughed out loud.

Features

  • 7-inch swivel touchscreen
  • 3G HSPA
  • Intel Atom Z520 1.33GHz CPU
  • 32GB SSD
  • $799 MSRP (models start at $579 though)

Pros

  • Great form factor
  • Super long battery life
  • Very quick start-up

Cons

  • Viliv’s control over the hardware(more info farther down)
  • Quirky software
  • Pricey

The outside

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This is a good looking netbook. The case has the same white finish found on the plastic MacBooks and it looks like it’s a top-tier product. The edges are rounded and the whole thing feels solid. With the lid closed, it’s about as tall as a SD card is wide. Let’s just say it’s on the smaller side of the spectrum.

viliv-s7-4Even the keyboard feels nice. It’s a tad bouncy, but I never felt like I was going to bust through it like I sometimes do on lesser netbooks. The trackpad’s location feels funny at first being located above the right side of the keyboard, but it’s actually the perfect location. You can effectively hold the S7 with two hands as if it’s a large smartphone and use your thumb on the trackpad. You can even type somewhat fast with your thumbs when holding it this way.

I’m somewhat doubtful that users with sausage fingers will be able to type on the small keyboard though. The keys are about the size of a square M&M, if M&M’s were square, that is. Even with my slender, piano-playing fingers, I often found myself mashing two keys at once, but I did eventually get used to it. Now, I can type at about 3/4 of my full speed, which is good enough in my book.

viliv-s7-5Mark, over at Gizmodo, railed the S7’s screen but I can find no fault in it. The finish isn’t matte or glossy. It’s somewhat in between, but it gets bright enough to counter most glare; it’s totally usable outside. (I just wish I hadn’t gone through two review units and could have posted the review when he did months ago, but I digress)

Let’s not forget that the S7 also has a touchscreen and it works just as well as the X70 tablet. I found it to be more of a novelity feature for me though. I only used it occasionally after the first few days I had the netbook. It’s just that Windows isn’t meant to be used via a 7-inch touchscreen and the small trackpad is better suited for most tasks. Being able to swivel the screen around and lay it flat is great for movie-watching or ebook-reading though.

The inside

The Viliv S7 packs the standard high-end netbooks specs: an Atom Z520 @ 1.33GHz, 1GB of RAM, 3G modem, 32GB SSD, WiFi, VGA & composite out, SD card slot, three USB ports. It only takes 35 seconds to boot to XP and 9 seconds to resume from sleep. Got to love that.

I’m assuming that the 3G modem works fine, but I seem to live in an AT&T 3G dead zone; I could only connect with EDGE speeds. Let’s not blame the Viliv S7 though.

The S7 includes the same USB transfer program found on the Viliv X70. When a connection is made to the mini USB port, a program auto-runs on both machines and allows you to transfer files between. It’s flawless and should actually be a standard computer feature. It takes all the work out of connecting two computer just to share a few files.

But also like other Viliv rigs, some of the hardware can be switched off to improve the battery life. This can be problematic I found as sometimes hardware like WiFi doesn’t want to respond to the Windows program. I often had to restart the first review sample I received in order for it to work.

From what I can gather, the program removes the 3G modem, camera, and WiFi/Bluetooth from Windows’s reach. Even Device Manager cannot see them when the program has them switched off. It’s a little scary actually to think that some of the most important features of the computer are controlled by this one program.

I do need to point out that I had two review samples die on me. The first one couldn’t find the WiFi/Bluetooth hardware and the second one wouldn’t turn on at all. Most of the time the review samples we receive are first-ran devices — like the URC MX-5000 — but the S7 was out in Korea for a few months before Dynamism imported them to the States. But computers are never perfect. The third S7 I received works fine although the battery switch sometimes doesn’t want to spring back into place to fully secure it. None of the other samples had this issue.

The recommendation

I love the S7 in theory. In my mind it’s the perfect Windows netbook thanks to its size and quick start-up time. But because of the bad experiences I had with it over the last few months, I’m hesitant to recommend it. At least I can tell you confidently that Dynamism.com, the flagship Viliv dealer in the states, fully backs the product and offers excellent tech support as Viliv offers none outside of Korea. That’s important.

Update: A commenter below indicated that Viliv does indeed offer US tech support. The phone number is 1-888-698-4548. News to me, that phone number isn’t on any of the packaging I received nor could I find it in Google when I was having all my issues.

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