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OCZ's Neutrino DIY netbook

Ready to get your hands dirty?

Who doesn't make a netbook anymore, besides Apple? Just about every PC vendor seems to have hopped on the netbook bandwagon at this point, each bringing its own, slightly different take on the concept. Now, it's OCZ's turn.

If you're not familiar with the DIY laptops OCZ has been offering for the past year or so, the concept is pretty simple: instead of selling you a full-fledged notebook computer, the firm offers barebones units that typically lack a processor, hard drive, memory, and an operating system. In theory, OCZ can sell these DIY notebooks at a lower cost than full-fledged laptops, and the end result can be a cheaper yet fully customized machine for the customer. You do need a little bit of technical know-how to get things up and running, but of course, PC enthusiasts who like to get their hands dirty may find the notion appealing.

With its Neutrino DIY netbook, OCZ takes one step out of the process and includes an Intel Atom N270 processor, leaving just the storage, RAM, and OS choices up to the end user. Before we get into the DIY options, though, let's take a look at the Neutrino in more detail.

Although it sports a glossy finish on the top of the unit, the OCZ Neutrino has a fairly low-key design. You won't find any garish LEDs or gaudy chrome on this netbook.

While some may praise the simplistic design, others might go so far as to call it boring—even ugly. Design aesthetics are a matter of personal taste, though, and I've never been one to make a fashion statement with my netbook. In fact, the Neutrino's simple black finish reminds me a lot of Lenovo's ThinkPad designs (save for occasional glossy trim). Now that I think about it, some people consider ThinkPads ugly, too, but I digress. The form factor alone is still enough to turn heads for now.

Processor Intel Atom N270 1.60GHz
Memory None
North bridge Intel 945GSE
South bridge Intel ICH7M
Graphics Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950
Display 10" TFT with WSVGA (1024x600) resolution and LED backlight
Storage None
Audio Stereo HD audio via Realtek ALC269 codec
Ports 2 USB 2.0
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 Ethernet via Realtek 8168
1 analog headphone output
1 analog microphone input
Expansion slots 1 SDHC
1 ExpressCard/34
1 Mini PCI Express
Communications 802.11g Wi-Fi via Realtek 8187SE
Bluetooth 2.0
Input devices 83-key keyboard
Touchpad with vertical scroll zone
Camera 1.3-megapixel webcam with microphone
Dimensions 10.3" x 7.3" x 1.5" (241 x 185 x 38 mm)
Weight 2.86 lbs (1.3 kg)
Battery 4-cell Li-Ion 2200mAh

Do these specs look familiar? Intel Atom N270, Intel 945GSE, Intel ICH7M, and Realtek audio—yup, it's a netbook all right. The Neutrino's out-of-the-box configuration lacks storage and memory, but for the sake of this review, OCZ provided us with one of its Apex Series 60GB SATA solid-state drives and a 2GB DDR2-667 SO-DIMM.

The Neutrino's Wi-Fi is limited to 802.11g, but OCZ at least packed in Gigabit Ethernet support. If you've got a ton of backed up movies you want to transfer to your netbook before a long trip, your best bet is to use a network patch cable.

As for the Neutrino's dimensions, its footprint is just a shade smaller than that of the Asus Eee PC 1000HE. OCZ claims the Neutrino is only 27mm (just a hair over one inch) at its thickest point, but our measurements showed otherwise. At 1.5" thick, the Neutrino is actually a bit on the chunky side—and it doesn't have an 8700mAh battery to take the blame like the 1000HE. Instead, this netbook only comes with a 2200mAh battery much like the one you'd find in the slimmer MSI Wind U100.