THE DISNEY COMPUTER

asus_disney_netpal_netbook2Editor’s Note: After writing this review, we had a major change of heart. Our young relatives love this machine.  Lucky for them, they don’t read our reviews.

Walt Disney and Co. has teamed with computer maker ASUS to produce a charming new laptop computer for young children. It’s called the “Netpal” and sells for $345. The good news is it’s pretty in pink; the bad news it it’s loaded with junk.

There are so many things wrong with this computer that we hardly know where to start. When we first turned it on, for example, we ran a check on the hard drive and the numbers that came up said the drive was half full. The child’s account we just created was already 90 percent full. Ninety percent? We hadn’t added a program or done any work and the account was already nearly full. What’s going on here?

Well, what’s going on is the game of loading up new computers with ads and trial programs to try and sell more stuff. Every new computer anyone buys has trial programs and videos to entice the buyer to order more stuff. (Hint from bad experience: don’t fill out anything that asks for your credit card number.) It is advertising, and companies pay the computer maker to be placed onboard. In fact, there’s so little profit in selling the computer itself that the junk they put in is probably where they make their money. Unfortunately for you, the user, all those sales pitches take up a lot of space and slow down your computer.

The solution: We downloaded the popular and free “decrapifier” program from pcdecrapifier.com. It will strip out the extra stuff and you’ll end up with most of your hard drive clear. You can control what to let it remove and what not.

But that’s just the beginning of the problems with this machine. The “40 built-in parental controls” in the sales pitch turned out to be a joke. Unless you restrict your child to the Disney browser, which takes you only to Disney websites, you’re left with the same parental controls found on any Windows machine. These are difficult to set up but if you ignore them,  your child can go to any site on the web, including pornography. Clicking “help” in the “Parental Control” panel didn’t help much. It says things like “click here,” when there is nothing clickable. There is an interface for setting time limits for commonly used programs, like Disney Radio or games, but when we tried to restrict access to porn sites, we restricted all websites.

Other negatives:

  • This computer is basically an ASUS “eee PC,” with drawbacks. You only get five hours of battery life, compared to 8-10 hours for the same laptop without the Disney name and decorations. The eee PC also costs less and has a bigger screen.
  • You can’t upgrade the Disney laptop to 2 gigabytes of RAM without voiding the warranty.
  • When you search for favorite websites, you get frequent messages that say “Site not Foind (sic).” Moving past Disney’s inability to spell or proofread, after Windows updates, some programs say they can’t be displayed unless you change the screen resolution. How many kids are going to know how to do that? And why should you have to change the resolution in the first place? The whole thing has the feel of being rushed out the door to catch the holiday shoppers.

What is there to like about the Netpal? It’s cute. It has built-in Wi-Fi, a webcam and links to lots of fun sites. You also get a “gadget tray” at the bottom with Disney-themed email, browser, and games icons. Click on them and you won’t be able to display some things unless you change the screen resolution. Good luck.

Comments are closed.