Saturday, July 10, 2010

Teardown, and comparison to the Newton.

So, I tore the wits almost all the way down, and at least far enough to get a look at both sides of the motherboard. I didn't get closeups of the chips, because the little button boards are glued in place and removing them looked like it was gonna be a bit too delicate for a slightly inebriate hardware tech...

Photos are in this set, and here's a taster:

Newton & Wits

The hardware is impressive, The case has brass inserts for the screws rather than being the usual self-tapping crap, and the motherboard is *not* the mess of patch wires and crappy soldering I was led to expect.

Comparison time. Let's look at the witstech A81 vs a Newton 2x00. Remember, I am biased, so I may be appearing to be harsh, but I will try to at least explain *why*.

Form Factor

Although the Newton is slightly longer for a smaller screen, it wins on ergonomics as opposed to aesthetics. The big "chin" gives something to hold onto in landscape mode, and the slightly "slimmer in the middle" case suggests (and indeed gives) a comfortable "portrait" mode grip. The wits, on the other hand, has nothing much to hold onto, and the case is slippery as oppoed to the Newton's slightly "rubbery" feel. "How do I hold this" was one of my first thoughts when I picked it up.

The Newton also scores highly for its removable flip-over hard lid (screen protection), large stylus and pop-out stylus holder. Even the power supply scores well, with a bunch of adaptors supplied and easily interchangeable on the wall-wart.


No contest here. The chinaman takes it hands-down, in terms of clarity, resolution, brightness (although the Newton's backlight *is* 12 years old, so...) and so on. It also beats the Newton in terms of touchscreen performance, mainly because this particular example has a bad case of "the jaggies".

Other hardware issues

The wits has a useful stand. I'm tempted to cancel this out with the Newton's ability to run on 4 AA pencells if you need it to. Newton's (single) speaker is pretty good, but the hardware behind it lets it down.

Battery life

No contest. Newton, hands down. *Weeks* on a set of pencells, and you can happily let it simply run out of power, leave it for months, shove in a new set of batteries and you're *exactly* where you were when you put it down. That said, the wits does get an honourable mention for having a removable, and relatively high-capacity, battery. It's far better than most; I got 4 hours 45 minutes running "Operation Sandstorm" continuously ( load average 4, exercising the GPU and CPU pretty hard).


Both Wits and Newton can do bluetooth and wifi (although it's getting hard to find 5V PCMCIA wifi cards these days, and you're not gonna get anything other than 802.11b). The newt can happily do dialup, fax, or direct serial connection (this one is usually used as a serial terminal on my Sun Netra, actually). Oh, and IRDA. And Localtalk. That said, you can probably do most of that with the wits, given a usb device, some drivers, and a following wind, but would you actually *want* to?

I'll give this one to the wits, as Wifi and bluetooth on the Newt are "kinda neat", but painful to set up. I'm assuming there will eventually be some android support for the wits' bluetooth chipset here...


Grudgingly, the wits takes this. The newt has 2 PCMCIA slots, but in real world usage, one of those is gonna be taken up by a flash card. The little serial dongle on the newt is a pain in the ass, too. USB and a microSD slot show that some things *have* oved on in 12 years.

Cool Factor

Are you Joking? Newton by a mile. It's still got a multicoloured Apple on it, for ${DEITY}'s sake.

If I'm honest, the Wits is a nicer machine overall, and undoubtedly massively more powerful, but the Newton shows areas where it could have been vastly better in a purely hardware sense. A shame, because wits have obviously poured some love into this - it's not crap.

I will return to this later, with Newton vs Android in a software sense.

No comments:

Post a Comment