We're frequently told that in these lean times the only businesses showing signs of growth are oil companies and budget supermarkets. Out are luxury goods and Jamie Oliver-branded buffalo mozzarella, in are low cost electronics and unmarked tins of mystery meat.
The Medion Akoya E1210 could well be the defining product of our times, then: a netbook sold exclusively through Aldi.
Silence your internal snob, though, because the Akoya is actually a rebadged MSI Wind. Bonus Google-points are also awarded if you realise that this also makes it a clone of the Advent 4211, sold through PC World.
Like the 4211, it's £50 cheaper than a Wind, but the compromise is that there's nothing you can configure about Medion's machine. It's an XP-only affair, with an 80GB mechanical hard drive and no optional colour schemes to brighten up the grey-ish exterior. Of the two, we slightly prefer the black and silver lines of the Medion to the all gunmetal Advent, but neither can really claim a win on looks.
The low cost pitches them head to head with Stuff's Gadget of the Year, the adorable Asus EeePC 901. A comparison with this machine will give you a better idea as to which to buy.
The E1210 has the advantage when it comes to comfort. At just a single gram heavier than the 901, it's arguably just as portable despite its larger dimensions. And this increased space means there's room for a 10in screen and near full size keyboard.
The 901, on the other hand, is ludicrously tiny, has a silent hard drive, Bluetooth, Wireless-N and – the deciding factor for us – six hours or more of battery life.
This remains the real kicker for the Wind and its derivatives. With Wi-Fi switched on, we couldn't even get two hours of life from the Medion Akoya, and that's just not enough for a device whose entire raison d'etre is to keep you connected any time, anywhere.
There are a few other reasons we'd recommend the Eee 901, despite its awkward keyboard, too. You can't leave an SD card in the Akoya's built-in reader, for example, because it doesn't fit flush to the side of the case.
And, frankly, we just don't like Windows XP on netbooks. It's functional, but doesn't translate as well to the small screen as the customised Linux kernels of other netbooks.
Then there's the tiny mousepad, which is going up against the Eee's marvelous multitouch tracker, still the best pointer control outside of the MacBook.
Despite the price cut, then, the verdict on the Akoya is the same as that for the MSI Wind. If you have to have the larger keyboard and screen, it will serve you well and only the battery lifespan will really disappoint. Otherwise, the 901 is still the netbook for those in the know.
More after the break...
Medion Akoya E1210
A cut price MSI Wind is no bad thing, but limited options and poor battery life stop it blowing up a storm