ZaReason Breeze running UbuntuBefore you finish your holiday shopping, consider the following option: If you're in the market for a low-end PC, put aside about $300 for the ZaReason Breeze, a small desktop computer that runs Ubuntu Linux. Based on our testing, we see some clear market segments where the Breeze is an ideal option for today's consumers and small businesses.

Of course, it's important to properly position ZaReason's Breeze. If you're seeking a high-end desktop or powerful gaming system, look elsewhere. But if you need basic desktop productivity applications, Web 2.0 applications (Facebook, YouTube, etc.), email and instant messaging, the Breeze is a solid option for you.

The Breeze looks and feels like an appliance. And in some ways, it can be an ideal alternative to Apple's entry-level Mac Mini.

Consider my situation: I've got a bunch of aging PCs running Windows XP and I'm tired of patching them. On the one hand, I could install Ubuntu on those aging systems to give them new life. But on the other hand, think of all the consumers out there who don't want the hassle of doing an operating system install.

Surely, millions of consumers have aging Windows hardware that they're ready to abandon. They've got keyboards, mice and LCD screens -- and for about $300 they can swap out their aging desktop and get the Breeze.

Getting Starting

Setting up the Breeze truly is a breeze. Simple, easy-to-follow instructions had me up-and-running with the PC in less than five minutes.

Launching OpenOffice, Firefox and other bundled applications was a snap. While the software registration and configuration process in the Windows and Office worlds can take hours, the folks at Canonical have designed Ubuntu (and its bundled applications) to launch without any registration hassles. Even my two oldest sons -- ages 10 and 8 -- moved from our aging Sony Vaio Windows system to the Breeze without any major hassles.

But I need to remind readers: There's a reason the Breeze has a starting price of $299. Designed around an Intel Atom processor, the Breeze at times feels under-powered, especially if you're running multiple multimedia applications at once.

During those rare times of a system slowdown, the Breeze left me longing for my far-more-powerful Dell Inspiron and its dual-core processor running Ubuntu.

Still, here's a simple rule: If you stick with basic productivity applications and Web browsing, the Breeze is a great option and easy on your wallet.

More Than An Appliance

The other big story here is the company that stands behind the Breeze. I have to admit, I have a few biases: I love Apple hardware, but when it comes to low-cost PCs I typically purchase Dell products.

ZaReason, however, deserves your attention. The company's personalized, responsive service is a welcome alternative to some of the big-name PC companies that typically raise more questions than they answer.

Even before we launched WorksWithU and became a "media" brand in the Ubuntu market, the folks at ZaReason always answered our questions -- online and at industry conferences. So, we like dealing with them and we're inclined to recommend their hardware.

But there's another twist here: ZaReason actually invites customers to open their hardware. The Breeze and other ZaReason systems include an "open hardware warranty."

According to the warranty:
"We allow and even encourage you to lift the lid and see what makes your system hum inside. It's your system after all and we want knowledgeable users, not dependent users."
How refreshing. The company's industry standard warranty covers one year and you can purchase a 2- or 3-year upgrade to continue that warranty.

The Bottom Line: If you need a basic, low-end PC without the hassles and security concerns tied to Windows, ZaReason's Breeze is a breathe of fresh air.

Standard Product Specs:
  • Intel integrated video with accelerated 3D, supports up to 1920x1200
  • Mini tower desktop case
  • Intel Atom processor
  • Uses only 30 watts
  • Drive Bays: 1x 5.25", 1x 3.5"
  • Front Ports: 2x USB 2.0 Ports; 1x Speaker; 1x Mic
  • Rear Ports: 4x USB 2.0 Ports; 1x VGA Port; 1x RJ45 LAN Port; Audio I/O Jacks
  • 4-in-1 card reader: SD/MMC/MS/XD
  • CF card slot internal
  • Mini PCIe card slot
  • Power Supply: 65W External
  • Color: Black
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 240 x 65 x 300 mm


Disclosures: ZaReason sent WorksWithU a Breeze to test for several weeks in September and October. We promptly returned the system to ZaReason following our testing. We do not accept payments, gifts or fees to perform reviews.

WorksWithU is updated multiple times per week. Don’t miss a single post. Sign up for our RSS and Twitter feeds (available now) and newsletter (launching January 2009).