Windows Notebook Sotec WH 336

Windows notebook Sotec WH 336

More screen and power than a netbook, for a lot less.

Oh this was interesting. One of our local Japanese acquaintances gave it to me as “payment” for setting up his new low-end but expensive new PC he bought at hell’s gate (Yamada denki, stay away). Cheapskate, I thought. It had a half-dead screen, too little RAM, and too much gunk on it. It wasn’t just the Japanese Windows; it was like the proverbial kei-truck with an elephant in the back.

Then, having no time to fix it, I sorted the most glaring software issues, crossed my fingers, put it in a bag, and took it with me on my visit to Hungary. Here’s a picture at Nagoya Airport, still with the original hideous “dead panda” background. It was smaller, lighter and at 1,5 hours it had a better battery than my then-current main laptop. It had no issues, so I got complacent and instead of fixing it, took it with me to Phoenix, AZ too. It worked well again. It wasn’t until a week after that the screen issues resurfaced. This time I got around to fixing it properly. The screen backlight was going on and off, which usually means that the inverter board, the screen’s control circuit has given up. The sceen itself rarely ever fails.

Taking it apart was interesting. Usually the screen is affixed to the lid, the plastic on the back of the screen. Then the lid connects to the hinges, forming the open-close mechanism. The screen frame, the thin plastic around the screen’s edges comes off easily. This one didn’t want to come off, however I tried, so I started working the other way around. Turns out, the screen was glued to the screen frame, which connected to the hinges, and formed the open-close mechanics. Then the lid was just smacked on the back of the screen as a “decoration”.  Thankfully the inverter board was in the usual place, under the screen, between the hinges. As it turns out it wasn’t faulty. Just the cables needed re-routing and the connectors deserved a good cleaning. No issues since, and this was in April.

Then I got around to my usual game, maxing the RAM memory out. You can never have enough (sign up for my “Computer Speed Secrets” e-course to find out why). Sotec’s site gives the maximum as 1.25GB, which I thought was BS. That is not a practical limit unless they soldered the first 256mb on the motherboard. You never know; sometimes big makers do. There was only one memory slot on the bottom of the PC. That’s the usual location, and inserting a 1GB module gave 1.25GB, the theoretical maximum. Which, let’s face it, is not enough these days. 2GB is required for practical usability today. So then, where does the other 0.25GB, or 256MB come from? Is there an other slot somewhere, or is it fixed on the motherboard and non-upgradeable ? I started taking it apart to find out. Luckily I already knew that part of the keyboard cover comes off with the hinges (gosh, what was this designer on?) so getting inside was a snap. The RAM was under the keyboard, hidden below the shielding plate (which is, well, just a metal plate). Lots of screws, but nothing particularly difficult. Luckily it was in the form of a memory module. It was a snap to replace it with an other 1GB module (at an other 3000 yen.. gulp).  Now with 2GB, Windows was finally up to speed.

I guess Sotec was conservative with the RAM specifications because they didn’t want customers looking inside the PC; there’s a lot that can go wrong there if you’re not careful.

Oh, the old 256mb module that came out from under the keyboard makes an excellent keychain.

At this point the CPU was up next; 1.5 Ghz Celeron up to 2 Ghz Pentium M sped up things further. Interestingly it improved battery life too, thanks to the power management functions that are disabled on the crippled Celeron CPUs.

If you have a Celeron in a slightly older laptop you should consider upgrading to a better chip; gives new life to the machine.

Sotec, by the way, is a well-established Japanese computer maker. It’s the mid-range brand of Onkyo, who do hi-fi audio and flashy PCs. Sotec offers solid value minus the bling.

Ready to go now; I’ve had my fun with this one, there are others waiting.

Price: 14900 yen including shipping

Contact Me about Sotec Windows notebook


Hours spent: 6+

Difficulty rating: 60%


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Hi, Sandor here. Thanks for visiting. Computer trouble in Japan? You've come to the right place!

I am 34 years old, and have been fixing computers since 1994, since before I finished high school. Then I got a degree in Computer Science, had my own PC shop, worked at a top laptop maker in England. Then I came to Japan; it's what I always wanted to do.

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