Tablets

Advice from a techie who has learned to love netbooks

TechRepublic member dcolbert shares his experience with netbooks and explains why you shouldn't listen to the advice of people who tried these devices and could never get past the "deal-breakers" to see the full range of possibilities.
This post was written by TechRepublic member dcolbert.

There has been a lot of buzz and many articles recently on the netbook computer phenomenon. A common thread in netbook discussions is that they tend to get derailed on other issues -- often Linux vs. XP debates. Another issue that seems to arise time and time again is their suitability or lack of suitability for a particular purpose. The name itself, "netbook," and the very lightweight configuration of the first and most recognizable consumer netbook -- the Eee PC 701 -- imply certain limitations. Many of the articles that I've read so far seem to suffer from two liabilities.

  1. They're written by very technically competent writers who approach technology the same way an automotive enthusiast might approach muscle cars. That is, the computer-nerd version of, "No replacement for displacement."
  2. They don't seem to account for the fact that if you feel the same as they do, you are probably competent enough to understand the liabilities of netbooks that they're warning readers about. However, if you're not like them in this regard, then it's unlikely that their warnings are going to fully apply to you. This is an odd catch-22 that unfairly discredits the versatility of a good netbook.

I've even heard some authors claim that they've had hands-on experience with multiple netbooks and found the same maddening limitations with all of them. This may very well be true. But I think the key is that those particular authors have not spent any great length of time with any one particular netbook.

I'll relate this to arguments that you have to spend some time with a particular Linux distro or OS X before you can really make an accurate judgment about either alternate OS. Just spending a day or two with each netbook is probably not long enough to begin to adjust and develop new habits to be the most effective you can be with the device. Certainly, many people play with an iPhone for just a few minutes before deciding that the onscreen keyboard is unsuitable -- but those who invest some time and effort soon adjust and may come to find that it isn't such a bad thing after all.

In November of 2008, I took a trip overseas, and shortly before I left, I decided I did not want to lug my 17" HP notebook on a trans-Atlantic trip in coach. I quickly contacted a friend I knew who had an Eee PC 701 and put together a hasty trade just a few days before the trip. Once I had the device in my hands, I quickly blew the limited, Linux-based default OS off the device and installed a copy of Windows XP Home.

During the trip, I was constantly frustrated by the small 7" screen, the difficult keyboard, and the very limited solid state memory. I also had a limited license of XP that was legitimate for the trip but couldn't remain on the machine legally for an indefinite period of time.

But I found that the machine did an admirable job handling some travel limitations during the trip. It was a breeze to get through customs, it was a joy to work with on the seatback tray in coach, it played iPod quality movies without trouble, and it even ran old abandonware games without significant problems. Once in Europe, I was able to access Wi-Fi hotspots, plus connect and keep in touch with e-mail, Facebook, and even post images to photo sharing sites. The advantages clearly outweighed the disadvantages.

Once I returned, I decided that a slightly larger screen and more storage would address my primary concerns, and so in January, I purchased a Lenovo S10 and a 500-GB 2.5" hard drive. This also solved my issue with the limited XP license on the Eee PC. In the time between the trip and my January purchase of the S10, I used the Eee PC 701 personally, professionally, and scholastically.

Many of the reasons I decided to purchase the S10 were because the Eee PC became indispensable. The unit is so unobtrusive, even in comparison to a regular 13" or larger notebook, that these devices actually encourage you to take them everywhere with you. I take it to work, and instead of undocking my work notebook to access and test our public facing network, I pull out the netbook and hit those servers and services. I use the netbook at work to download patches and updates over that same public network, keeping the valuable and more expensive bandwidth on our corporate network free.

I also use the netbook at school. I use it when my daughter has sporting meets. I take it with me almost everywhere. I've even occasionally taken both of them, so that I have one for my wife or kid and one for me. Imagine lugging two traditional notebooks with you. Two netbooks often weigh less than a single traditional notebook. I also worry less about theft or damaging the netbook because of the relative affordability of the device.

On the Eee PC 701, I eventually settled on Ubuntu 8.10 with the Riceeey customized hacks for the Eee PC as an alternative to my soon-to-expire Windows XP license. The Riceeey hacks address many of the odd quirks of installing Ubuntu on an Eee PC, including the screen size, the wireless chipset, and enabling the function keys. It is very suitable, although Ubuntu is actually a bigger resource hog than XP in a default install configuration.

Because Ubuntu left me so tight on space, I eventually purchased a 32-GB SD card and a 32-GB thumb drive. I had another 8-GB thumb drive, and because the Eee PC has three USB slots, it's not unusual for me to have 76-GB of solid state memory available to my EEE PC. This is a fairly decent amount of storage, and it's very inexpensive to acquire.

I actually installed Ubuntu to the 32-GB SD card, which is another interesting aspect of the Eee PC. You can install an OS to the external SD, completely bypassing the internal, non-replaceable SSD drive. You could also conceivably have multiple SD cards installed with different OSs and swap the boot OS out simply by replacing the SD card. That's pretty cool for a device you should be able to pick up used for under $200. Boot time for Ubuntu on the SD card is pretty abysmal -- but once it's booted, the system operates tolerably. I even run the Compiz desktop cube.

Options for wireless broadband are robust for netbooks, including USB or PCMCIA Express, with integrated, contract-supported solutions from your favorite carrier in the near future. I personally use modem tethering through my Windows Mobile pocket phone, and I've had great results surfing at locations with no Wi-Fi using this method.

Both the S10 and the Eee PC make sacrifices to achieve such a small footprint, yet either unit can hook up to external keyboard, mouse, and CRT to make an effective desktop alternative in a pinch. Many users who never do anything more complicated than surfing the Web, reading e-mail, and writing simple documents would probably find most current netbooks a little sluggish at times, but no worse than some of the still serviceable PCs from the last couple of generations. I mean, I still use a Mac PowerPC 933, and it works well in many situations. I have a sister who struggles with a P3 1 GHZ, but she isn't ready to upgrade. A decent netbook will generally perform equal to or better than either of these machines.

And maybe that's really my point. I'm always amused when I see a person driving a BMW M3 simply because it was the most expensive 3 series they could buy -- not because there's ever a chance that they'll take their expensive machine to the performance limit it's capable of. Likewise, I think a lot of people spend $1000 or more on a PC that they will rarely, if ever, tax the capabilities of.

It's quite possible that the majority of PC buyers fit this profile. Specifically, for a lot of people, I think a netbook offers a great mid-tier solution that hits a sweet spot with portability while also being a great desktop replacement alternative. I think many people will frequently use it as a portable PC, not just as a PC they can sit on the couch and watch TV while working. Most notebooks are under-utilized in their role as portable PCs. They spend most of their time sitting on the same desktop. Netbooks can approach the utility of a portable phone, coming along with you on many more trips than you would ever consider bringing your notebook along for.

I think these people will also find that the netbook actually replaces many, most, or even all of their needs from a desktop PC. When you boil it down, if you know a netbook is not for you, you're probably right. If you're not sure, you should certainly give it a try -- it'll probably do everything you need and more, and cost you a whole lot less than most of the alternatives that you might be considering. I think it makes more sense to listen to the advice of someone who tried these devices and found them useful than to listen to the advice of someone who tried these devices and could never get past the "deal-breakers" to see the full range of possibilities they open up.

Finally, I will say that the netbook market is rapidly changing, and you should approach it with a certain amount of caution. At this point, there really isn't any reason to consider anything but an Intel Atom-based processor. I also suggest staying away from solid state memory, which is more expensive and offers less capacity. In addition, I recommend that you avoid Linux unless you're a competent pro with this OS, as the various Linux distros are still working out their place in the netbook market.

Dual core and touch screen convertible netbooks are right around the corner, as is the high probability of Windows 7-based netbooks, so this current moment is not the best time to buy unless you're certain you've got an incredible deal on your hands. Finally, several months ago it was rare to find a netbook on display at a major retailer, but now Toys-R-Us, WalMart, Target, Best Buy, and other Brick-n-Mortar stores have netbooks on display, so go down and play around with several of them and get a feel for what they are like. They have different build qualities, keyboard arrangements, ports, and expansion options. Just like any other purchase, to be happiest with your choice, do your research well.

About

Sonja Thompson has worked for TechRepublic since October of 1999. She is currently a Senior Editor and the host of the Smartphones and Tablets blogs.

47 comments
phlcarp
phlcarp

As Mac OS X is the best of all Operating Systems, get a netbook with Mac OS X : the Dell Mini 9 is the most compatible and a wonderfull solution... You have to do some hacking, but it's easy, and it works OK, even with the last 10.5.7. Googlelize "Mac OS X" "Dell mini 9", and prepare to get your hands dirty.

trevor2254
trevor2254

I bought an Acer Aspire One with 120Gb disk just so I can take photographs and copy them onto the netbook. Its lightweight and easy to carry around...just what I wanted. It won't replace my laptop or desktop machines though. They serve a different purpose.

scantool
scantool

I am an automotive instructor who travels extensively across the US. In our industry the only "supported"" OS is windows xp. It can be either home or professional. Finding a laptop today that has this is no easy task. I now own an Eee pc 1000H and I love it. I now use it for all of my powerpoints, contacts, and basically everything I used my 17" Dell for. It's a breeze to carry around and works well as a diagnostic scantool for computer systems on vehicles. When I am home I dock it with a 22" monitor, keyboard and mouse. I think this is the best investment an automotive technician could make.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I'm still reading the article but I couldn't wait for this one. With my own gadget, installing the OS to an external SD was one of the first adjustments since the internal NVRAM is not replaceable and has limited space. The result was the factory firmware installed on the internal NVRAM and two versions of the device OS booting from the SD card. If I want Maemo 2007, I just select it from the boot menu. If I want Maemo 2008, I just select it from the boot menu. If I chew either install, I boot from the internal NVRAM a-la system rescue style. I have an older device and the newer one. The older went to a family member which meant simply slipping out my SD and sliding in a clean one. It didn't fit the needs and came back to me; I popped my old SD back in and there was my triple boot system just as I'd left it. Based on that, I don't see any reason why one couldn't have a binder full of SDs storing various OS installs. Need Windows for something; pop in the SD and boot. Need a specific Linux distro for something; pop in the SD. Heck, the Backtrack 3 USB ISO would be my first project after selecting a primary distro for the machine. Enough gooshing like a school-girl.. gotta go read the rest

chris
chris

If you're running that and complaining about running "tolerably", I suggest to you reconsider your choices.

sidekick
sidekick

I've started looking into netbooks for someone and one of the big concerns was having a standard keyboard. I guess some netbooks have a non-standard keyboard? This is what I was told, anyhow. Any thoughts, comments on this?

santeewelding
santeewelding

Good handling that provides me with what is in the news of the day as, "actionable intelligence". I don't care how facile and glib you are -- your piece had to take more than a few minutes putting together. It shows, and I enjoyed it.

Dogcatcher
Dogcatcher

If you would like to love your netbook even more, get an Asus Eee PC 1000HE with XP Home. Replace the 1 Gb RAM module with a 2 Gb module for less than $25 and you'll have a netbook that is amazingly fast for ordinary tasks. The Eee boots faster than any of my other PCs. Intel's Atom N280 CPU and associated components combine to make the Eee 1000HE even better than the N270 used in most other netbooks. You'll also have "N" wifi and bluetooth built in. Don't bother with Linux on 1000HE. I tested at least a dozen distributions and none came close to the functionality of XP Home. Never before have I recommended XP Home, but it is a perfect for the Eee. Also, every function key and applet just works. Win7 RC also runs well on the 1000HE, but right now you have to manually port some drivers and applets to get all the functions working.

iravgupta
iravgupta

"I?ve even occasionally taken both of them, so that I have one for my wife or kid and one for me." You have wife????? I thought you were supposed to have a husband.

rudy
rudy

I too have grown to love my netbook (Dell mini 9) over the last few months. The majority of real production time is spent on 2 desktop computers with dual 19' monitors (one at home one at work), so my primary use of the netbook is traveling to customer sites and taking notes and using it instead of paper anywhere else I go. Since my email is in the cloud with Google as well as all of my other main applications, keeping the netbook "clean" with just firefox, office, and a few essentials like Evernote, Tweetdeck, and others provides are very efficient computing environment. You can't beat the boot time on these devices and I've gotten around the smaller storage footprint by being selective on the applications I install on the device. Leveraging some key syncing software (Evernote syncs all of my notes and information and SugarSync does the files) you can easily keep your information accessible no matter where you are at. I can literally use the netbook to take notes during a meeting and by the time I sit back down to my desktop to work all of that information has been sync'd and is available for me. I get a lot of people asking me how I work on that thing (I have pretty big hands), but after awhile you just get used to it. My only remaining grip is the location of the '" key on the Dell (non standard spot so I hit the enter key instead). The device has easily paid for itself already with the increased productivity and paper removal from my life.

stomfi
stomfi

I use the stock standard with Xandros and a USB 3G Modem, plus an SD Card for a swap file and a key for data storage and transfer to my static desktop. Fantastic device for cloud computing, Skype phoning, finding my way with Google Maps, and computing in a coffee shop without having to clear the table. At only $AUD300, a lot cheaper than a 3G Mobile phone, and a lot easier to type long messages. The inbuilt camera is so handy for taking pictures that can be seen on the 7" screen, as well as Skyping. The addition of a wireless laptop mouse and a spare battery pack makes it perfect for all day use. I tried the bigger model, but it didn't fit into my small back pack or jacket pocket like the 701 did.

wildcatsystems
wildcatsystems

I have the Acer Aspire One 160GB HDD model. It came with XP Home which lasted for awhile. I have had XP, Ubuntu Netbook Remix, and OS X installed on it (tri-boot configuration) and it handled all perfectly (with the exception of OS X which the wireless would not work). I tried both the Win 7 beta and the RC. The beta lasted 2 days before problems arose and the RC lasted 4 hours. I now have Netbook Remix (Jaunty) on it. I have XBOX Media Center installed on it and it works perfectly. I previously had a Thinkpad T40. I'm a support tech so I carried the laptop along with all of the other peripherals and the bag was getting pretty heavy. The netbook has considerably lightened the load. The only problem I've had is while connected to an external monitor. XP and OSX both could not get the resolution correct. Ubuntu got it right without any playing around in the display settings. I'll keep my netbook for awhile (with Ubuntu only). The only thing I don't like on this netbook (and all others are the same) is the trackpad. It's horrible so I have a mini mouse and keyboard which work nicely. A trackpoint with the two mouse buttons ala Thinkpad would be excellent. Acer is coming out with the Timeline series weighing in at as little as 3.5 pounds and they have an 8+ hour operating capacity. So, maybe that will be in the future. But I will still keep the netbook until it dies. Even then I'll get another!

dcolbert
dcolbert

So, I'm wondering if I'm on the same page as the majority opinion in my stand on netbooks. I think they're going to fundamentally change the way that people approach Personal Computing for a broad segment of the PC buying demographic. Do you agree, or do you think that Netbooks are just the Pet-Rock of 2009?

dcolbert
dcolbert

This is exactly the kind of application (and the kind of testimonial) I had in mind when I wrote this article. Compared to the I.T. professionals who usually write these articles, even if you're a gear-head and a gadget junky, you're probably more of a casual user. I imagine you don't have the kind of access to all kinds of bleeding edge tech that someone who works directly in the industry has, and you probably don't want to sink tons of your OWN money into playing around with all this gear. You probably have better users for your money. This kind of "profile", to me, is the sweet spot for Netbooks, and represents FAR more users worldwide than "my" group/profile of ture propeller-heads.

dregeh
dregeh

Have you tried XP on the SD card? I'd love to know what the performance would be...it's especially of interest b/c of the portability. As new netbooks comes out with better features, it would be a HUGE advantage to be able to take your OS with you w/o ANY configuration time wasted. Thoughts??

Dogcatcher
Dogcatcher

With the larger hard drives in newer netbooks, another option is to put the OSs on the hard drive and then multi-boot. Relative to the disk size, the OSs don't take much room. Set up a common data partition if you need it.

dcolbert
dcolbert

So... The Compiz cube is actually quite fast flipping and rotating. Which has far more to do with the integrated Intel graphic GPU than the Celeron 900 clocked at 600 on the Eee PC. The Compiz cube being enabled should also have marginal, if any effect on the areas where performance is "tolerable", for example, loading Firefox for the first time. Additionally, by tolerably, I mean just that. It isn't going to blow your socks off with super fast speeds, but it isn't so slow that it is unusable. It is tolerable. You might notice that the boot of Debian takes a considerable while longer on the Eee PC 701, loading from SD card, than loading on a Core Duo machine from a fast SATA hard drive. But it is REASONABLE. The point that you missed was, "it will EVEN run the Compiz cube, pretty fast". That shouldn't lose you. It should pique your interest. *ESPECIALLY* if you're a Linux fanboy (which I must assume, based on the barely concealed contempt and hostility in your post, which is (c) "The Linux Community".) Although XP runs equally speedy on the Eee PC 701 too - even at the 600 Mhz default clock speed.

robo_dev
robo_dev

the keyboard works OK. If I need to type a document of some sort I just hook up a USB external keyboard. The only issue I have with the keyboard is that a couple of keys like the \ and the Del are in odd places. I have to stop and look for those. But for 99% of the time, surfing the web or whatever, the keyboard works fine.

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

The HP mini's claim to have a keyboard that is 92% of a full sized keyboard. That is one of the reasons I bought the HP. I find that it is pretty usable. The only thing I would change is I would like to have the keys a little concave instead of completely flat. Bill

Dogcatcher
Dogcatcher

What you'll likely notice most is that the keys on a netbook are smaller than standard or notebook keys, so you have to be a little more precise with your fingers when typing. The other big change, in common with all but the largest notebooks, is that there is no numeric keypad. The keys on the numeric pad become part of the Fn keyset. These limitations are not much of a problem in typical day-to-day use. However, if you have to do a lot of numeric data entry, you'd probably be happier with a full-size laptop or with an external keyboard. Beyond that, you'll just have to try the keyboard to see whether its feel and position and size of control and function keys suits your style.

dcolbert
dcolbert

It seems to depend largely on the person. If you have a smartphone/iPhone and adjusted to the keyboard on that to the point where you are able to text fairly fast, then you should be able to adjust to the keyboard on a Netbook without major difficulty. Otherwise, either this could be a deal breaker - OR, it might be something you will just be willing to live with on the road, with the idea you'll plug in a usb keyboard when you can (at the office, at home on the desk), to be "normally" productive. If you're the kind of typist who can achieve good speeds on almost anything given a little time to adjust, like I am, (I can even do pretty good on those membrane keyboards and the image projected keyboard or other keyboards that don't give feedback), no worries. I'll admit the Eee PC 701 keyboard is inferior to the S10 keyboard, which was part of my choice. There are varying qualities and degrees of sacrifice. Some keyboards have radically different layouts, and I guess a couple models actually have keyboard layouts virtually identical to a full sized notebook. I'd hit the brick and mortars and check out a few differnt models, open up notepad and start typing away for a good couple of paragraphs, if I was particular about keyboards.

dcolbert
dcolbert

This is not the limited license you're looking for... This eee PC has Ubuntu 8.04 on it now, anyhow... Move along, move along...

dcolbert
dcolbert

I'm so impatient with new tech, I often find myself with "last year's hot new emerging technology" that seemed like magic at the time, but appears woefully underpowered by today's standards. And depreciation on last year's tech is usually so outrageous that selling it to be able to offset the price of upgrading to the latest and greatest doesn't make much sense, either. So, I'll probably still be trying to squeeze out every dollar of value from my S10 when netbooks are coming in quad-core extreme gaming editions for under $400. :)

dcolbert
dcolbert

Nope. I have a wife. :) I'd have to move to Maine if I wanted a husband. :) If I said something in a post that implied my gender was other than what it is (male), I was probably being sarcastic in a way that required cultural context to understand, would be my first guess.

dcolbert
dcolbert

I agree, to a certain extent, that leveraging the cloud gives these boxes that added little boost in productivity that really sells them... But I disagree that they are ONLY suitable for "the cloud" or for people who are leveraging it. I mean, you can use a decent netbook in a fairly traditional way. You can store, manage and replay your digital content, you can run a traditional local mail client connected to the POP or IMAP server of your choice, you can run most applications that most people run most often - without ever really getting into running actual Cloud Apps. I think the Cloud compliments regular, traditional computing - and Netbooks do, too. But that is part of the misinformation about Netbooks that has people unsure. You do NOT need to understand "The Cloud" to find a netbook useful as a highly portable second computer. If you're thinking about buying an iPod or other music player, you might at some point want to consider a netbook. A 160gb iPod "Classic" doesn't have a lot on a 500gb Lenovo S10 as a portable, battery operated media player. Especially if you plan on ever popping that iPod into one of those 7" LCD Screen devices to use it as something like a portable DVD player. FWIW, I have an 80GB iPod classic and the Memorex 7" LCD adaptor - and I still use them from time to time. But the S10 can do everything they can, has more than 5 times the storage, and can do a lot more, as well. My Netbook has certainly marginalized my iPod in my bag of gadgets.

robo_dev
robo_dev

It runs XP, it's not terribly fast, but it does the job. It's silent, no moving parts, terrific screen, and weighs 1.1 lbs. Use it for web surfing over wlan. Cost $296 delivered (Dell open box).

seven2seven
seven2seven

Right now people are riding the whole 'economy sucks' wave so anything that would offer a cheep alternative (to anything) people would go for it. On other hand there is a significant % of users out there that never really used their computers for more than email, web browsing and few image/video exchanges. I am up for this type of product under one BIG condition...that manufacturers do not turn it into race again of 'my netbook is faster than yours' because it would beat the purpose. Are they here to say? -Probably not.

bankkolle
bankkolle

Hi Dcolbert, I'm just hearing about Netbook i'll need to know more. Anyway i need a cogent advice, i just came back from a Microsoft training in India and still checking out for a job i need to start IT Consulting on my own with helping Businesses to send bulk e-mails to customers and bulk e-mail recipients for advert and awareness purposes. Support with resources will be appreciated. Regards, Prayz

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I agree, and even take it further. I'm trying to use my iPhone almost exclusively for the very same reasons. A netbook with Win 7 is in my future.

robo_dev
robo_dev

I have more than 10 other PCs at home. Everything from rack-mount compaq servers to some high-end workstations. But the dell mini9 sits next to the TV remote where I can check mail or use ultraVNC to remote control into other PCs at home. I also use the mini9 to run the viewer app for my home video surveillance system.

dcolbert
dcolbert

XP is lighter, leaner and more efficient than Ubuntu 8.04 for the vast majority of tasks. That isn't a slam against Ubuntu or *nix - it is simply an observation. A default install of Ub 8.04 includes a LOT of overhead - and requires a powerful machine. So, apples to apples, my largely unmodified Ubuntu 8.04 install on an Eee PC 701 via bootable SD card should be roughly representative of the performance one would expect from Windows XP. That is, I would expect it would be, at worst, tolerable for the most common applications. In some areas, like video rendering and browsing, XP would likely have a significant advantage. I mean, the ability to run Chrome alone, you're going to see a performance increase there versus being stuck with Firefox on Ubuntu. But, with that said, I *haven't* tried, so I could be wrong. There may be something about XP/Win32 that just runs too slow on a SD Card. Of course, it might absolutely blow the doors of *nix running this way, too. I don't have a spare license right now to test it out.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I'm basing my experience off the Nokia N810 which is not the same class of device though it has similarities. For it specifically, there are some kernel mods that enable highspeed SD access with noticeable performance increases. With Windows, it would be a matter of finding out if there was such a mod you can use or if it's limited to recognizing a lower speed for the SDHC chips. If it's a hardware limit and your already getting the maximum speed of the SD reader then your hooped. My primary platform would be Debian, Mandriva or Backtrack hypothetically but some of the others are already running WinXP on netbooks.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

My initial reason was size but that was quickly followed by flash write limits. Since the internal storage on my particular device is not removable, I moved the OS to storage which was removable. Same would apply to a netbook for me; if the SSD is removable then I'm good with a dualboot on the same drive. Add a "boot from SD" option in the menu and I can have my two or three bootable platforms with any other's on removable media. If the netbook's internal storage is not removable then your looking at a lifespan limited by how much you write back to the drive.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

will ask my MS account manager, citing this post as an example. Edit - Typo.

jos.paglia
jos.paglia

I wonder if the confusion came from the fact that your post is hosted on Sonia's blog?

dominic.blomfield
dominic.blomfield

A netbook is small, light, powerful enough, connects to the internet, through solid state will hold tons (whats the theoretical limit on a stick 32GB now - 128GB - 1TB??) and works on Mars (see Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson with special ref to the "lectern" - a laptop/ media centre/ communications device). Sorry I digress. Advent 4211B - I watch films and shows on the train to work on nice BIG 10 inch screen or write simple docs while listening to music, and can literally throw it in my bag at the end. Just wish it had a 9 cell battery and a much smaller power supply (some of the train seats have sockets!! Have already cut the cables down, for weight) Any thoughts on an alternative netbook? (only use an iPod for music cos its smaller) Anyone thought of putting XP pro on a netbook?

JamesRL
JamesRL

For my work, I use a big laptop which can be decribed a s a desktop replacement. I need to review spreadsheets, powerpoints etc, so a Netbook isn't going to cut it. But my main machine at home is a gamers PC - tons of RAM, a gamer's video card etc. It isn't at all portable, but when I need portability I don't need a desktop replacement laptop either - just something for surfing etc. So I can see people having both. I'm doing a tour of Europe in July. I would not bring a full size laptop with me, but I would be happy to bring a Netbook, to store my photos, check my email, etc. James

dcolbert
dcolbert

I may not be typical or representative... But I bought my first netbook at the last minute for a vacation to Spain. It wasn't really an issue of money for me. Which is kind of where I am headed for this. I don't think the sweet spot for Netbooks is necessarily where the press seems to think it is. I think most people who buy netbooks actually buy a lot of expensive gadgets and tend to be affluent and tend to be more focused on function, features and rewards than cost. Cost is ALWAYS a factor - which is why things like the Airbook or the tiny Sony "Not a Netbook", don't seem to catch on. The average Netbook is a sweet spot for someone who already has a $1200-$2500 notebook *and* a Smartphone and an iPod... For $200-$600 I'll buy a netbook, but get up to something that is $1000 or more with a slow Via processor, a small screen, and only 16gb of SSD ram and the value to cost ratio doesn't make sense. I will say that some of the "subnotebook" models have almost all the same features in a footprint only marginally larger than my S10, with the advantage of being full, core duo processors. Dell and Lenovo both make models in this niche. Thinking about my own use, I see two ways that could work for me. I have a need for a large notebook. I have a 17" multimedia HP. It is a core duo machine, quite powerful. I use it for camping, and around the house as a portable desktop. But it isn't truly portable. If I need a very portable unit, I have inexpensive netbooks to fill that role. I could also conceivably get along with a very powerful subnotebook, core duo, configured with the same kind of features - but I'd want a large format Atom for simple jobs around the house. Something like the Eee PC all-in-one atom desktops that are coming onto the market. For me, the first option/mix of machines is best. But in either case, I have two radically different needs that one single machine compromises on one side or the other in a way that I don't find acceptable. To me, the *ridiculous* option would be to have the super powerful multimedia desktop replacement machine *and* the super powerful subnote also. I don't have THAT kind of money to burn. But if I *did*, choice 3, this last one, would probably be my preference. I bet there is someone on this forum who has done exactly that, too. :)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

You may be dealing with legitimate companies pushing mail to subscribed recipients but it smells to much like a spam op.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Are certainly the wild-cards here. My nephew had a Touch while we were in Spain, and they are fascinating devices to me - very well executed. He was under-utilizing his. He didn't understand the WiFi on the Touch. I tried to assist him, but it kind of gave me the bug for one. What would be cool is if these kind of devices eventually integrated with bluetooth or other wireless peripheral - so it could become kind of the "Tower PC" that connects to: A projector External Monitor, Keyboard and Mouse. External Hard Drive Pair of 3D glasses Stereo headset. It would also be nice if solid state memory prices would come down tremendously while capacity came up, making them competitive with traditional magnetic media. It sounds like a device you would see in a sci-fi movie, but I think we've got the basic technology to do it today. Not sure why no one has done it yet. The trick is: a: Either the base device reference design needs to be open, so that it can proliferate like the original IBM PC design did. b: It needs to reach a critical mass like the iPod, so that various other vendors are willing to accomodate whatever "standards" are required to make accessories that interface with the device. If that happened, I think we would have an ideal device that concievably could replace MOST of our gadgets. It is your desktop PC, your portable PC, your streaming media set top box, your PSP or DSi, your home gaming console, your music player, your home theater system and portable theater system, your eBook reader, your phone... A guy can dream... :) WHEN this device arrives, I bet it has a fruit on the case, somewhere.

dcolbert
dcolbert

I hear that is where the real money is... "The Little Netbook that could".... I can illustrate, too. Watercolor? :)

dcolbert
dcolbert

Sonja is the patron saint of abrassive Microsoft Fanboys. :)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I want the overpowered desktop I can get inside, use for gaming or other resource intensive tasks. Then, I want the Daisho; laptop + PDA. Bigger box for big cuts, smaller box for utility and supple work. (For the history geeks; the irony is that my katana is work issued and wakizashi is personal. Traditionally, the katana would be personal or issued for utility where the wakizashi would be issued by an employer completing the Daisho to denote rank.) I could see my Daisho going netbook + PDA. While the power in the notebook would still have it's place, adding the fourth level of the netbook would mean a machine I could toss in my backpack beside the PDA as standard kit.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

At that time, the most interesting looked like a hard drive box. When on the road you had a minimal interface. At home and in the office, you dropped it in a doc connecting your monitor, keyboard and other periferals. Having current PDA provide the hardware core component used alone or dropped into a cradle system for full functionality can't be that hard to do. I suspect it's similar to Apple's Newton though; a device too far ahead of it's time that the market couldn't figure out what to do with it. (Apple's management didn't help that specific example either)

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