General Question

kevbo's avatar

Latest netbook opinions?

Asked by kevbo (24166 points ) February 27th, 2009

We’re looking at one for my gf. She’s a typical light user (e-mail, pictures, web). Here are some criteria:

1. Likes 90–9X% of full keyboard size (i.e. no Inspiron Minis).
2. Doesn’t want to spend more than $500.
3. Would prefer to be able to install Verizon software and sync with LG Dare via bluetooth (and USB).
4. Doesn’t need a large internal drive, since we have an external USB drive available.
5. Must have Windows XP.
6. Unsure about Wi-Fi vs 3G, but probably Wi-Fi since it’s more or less free. (If she really wanted to, she could tether via bluetooth.)

It seems like the market is in a bit of flux right now with prices dropping and packages consolidating to the Atom processor and 1GB configs. I’ve looked at cnet, but I think Fluther opinions would help more. Thanks!

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8 Answers

battlemarz's avatar

I bought one of the first gen Eee PCs, the 701, when they first came out. If i was to purchase one today it would probably be the Eee PC 1000HE.

It has Intel’s newer atom N280, 92–93% keyboard size (can’t recall exactly), in your price range, i would assume you can install the software since it has XP Home, you may need a USB CD drive though. 802.11-n and bluetooth.

The only downside to the Eee’s is the sometimes difficult Asus support lines. If you are concerned about manufacturer’s support, then your only real options are Dell and HP.

jasongarrett's avatar

I got my wife an MSI Wind for Christmas and we both love it. It has XP Home and a nearly-full-size keyboard, and bluetooth support is available. The before-Christmas price, without bluetooth, was $350.

Update: Current price with bluetooth is $399.

kevbo's avatar

@Foolaholic, you must know my girlfriend. ;-). She was stoked about a pink Inspiron before we got a hands on impression.

Thanks everyone. More opinions still welcome!

kevbo's avatar

Huh. I didn’t realize that the Inspiron Mini came in a 9 and a 12. So in my criteria, I meant the Mini 9. But, it looks like they now have a Mini 10 with multi-touch, which I should have added to the list as a preference. That might be the winner.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

@kevbo, I was going to post this exact question tonight myself except for myself

When I’m at social media club meetings, a number of people have Asus netbooks, I think it really fits in nicely between phone and laptop, which can be a pain in some situations. Wired had an article this month about netbooks, but it didn’t entirely answer my questions..

I’m looking at a Dell and Asus 1000eee at BestBuys. The Dell is more sleekly designed but the Asus has more memory. The Wired article alluded to using online methods of working rather than software on a hard drive. With a Netbook, what comes installed? What do you really need/not need? (pocket drive for storing larger files?) Can you purchase music on iTunes with a Netbook? How would you add music from CDs to an iPod with a Netbook? Windows or Linux?

kevbo's avatar

@AlfredaPrufrock, yeah, the idea of a netbook is that software on the internet will replace or augment software loaded onto the computer. It’s also an evolutionary step where we’ve all come to realize that technology from 5 years ago is wholly adequate for our everyday computing needs (e-mail, web, pictures, music). The best way to think of a netbook (I think) is to imagine the guts of a 4 or 5 year old computer that have been miniaturized in a small and more portable package.

What comes installed, generally, is an operating system (most commonly a user friendly version of Linux or Windows XP) and in the case of a Windows XP installation, you get Internet Explorer, probably Windows Media Player, WordPad, and it seems that most come with Microsoft Works which is a watered down version of Microsoft Office plus other “standard” XP software.

What you need or don’t need is a matter of personal use. Originally, I think netbooks had small hard drives (like 4 GB small) because it wasn’t meant for work with large files or large libraries of files, but now it looks like there are many with 160 GB hard drives, which is plenty. For example, my music collection of 3,600 songs takes up 15 GB).

On top of that (and the Atom processor and 1 GB RAM noted above), it seems that most come with a few USB ports and other connectors that allow you to attach peripherals (such as a USB hard drive or USB CD/DVD drive). What doesn’t come on a netbook is an internal CD/DVD drive. Again, the idea is that you don’t need it because you can download everything off the net. If you want to put your CD collection on the netbook, you need to either do it from another computer or an external CD/DVD drive purchased separately.

Yes, you can download iTunes and purchase music on a netbook, I’m 99.9% sure. You’d transfer music to your iPod via iTunes just as you would on a regular computer.

You probably want Windows XP. Linux requires more gumption and elbow grease.

The other factors I’m learning about are variation in battery life from 3 hours up to 6 hours or more. More battery life means a bigger batter (3 cell vs. 6 cell) which means a slightly bulkier form. Some touchpads are multi-touch, which I think is essential for all the scrolling you’ll be doing. Others have a dedicated area for scrolling on the right side of the touchpad, which is okay, too.

It seems that most of the essential specs across different models are comparable with some variation in bells and whistles. In my looking around today, it seems keyboard comfort stands out as a make or break factor. The Dell Mini 9 was just stupidly small, while the HP model had nearly full size keys. But, if you’re a hunt and peck typist that might not make as much of a difference.

While we were looking around tonight, my gf decided she was even comfortable going to a 12” screen size, which is above the netbook sizes of 10” and 9”, so that opens up some options. The 12”, of course, has a full-size keyboard, an internal CD/DVD drive and fewer compromises overall.

tehrani625's avatar

I was thinking about getting a netbook vs an iPod touch. But I just got an LG incite on att and I like it a lot. As far as getting an optical drive with a net book the cheapest way to do it would be to buy a desktop disk drive on newegg and then put it in a cheep enclosure. It should end up being like $30—$40.

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