Seeking Opinions: Netbooks

hp-compaq-8510pI suspect that there is a netbook in my near-term future. My travel to and from Toronto last week reinforced this sense. At three hours that flight is about as long as you’d want to be on a 50 seat regional jet. Such is the reality of air travel these days. Smaller aircraft are being used on longer flights so that they can still offer a few flights a day on less traveled routes. While really do like my HP NX8510p notebook it’s just too large to be useful in small spaces, like on a regional jet.

Further, a lot of the stuff that I’m doing these days is “in-the-cloud” as they say. So many of my activities don’t require major applications installed on the platform before me. It would seem that a netbook with some reasonable amount of local storage would make some sense for me. I’m not sure I’d go for one with inboard 3G ‘net access. They seem to costly at the moment.

Tim Higgins over at Small Net Builder has been in a protracted search for a netbook. He’s actually taken delivery of three different models;

Each of these he ended up returning fairly quickly after discovering some show-stopping aspect of the device. In a recent email he told me that he’s jut received a Dell Mini 12 as his next candidate, but was also quite taken with the forthcoming HP 2140 (pictured) which he saw at CES 2009.

hp-mini-2140-netbook1

Tim has a really clear idea of what he wants, what works and what doesn’t. I suspect that whatever he settles on has got to be very good.

I also thought that perhaps I should inquire with a broader group of users. And so I find myself asking;

  1. Do you own a netbook?
  2. If so, what make/model?
  3. Would you recommend it?
  4. Why?
  • I bought an EEEPC 4G (Asus) for the kids. They have a problem with loading viruses on the other PCs, but all they do is web based stuff anyway (and iTunes).

    The system is decent and works well for them. It has two complaints so far. 1) The screen is just too small. I know that is the idea, but I would love this machine with a bigger screen. We tried to send a document from Google Docs last night, and the only way we could do it was minimizing all the tool bars – some apps just are not designed for a screen that small.

    The other problem we had was with WPA security on the wireless. I could not get it to work so I instead changed to WEP security Not a big deal as I was having to set it up new anyway, but I would prefer the better security. I did google it and found lots of people had the same problem (seems stupid not to QC wireless on a netbook) and there are some fixes out there, but I didn’t have the patience to continue down that road.

    The kids do like it, and it costs less than $200. I could see traveling with it.

    If I was buying it for me, I would get a bigger screen and take a closer look at the XP models – but the Linux isn’t bad and even came with games.

  • As I’ve mentioned on the SNB forums, I’m a fan of my Acer Aspire One. I’ve taken it apart and replaced the 120GB with a 320GB and the 512MB module in the slot with a 1GB module. I love it – the Acer lasts about 2.5 hours on the three cell, and a lot longer, I’m told with the six cell, which I don’t have. This is with the screen on 30% brightness, WiFi on, BT dongle attached. The keyboard is perfectly sized with everything well laid out and very responsive: clicky, not mushy.

    I should note that I bought my AA1 when the choice was the Asus EeePC (with a 7″ 800×480 screen at the same price as my 9″ 1024×600 AA1), the HP 2133 (which ran very, very hot), and the AA1. After playing with the HP 2133 at the Microcenter, I nearly bought it, but for the reports that it was very hot running and that its performance was not up to spec with the Atom. So it was a pretty easy decision – $399 (and I got $50 back two weeks later when Acer cut the price) for the AA1 was a great deal. Today… I don’t know. They’re all variations on a theme, so I may well have ended up with the AA1. In about two months though, if the HP 2140 is price-competitive, then I might have opted for that because of the 1366×768 screen, and the slightly larger keyboard.

    I’d say wait if you can. If you can’t wait, I think you could do worse than the AA1 – a lot worse. The only issue I have with it is the finger-print magnet nature of its covering. The only other problem some other folks have is the side-mounted mouse buttons – I don’t have a problem using it that way occasionally, but given the very nature of the compromises one is accepting with a netbook, I’d say an external BT mouse is worth it anyway.

    One thing I can say though with confidence is to avoid the MSI Wind. My flatmate has one and… half the time she spends with it is spent swearing because the someone’s breath hit the touchpad and the cursor has been randomly moved. No ability to adjust sensitivity, either.

  • This afternoon, while en route to the in-laws, I stopped in at Fry’s for pick up a couple of things. While there I took a few minutes to look at an Acer and two HP netbooks. The Acer seems nice, but the low-end HP was dismal. The higher-end HP was the best. I think I’ll see what the 2140 actually looks like before I decide.

  • According to Crunch Gear the HP2140 is now shipping, but with a lower resolution display.

    http://www.crunchgear.com/2009/01/20/hp-mini-2140-now-shipping/

  • Ok, so it looks like the 2140 with the better display is six weeks from delivery. That’s about my time scale. Wonder how Tim Higgins is getting on with the Dell Mini 12?

    http://www.crunchgear.com/2009/01/21/hp-not-shipping-high-res-display-2140s/