Netbook recommendation and the state of netbooks

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Cadmus
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Netbook recommendation and the state of netbooks

Postby Cadmus » Wed Jun 24, 2009 11:35 am UTC

It's been bonus time of late and I'm thinking of geting a netbook for use when travelling. Now netboooks have moved so fast that even reading guides from 6 months ago makes me think I might be missing something good.

I want one for:
    Watching videos/music (assume I can transcode anything I want to watch)
    Playing a bit of MAME (or other emulation)
    Web browsing (forums mostly)

Ideally it will be fairly small, linux-friendly (preferably Ubuntu), and have enough battery life for one film and a bash on Battle Circuit(call it 2h30). I'm not fussed about a webcam or cellular connectivity but Wi-Fi is a must. How much would I be looking to spend and what options would people put forward, if you can give costs in GB £ then that would be good, but I can reasearch that myself.

Oh, on a related note, Wi-Fi spots; How restrictive do most of them tend to be on ports you can use? I'd like to run a proper VPN but can settle for SSH if that's more likely to work.

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Zamfir
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Re: Netbook recommendation and the state of netbooks

Postby Zamfir » Wed Jun 24, 2009 12:22 pm UTC

Speedwise, all netbooks are virtually identical, since Intel and Msoft will only sell cheap if the manufacturer does not beef up the specs to compete with normal laptops, so competition comes down to "feel" factors.

I recently bought a Samsung NC-10
Pros:
nice keyboard (very important on a netbook, since it is sub-sized and a bit of a pain even in the best ones)
Matte screen
Very long battery time (5 to 6 hours easily)
Not too heavy for a 10" screen (1.33 kilos)
Looks nice (in matte white) and well built

Cons:
Not cheap, I paid 380 euros incl. VAT, could have had it perhaps 10 euros cheaper elsewhere. A similar specced Acer would have cost 300-330
Small trackpad. The newer model, N-101, is supposed to have solved this, but that one is even more expensive, and has a glossy screen
Not really Linux friendly. It's battery management and special button features (again, more important in netbooks than in normal laptops) depend on Windows-only programs, but people are working on it I think. Windows 7 however works very well

The Asus EEE 1008HA might also be nice, and Asus is more Linux-friendly I think. It looks very sleek, nice and light-weight, Apple style, but has a non-removable battery. I might have bought that one if I could have found one in a shop, but touching a netbook is really needed IMO.

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Endless Mike
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Re: Netbook recommendation and the state of netbooks

Postby Endless Mike » Wed Jun 24, 2009 6:34 pm UTC

The eee 1005HA just came out which is cheaper than the 1008HA and fixes some of its problems like the nonremovable battery. But yeah, spec-wise, most netbooks being made at a given time are pretty much identical, or REALLY close to it.

Cadmus
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Re: Netbook recommendation and the state of netbooks

Postby Cadmus » Fri Jun 26, 2009 11:27 am UTC

Is the 1005HA very new? Couldn't seem to find much on it, hopefully the price will stabilise and The Reg will have a review before I'm ready to buy.

I do note Maplins have the 901 going for a good price, and in some ways I'd prefer an 8.9" screen for portability reasons. My only real concern is how much grunt it has (Atom N270) and wether that will be enough for DivX and a touch of MAME[1].

[1] Probably games from the great side-scroller era, stuff like Knights of the Round

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Zamfir
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Re: Netbook recommendation and the state of netbooks

Postby Zamfir » Mon Jun 29, 2009 8:08 am UTC

Cadmus wrote:I do note Maplins have the 901 going for a good price, and in some ways I'd prefer an 8.9" screen for portability reasons. My only real concern is how much grunt it has (Atom N270) and wether that will be enough for DivX and a touch of MAME[1].


Have tried to type on a 9"? that's the limiter, not the screen size itself. If you can, or if you are not palnning to type anything much, you're in luck. But I personally found the keyboards of 9" netbooks painful even after typing moderate emails, so I would definitely try this before buying...

My Atom 270 plays DivX completely well, although it does use a bit more power when playing video (it can speedstep from 750 to 1600 Mhz or so, and video requires a bit more than the absolute minimum). I can't imagine that MAME is a problem, that used to work perfectly fine on an old Pentium 2, and the Atom feels to me more like a late Pentium3 or so, even faster because you have more memory than common in those days. But if you are worried, I can try it for you this evening.

But keep in mind that you won't find anything cheap taht is faster than an N270 (while still easy ont he power), the other chips available like the N280 or Z520 are not noticably faster. Intel also sells a very expensive low power series that is fast, the SU series I think it is called, and Intel makes very sure there is a large gap in performance between the cheap Atoms and those SU's. Once rich businessmen start to buy Atoms because they don't need anything more, Intel is in deep trouble.

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rath358
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Re: Netbook recommendation and the state of netbooks

Postby rath358 » Tue Jul 07, 2009 3:27 am UTC

I may or may not have fried the processor on my laptop ( a 5 year old presario)
I am thinking about a netbook to get me thru the last 2 years of high school. Generally will use it for essays, watching the odd episode of anime, n64 emulators, and light internet. (nothing moree intense than min spec runescape.) Will want windows on` this one, I think. What model might I want to buy, and how much ould I expect it to cost me (in US$)

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Zamfir
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Re: Netbook recommendation and the state of netbooks

Postby Zamfir » Tue Jul 07, 2009 6:55 am UTC

rath358 wrote:I am thinking about a netbook to get me thru the last 2 years of high school. Generally will use it for essays


Don't, unless you plan on buying a larger screen and keyboard to go with it (after which you have just bought an overpriced and far underperforming desktop machine). Netbooks are small, to small to work on for extended periods of time, and with screens too small to be really productive. You should buy a netbook as a second computer for use on the move, because then the weight and battery time compensate for the smallness and low performance.

Buy a cheap normal laptop, it's at most a 100 dollars more than a cheap netbook.

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ian
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Re: Netbook recommendation and the state of netbooks

Postby ian » Tue Jul 07, 2009 8:16 am UTC

If he's just wanting to write essays and do basic netbook stuff, then buying a monitor and keyboard to use for extended periods of time is actually a pretty good idea. Cheaper than buying a desktop and netbook seperatley, still has the portability of the netbook, and if he gets a good monitor then he can use that with future desktops, as well as for watching movies and what not.

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Zamfir
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Re: Netbook recommendation and the state of netbooks

Postby Zamfir » Tue Jul 07, 2009 8:50 am UTC

ian wrote:If he's just wanting to write essays and do basic netbook stuff, then buying a monitor and keyboard to use for extended periods of time is actually a pretty good idea.


But a netbook+ cheap monitor is already more expensive than a cheap 15.4 inch laptop, and that laptop can be used without monitor and is going to be a lot better computer in general. I personally have a cardboard box at my desk of exactly the height that if I put my 15.4 laptop on it, it is at the right postion to act as monitor. Plug in a keyboard and mouse, and I have something almost as good as a desktop when I need to work for longer periods. With my netbook, I would need an extra monitor to do that. Also, when I am sitting at a couch or so, the laptop works much more pleasant. The only time the netbook is needed is in the train, when carrying the laptop is too heavy to carry without noticing.

And a netbook is basically a Pentium-III speed computer without a DVD drive. Once in a while, it just isn't good enough for what you are doing.

EDIT: Rath,if you have a desktop at home, or can use your parents computer when needed, a lot of these objections go away. I personally like to use laptops at home, when sitting on the couch, or watching TV in bath, etc., so I would never buy a netbook as the only portable computer I owned.

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ian
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Re: Netbook recommendation and the state of netbooks

Postby ian » Tue Jul 07, 2009 9:50 am UTC

True, but there is a massive portability difference between a laptop and a netbook. I assumed he wants to take it back and forthe to school, in which case a laptop + copule of textbooks is a weight I wouldn't want to be dealing with daily, like you say, a laptop is too heavy to carry without noticing. I currently have a laptop less than a year old, but am looking to get a net book for precisely the reason that it's too much to carry around day to day.

But yes, if there is another computer in the house it's not really an issue.

I do agree with you on the NC10 though, will probably be what I go for. Looking at just over £300 in the UK.

oh, and i think you'll struggle to get an entire film from the battery, not entirely sure on that though

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Zamfir
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Re: Netbook recommendation and the state of netbooks

Postby Zamfir » Tue Jul 07, 2009 10:07 am UTC

ian wrote:oh, and i think you'll struggle to get an entire film from the battery, not entirely sure on that though


4 or 5 hours of movie watching is easily doable, if you do not turn the screen to max brightness and switch wifi off. Perhaps a bit more even if you keep the screen at very low brightness (like on a plane for example).

rath, do you have the money for a bit of luxury, or do you want a netbook purely because they are cheap? The NC10 is very fine, the Asus EEE 1005HA might be even better from the first looks. But if you are cash-strapped, a Dell or Acer can be 100 to 150 dollars cheaper, without being that much worse.

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ian
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Re: Netbook recommendation and the state of netbooks

Postby ian » Tue Jul 07, 2009 10:32 am UTC

oh that's cool, didn't know the batteries were that good.

i wish they would bring one out in red though :(

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Zamfir
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Re: Netbook recommendation and the state of netbooks

Postby Zamfir » Tue Jul 07, 2009 11:24 am UTC

Ian, the Samsung N310 is available in orange I think, but it is sort of a weird version, basically a very style-oriented and a lot more expensive version of the N110. So if you have the cash and like the looks, it might be an option.

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Endless Mike
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Re: Netbook recommendation and the state of netbooks

Postby Endless Mike » Tue Jul 07, 2009 2:48 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:or watching TV in bath, etc.,

You are a braver person than I.

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Zamfir
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Re: Netbook recommendation and the state of netbooks

Postby Zamfir » Tue Jul 07, 2009 3:33 pm UTC

Endless Mike wrote:
Zamfir wrote:or watching TV in bath, etc.,

You are a braver person than I.


No, just put the laptop at a decent distance from you, on a basket or something, and you use an old one just in case.

When had just my bought my most expensive laptop, I once tried to estimate what the odds were that I would spill a drink on it, multiplied with the replacement cost. Depending on the estimate, the cost per sip went from less than the supermarket cost of the drink itself to a significant fraction of a euro per sip, making the drink comparable in cost to a drink bought in a cafe.

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rath358
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Re: Netbook recommendation and the state of netbooks

Postby rath358 » Tue Jul 07, 2009 5:18 pm UTC

I have a desktop at my dads, but I do most of my work in my room at my mom's which is computerless. Something portable is a mus, for I work at a summer camp, and there is no room in my cabin for a desktop. I was thinking about a netbook simply because it is slightly cheaper, and chances of my mother paying for something on the higher end are low. I guess I am fine with a cheaper laptop instead.


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