I decided to get a netbook; the $200 refurbished HP you can order from Future Shop.
It’s actually kind of amazing. The specs are as follows:
- Intel Atom N270 (with hyper-threading)
- 8.9″ WSVGA (1024×600) anti-glare display
- 16GB SSD
- 1GB DDR2 SDRAM
- Windows XP Home SP3 for ULCPC
- Wireless b/g
- 3-cell battery (approx. 2.5 hours)
- Webcam + Microphone
- SD/MMC Card slot
- An amazing keyboard
This is actually better than I had hoped it would be. The entire width of the netbook is taken with the keyboard, which means the keys are larger than usual and aren’t squished into any odd configurations. It’s pretty much a full-width keyboard. I can type on it perfectly fine, unlike with other netbooks.
The screen is pretty bright, even on its lowest setting, but the colour quality is abysmal, which I fixed by altering the colour profile in the included Intel options panel. This is the same for other HP laptops, from what I’ve seen; the gamma is almost too high, the colour washed out, and with just a bit too much blue in the mix. I’ve just turned the brightness down and the contrast up, and that almost fixes most of it.
The solid-state drive is some old, small, cheap model from who-knows-when, probably with a J-Micron controller. It’s not very fast, and takes forever to do things when it’s taxed (I believe this is what people meant when they say it ‘stutters’). I was planning on getting a new, fast SSD, sometime; one of those able to outperform hard-disks in all aspects. The netbook came with a backup for Windows, so I’ll be able to reinstall everything on the new drive.
I’m not using it as my main system, and I’m not keeping bunches of movies on there, so the 16GB of storage is just fine, along with an extra 16GB SD and 8GB flash drive.
It came with 1GB RAM, but apparently Kingston has a 2GB module out for $40 or so, which I might end up ordering. It’s got a fast little access panel on the bottom for RAM.
Another surprising little tidbit: It usually comes with a mobile modem. There’s a slot for the SIM card, under the battery, but it doesn’t currently have a modem installed.
Windows is running fine on it, and I haven’t had any problems. It came with a load of bloatware, but I’ve turned most of that off.
The charging brick is small! It’s capable of 30 watts, and is built like a regular laptop charger, but is about three quarters the size. I can carry it around in my pocket without too much hassle.
The microphone is above the screen, out of reach of the whirring fans in the body. I’ve had to use a laptop where the microphone was right beside the disk, and anything that I recorded would have whirs and clicks throughout.
Downsides: No VGA-out, which means I can’t use my HD monitor. Only two USB ports, though there’s a hidden one that’s more-or-less inaccessible (for the Transcend-made ‘Expansion Drive’).
Other: It comes with an HP Expansion connector, but I’d have to get the cable elsewhere. That would allow me to plug a monitor into it, and would give me some extra USB ports.
Overall: For $200, this is a lot of computer. I couldn’t do everything on the limited screen and drive, but then I’m not trying to make this my main machine. It’s for when I’m on the go, and need to do some work from my flash drive, or surf the internet, or download things while I’m at my parents’ house.
I give it five stars. Out of… five.