Posts Tagged ‘netbook’

Netbooks are Great!

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

I’ve said similar things before, but it wasn’t until today that I realized how much I love netbooks. Someone showed a bit of interest, so I threw up a great tirade of excited chatter.

Netbooks are good for nearly everything you do on a computer. If you want to do high-level rendering or leading-edge gaming (by which I mean something made in the last ten years), you can get a desktop system with a powerful CPU for only a few hundred dollars.

If you really need a lot of storage, well, that’s not what a netbook is for. You can very well get a two-terabyte external USB drive, and either lug it around or not. With the netbook itself, 40 GB is plenty (16GB SSD + 16GB SD + 8GB USB Drive).

It has a great keyboard, it has a powerful wireless card, and its—to use Steve Job’s favourite word—magical to tilt and flip in your hands. And for $200? You’re getting more than you paid for, certainly.

A couple things:

  • The battery isn’t perfect. I’ve come to realize that the power cord really holds me down, like an anchor on a boat. It’s also kind of long and gangly, and isn’t a joy to pack up between plug-ins. The battery should last about sixteen hours, in a perfect world; then I could just plug it in at night.
  • I got it at such a low clearance price because the tech is kind of old. The SSD performs a bit worse than a hard-disk drive, which is really saying something. An upgrade would only cost $100, and it’ll be zippy as hell, but I have to find the right offering, first, and get it shipped to me (PATA ZIF SSDs are relatively uncommon, and slower than the newer interfaces). Then I’d have to reinstall Windows.
  • It’s great to have with you, but… no-one has yet thought about how to carry it? I need some sort of Netbook Holster. Backpacks are unwieldy, and I want both hands free. My custom-made extra-pocket is kind of crappy, and rips too often to walk around with it like I want to.

Those are minor complaints. SSDs are incredibly young, and I can just upgrade the drive. I can make a better holster within a few days, with the proper materials. I can get an extended battery, which would last six hours, at least, and that number would increase if I installed a power-smart OS.

There are two things the iPad did that seems to completely fly over everyone else’s heads: The battery life is all-day, so there’s no power cord tying you down; and the entire experience is snappy and smooth, due to its speed.
Netbooks could do those things, and then they would be awesome. Plus, you’d be able to use all your Windows executables; that’s something the iPad can’t do.

Netbook Redux

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Since I got my netbook, I’ve used my big desktop machine two or three times. The desktop has a larger screen, which is nice (I really wish this netbook had video-out), but there’s really nothing special it can do that my netbook can’t. I guess there’s an old game I wanted to play, which needs at least 1024×768 resolution (this has 1024×600), but that’s about it. Graphics files would be easier to work with on a large screen, too.

I’ve never used much disk space, and I have a combined 44 GB of space on my netbook.
I can’t remember when I last maxed out my CPU, besides when I’m encoding movies, but that would just take a bit longer than usual. On really slow CPUs, I can’t play emulated SNES games at a good speed, but this netbook plays them perfectly. I think the only time I’ve run into CPU limits on this device is when I had several pages open with embedded video, and tried to watch them.
I have as much ram in this as I have in my desktop, and I plan to double that sometime.
The write speeds on my drive are terrible, and that’s about the only problem I can see with the netbook. Truth be told, the SSD is likely using technology from 2008, and is undoubtedly from the lowest end of the price scale. When I get an upgrade, for a couple hundred dollars, it’ll be an order of magnitude faster.

The battery also runs out too quick for my tastes, but that’s a null argument when talking about a desktop; if I unplugged the big machine, it would cease operation immediately.

So… when you get right down to it, a netbook is actually all people need. I think a VGA port is needed, so people can buy bigger, higher-quality displays, but otherwise there’s really no argument.

I wonder when they’ll have netbooks with DDR3 and Super-Speed USB?

Moar Netbook

Friday, January 8th, 2010

In my last post, I tried to do some sort of real review, which I’m sure sounded a bit boring and normal.
This time, I’m going to put it in real-world terms (much like music players, with their “how many songs can it hold”).

What can you do with this Netbook?

  • Travel around
  • Play old games
  • Emulate NES, SNES, or PSX games smoothly
  • Move and shake about
  • Run image rips of CDs or DVDs
  • Play music or video from a flash-drive or SD card
  • Office computing
  • Small-size graphics editing
  • Connect to the internet through Wi-fi (b/g), cable, or mobile
  • Install and use your USB devices
  • Use an external SATA drive.

What can’t you do with this Netbook?

  • Play newer games
  • Do anything for longer than three hours
  • Color-correction (the quality is crappy)
  • High-powered rendering
  • Use it in the shower


Really, just don’t expect things to be too fast. Gaming takes lots of speed, so nothing too new will work well. Other applications, like rendering or coding movies, will just take more time. Working from flash drives or SD cards takes some time.
Other than that, it’s incredibly capable and very broad-ranged. Waking from sleep mode only takes about three seconds, and the keyboard is nearly flawless.

HP Mini 1116nr

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

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
  • 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.

About Netbooks

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009
Nicholas Aylsworth
Submitted on 2009/12/29 at 5:27pm
I bought this netbook about two months ago to replace my old Dell Inspiron which had begun having the “white screen” problem . There were several reasons I went with this netbook:

1. 93% keyboard is a absolute must
2. 160 GB (more like a 142 GB) of memory
3. Integrated Bluetooth work great with my Phone, which also happens to be a SamSung
4. Battery life is amazing, 6-10 hours depending on what you’re doing
5. This thing is lighting fast compared to my old Dell laptop

I use it daily to surf the web, check e-mail, watch movies, and talk via the webcam. I installed Word, Excel, and Powerpoint and have yet to experiencing any slow downs. The only program that I use regularly that I have NOT install onto my netbook has been Photoshop. Though I haven’t, I have heard that a massive program like CS4 has been know to work very sluggishly on netbooks. Not a real problem for me because I still have my Dell laptop with the Photoshop loaded onto it.

This is easily the best purchase I have made in a long, LONG time. And for under $400 dollars, it is definitely worth the money.

That comment was spam, but it sounded like something a real person would say. So I figure I’ll reply to the things they said.

1. 93% keyboard is a absolute must
The keyboards on netbooks are fun, but I’ve found that it’s easy to get used to the size. Besides, people work with Blackberrys on a daily basis. The most important thing is the keyboard layout, variations of which you’ll also find on full-size USB keyboards. Some have an Enter key that spans two rows, and the ” key is placed somewhere else. The ‘Delete’ key might also be in a very strange spot. As a programmer (and one who needs to use the backslash frequently), I couldn’t stand that setup.
When you’re dealing with a non-standard keyboard, you have to re-learn the layout. If you spent a lot of time on that machine and then switch to another you’ll notice that you keep pressing the wrong keys because you’ve gotten so used to doing it that other way.
So, ignore the size, but make sure it’s a keyboard layout you can live with.

2. 160 GB (more like a 142 GB) of memory
A netbook isn’t meant to be your main machine, and I’d urge you to at least get a $500 laptop before the netbook. A netbook is made to be a fast, light, cheap, weak computer with tremendous mobility, which is kind of dulled-down with the bigger screens and the heavier, slower, break-it-if-you-shake-it hard-disk drives.
Most of the drive space on your main machine will be taken up with movies, music, and games (or other installed programs). You really shouldn’t have a lot of movies on a netbook, because it’s just a little thing you grab with you when you go somewhere. If you’re on a trip that’s long enough to need movies, you might as well bring your big laptop with an expansive drive. You can also get a small external drive, and maybe an MP3 player for music.

In other words, get a 16GB SSD (or higher, if you can afford it; they go up to 80GB for a couple hundred dollars) with your netbook. They can be tremendously fast (booting in ten seconds or less), and you don’t have to worry about losing data if you drop the netbook. They don’t hold nearly as much, but you’ll still have gigs and gigs of space. You can also get a 64GB SD card if you need it.
My core files (all the archives of my past, et-cetera) fit into an 8GB flash drive.
(And, considering you can have your main drive, an SD card, a flash drive, and an external hard-drive, there are a lot of memory options.)

3. Integrated Bluetooth work great with my Phone, which also happens to be a SamSung
Okay. I’ve not used Bluetooth at all, myself, and I have no idea if netbooks really do come with built-in bluetooth, but I assume you’d then be able to connect a bluetooth keyboard/mouse to it.

4. Battery life is amazing, 6-10 hours depending on what you’re doing
Battery life is a sticking point. Keep the brightness low (unless you’re in the sunlight), keep always-on peripherals, such as mobile modems, out of the USB ports when you don’t need them, and solid-state drives will take less power than hard-disk drives.
Different netbooks have different battery lives. Because they’re so mobile, you really do need a good battery in your netbook. Look for something with more than three hours, if you want more.

5. This thing is lighting fast compared to my old Dell laptop
These last few points may have been spammy lies to make a long list of great-sounding stuff; I have no access to benchmarks, and the spammer didn’t leave a link to the netbook in question (instead, they left a link to a review for a 15.4″ laptop backpack).

If a laptop is getting very old, the operating system will become bogged down with all sorts of stuff. You’ll find that the drive is constantly being used by one service or another, and it’ll take forever to load programs. Something as simple as opening a menu can trigger a search through the registry, which might take a few seconds to complete if things are accessing the drive.
A new netbook (or laptop, or desktop, or even just a fresh install of Windows on your old computer) will be faster, but only for a couple years. Try not to install too many things, and have someone reinstall windows for you every couple of years. A refresh is always good, and might help you clean up old files, too.

In closing: Netbooks are secondary computers, for when you need to grab something light to use around town, and when you need more power than a smart-phone can give. They’ll be fast and responsive with a good SSD, but you should make sure the keyboard layout suits your needs. A long battery life is good to look for.

And for under $400 dollars, it is definitely worth the money.
You can find them for $200. In fact, you can get one for $50 on a two-year contract with a mobile internet provider. Keep an eye out!