Linux Netbook Happiness?
July 25, 2011 10:31 PM   Subscribe

Linux netbook filter: So, I'm looking for a fairly inexpensive Linux netbook - mostly to websurf and do some light data-processing. I've looked around and the ZaReason, Inc. Teo Pro looks good for the price point. Do you agree? What upgrades seem worth the price?

The site for the netbook is here.

Is there a better opinion when considering power and longevity for the price?
posted by driley to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
It depends-- what do you mean by data processing? Depending on the nature, either processor, RAM, or disk write or access speed (i.e. SSD) could be the most useful upgrade.

Ignoring that, I generally think a SSD is the most worthwhile upgrade, especially if your storage is elsewhere, like on NAS or just an external HD.
posted by supercres at 11:01 PM on July 25, 2011

At $400, you could buy an entry-level netbook with XP installed and use Wubi to essentially run Ubuntu on top of it. I do this with an HP Mini 110 as my primary computer (what I'm writing from right now, for instance) and, besides a handful of programs that don't have appropriately-sized GUIs, have experienced few performance issues when I'm doing web-surfing plus listening to music or document editing. I've had less luck doing major file operations while simultaneously doing other work.

Longevity may be another issue entirely, and I'd scan reviews on more traditional netbooks for their longevity under Windows to get a better sense of what you can expect. I've got some pretty crappy speakers and a battery that went kaput after less than a year - your mileage may vary, especially if this isn't your primary computer.
posted by Apropos of Something at 11:19 PM on July 25, 2011

Two USB ports is one less than average.

A glossy screen would immediately disqualify it for me, as a machine to use for serious work.

I've just bought a Samsung NC210 netbook. With a matte screen, three USB ports -- and one of them able to power or reload other things -- and an Atom N550 cpu, which is just a bit smoother than a N450 -- more powerful would be the wrong phrase.

It came with Windows 7 Starter edition, which is underwhelming. It runs flawlessly, out of the box, on the two flavours of Linux I tried.
posted by ijsbrand at 1:26 AM on July 26, 2011

ummm... linux works well with Atom-based netbook platform, the only place you might run into trouble is with the wireless card (and that's not likely.) as far as I can tell, you are paying about $100 for zaReason to install linux on your netbook. you are better off buying an external DVD drive (if you can't make a bootable usb drive) to install it yourself.

the question is, do you want something which is light and small for under $500 or do you just want a cheap computer?

if your concern is the price, you can have vastly more powerful laptops in the same price-range as a netbook, particularly if you shop refurbished. However, they will all be much heavier, larger, and have worse battery life than the netbook.
posted by at 4:07 AM on July 26, 2011

It's expensive. Here's some others at newegg for comparison.

Beyond price, I guess your main concerns should be linux compatibility (my impression is that's a given with almost everything atom based these days), buying something popular enough that you can still get a new battery in a couple of years time, and the ability to easily get into the case to add memory or swap out your wireless card or drive. Sooner or later ubuntu will pump out an update tor upgrade that will fail to work with your wireless card.

Re upgrades, you definitely want two gb of memory, and an ssd really does make a difference. You'll probably end up wanting an external optical drive as well.
posted by Ahab at 4:13 AM on July 26, 2011

That's on the high side. By watching sales, I got a Dell Mini10v for $205 which is similarly equipped. I installed the Ubuntu netbook remix and it's been great. Be aware that for the Dell netbooks, it's a large chore to swap in more memory, likely on purpose.
posted by plinth at 5:40 AM on July 26, 2011

Yeah, seems a bit pricey. Personally, I would get last year's or two years ago's top-of-the-line subcompact notebook used, rather than a midrange of the latest generation.

You can get a Dell D620 — which is a 14" Core Duo T2300 based laptop — starting around $230 depending on configuration. (For under $400 you can give a 60GB HDD, 2GB RAM, and a DVD-RW.) I think that would be a nice web-browsing / typing / netbook-ish machine.

And to be honest you will have fewer problems running Linux on an x86 architecture machine than an Atom. Not that Linux won't run on Atom, but you'll be able to use precompiled packages in much greater variety, and you'll have the option of using proprietary software (e.g. drivers, VMWare with its weird kernel blob, etc.) if you want to with a lot less hassle. I'd only run Atom if the price were lower than the x86 arch.

Modern computers, IMO, are like cars. Unless there is a feature in the latest model year that you absolutely must have, you can save an awful lot of money by buying a used one that somebody else has already taken an 80% haircut on.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:39 AM on July 26, 2011

I've got to disagree with Kadin2048. Used laptops mean used batteries. If you're buying a machine for portability and then need to plug it in after half an hour, you're just wasting money.

A replacement battery is likely to cost in the neighborhood of $100, which gets you back to the price range of a new netbook.

As for the chips, Atom chips are x86 (the desktop models are x86-64) and I've never run into anything in in the repositories of multiple distros that won't run right out of the box.
posted by jjb at 8:05 AM on July 26, 2011

Yeah, Linux has no problems with Atoms. Between work and home, I've got 3 systems on Atoms.

The places to look for potential incompatibility is with the wireless chipset, hibernation, suspension.
posted by Zed at 8:27 AM on July 26, 2011

When I bought a netbook to use with linux I chose an Eee PC. Mostly because I found a good support forum in the EeeUser Forum. I found an answer to several questions and I have all of the hardware working.

I bought a 1015PN, which is cheaper than what you are looking at and seems a little higher specced. I did buy a 2GB memory chip for it as well.

To be honest, the number of choices for a netbook is huge. I wouldn't limit yours to one that only came with linux pre-installed. Linux users are pretty good about sharing their experiences, and if you see a netbook you like you can probably find how well it works with linux on an online foru.
posted by Quonab at 9:33 AM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thank you for the help. I'm exploring the options you presented. I really appreciate the opinions and the experience.
posted by driley at 8:52 PM on July 26, 2011

FWIW, after looking at people's suggestions here and googling about, I was inspired to finally order a netbook today (on which I'll be installing Linux) and it was this ASUS Eee PC 1015PEM-PU17.
posted by Zed at 11:15 PM on July 26, 2011

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