Which netbook should I get?
October 23, 2008 9:08 AM   Subscribe

What's the perfect netbook for me? I've searched all over the internet but I'd like some input from the hive mind.

So here's the deal:

I'm looking for a netbook that is small enough and cheap enough that I can throw it into a man bag without thinking twice about it.

I would like the following features:

1. WiFi (obviously).

2. A decent keyboard.

3. Bluetooth (I would consider one of those mini-dongles, but I'd prefer that it was built-in.)

4. Excellent battery life. I'm looking for a minimum of four hours in actual usage.

5. At least 2 USB ports.

6. Enough internal storage for a couple of movies. The Dell Mini can be configured with a 16GB SSD, but I'd prefer upwards of 30GB of storage.

7. The ability to install either Ubuntu or the Ubuntu Netbook Remix and have everything on the computer actually work. This is an absolute must. If there's a random LED that doesn't quite show the WiFi signal, then that's fine, but I need all the ports to work, I need a working Ethernet port, working webcam, etc.

8. I'd prefer a webcam, but this is optional.

9. A low low price. I'm looking for a "netbook" not a carbon-fiber, wafer-thin piece of precision engineering.

What say you, hive mind? Does my perfect on-the-go device exist?
posted by bshort to Computers & Internet (27 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
The new Lenovo IdeaPad S10 seems to fit all your requirements, including webcam.
posted by nitsuj at 9:16 AM on October 23, 2008

That site I linked says $429, but Lenovo.com has them for $399.
posted by nitsuj at 9:17 AM on October 23, 2008

Response by poster: Does the S10 have bluetooth?

Any idea how Ubuntu runs on it?

It looks like the S10 only has a 3 cell battery that gets 2 hours or less of actual runtime. Is there a version out with a larger battery?
posted by bshort at 9:20 AM on October 23, 2008

I've been ogling netbooks recently as well with a similar feature list. Dell Mini with the 16GBSSD + Ubuntu currently runs for $409, which seems like a really great deal, perhaps the most appealing of the lot.

I'd say what you are looking at is MSI Wind, Dell Mini, Asus Eee 901, and Acer Aspire One.

I'd like more storage too, for exactly the same reason, but if you encode the movie properly I think you'll have plenty of space for a few movies in 16GB. The SSD is a big plus IMO. It's also fanless, which along with the SSD means it's totally silent. That appeals to me...
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:21 AM on October 23, 2008

Response by poster: mcstayinskool: "Also, wikipedia has a nice comparative table of netbooks"

That's very handy, but it doesn't show the features I'm looking for, and I'm really looking for personal recommendations from Mefites.
posted by bshort at 9:24 AM on October 23, 2008

I'm really, really happy with my Dell. I like the upgradability, including the option of moving up to 32GB HD, and to 2GB of RAM (both from 3rd party sources).
It also feels a bit more solid than the Asus, and MSI models I've handled - the keyboard just has more snap, and the case feels a bit more tightly put together.
posted by piedmont at 9:40 AM on October 23, 2008

Not sure how low your budget is, but I just picked up a Lenovo Thinkpad T400, and installed Ubuntu 8.1beta on it with zero problems.

Fits all your requirements, but it's priced as a business laptop.
posted by swngnmonk at 9:42 AM on October 23, 2008

In my experience, upwards of 30 GB => a real hard drive => ships with Windows XP.
posted by smackfu at 9:50 AM on October 23, 2008

Response by poster: smackfu - Yeah, I've noticed that. I don't mind getting a netbook with XP, but I want the ability to install Ubuntu without too much pain.

At this point I think I'm leaning towards the Dell. I can get it with Ubuntu more or less out of the box, and like piedmont mentioned, I can upgrade it later, if I like.

Does anyone here have any hands-on experience with the Acer Aspire One or the Asus EEEPC 901?
posted by bshort at 10:17 AM on October 23, 2008

Best answer: I have an MSI Wind. It's a later model with the bigger battery. The only physical modifications I have made to it at this point was swapping out the wireless card and installing an extra stick of memory (both of which were surprisingly simple). I am planning at some point to put in an SSD but I'm fine with the current drive for now. Anyway, I have kubuntu installed on it and it runs beautifully.

My only gripe is that they don't have the synaptic touchpad the very first models shipped with, and as such, there is no way to turn off the touch click stuff. New linux drivers are supposed to be out soon (or maybe already are, I haven't checked recently).

Other than that, I'm really happy with it. It's light, has a long battery life, an extremely bright screen (I can actually use it outside) and enough power to do the things I'm used to, like running multiple virtual machines.

Oh, and because you don't have a cd-rom on it, this makes it easy to get a bootable usb drive to install from.
posted by chrisroberts at 10:42 AM on October 23, 2008

A friend of mine (who lacks a MeFi account) just got an Aspire One. I'll poke her to mail me a review and get back to you.
posted by mephron at 11:36 AM on October 23, 2008

I can vouch for the EEE PC 1000H to meet all of your requirements, except Linux - I haven't tried Ubuntu on mine. It does come with the HDD pre-partitioned, though, so it should be pretty easy to throw on another OS.
posted by Clandestine Outlawry at 1:24 PM on October 23, 2008

Asus EEE 1000 comes with Xandros pre-installed. I got one about a month ago, and am super happy with it. Needed very little tinkering to be a very nice little machine (switching out of advanced mode, mainly).
posted by Tapioca at 1:45 PM on October 23, 2008

Is the Nokia B810 just out of the running? I'd imagine the pen input suites such a small device quite well.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:47 PM on October 23, 2008

Response by poster: So, Clandenstine and Tapioca, how large does the EEE 1000 *feel*? The pictures I've seen of it make it look much larger than the original EEE PC.

JeffBurdges - I've considered the N810, but I'd prefer, if possible, an actual keyboard rather than a thumb keyboard. I've also heard Maemo is less than stellar with respect to speed.
posted by bshort at 6:38 PM on October 23, 2008

I just bought an Asus eee 901. It fits your requirements except for the storage. 20gb is the largest SSD available in it, though it has an SD slot and a 16 gb SD costs $40 or so. I use Ubuntu eee on it and everything works great.
posted by chrchr at 7:03 PM on October 23, 2008

Best answer: I got an Aspire One. I love it so much it's indecent. But I can tell from your question that you are far more technologically advanced than I am, so I hesitated to weigh in.
What I like: it's teeny, it has a 160 gig hard drive, it's blue, and it comes with XP. It was $399 a few weeks ago, though now amazon seems to be charging $600, which I don't understand.
The keyboard is quite nearly full size - very large for a netbook - which is ultimately why I chose it. I didn't want a dinky keyboard. The only real problem so far is that the mouse buttons are placed on the sides of the touchpad instead of the bottom, which is hard to get used to, but I personally find this negligible as I rarely use the mouse buttons at all.
If you have specific questions, I'd be happy to answer. Like I said, I love this thing to unholy levels.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:03 PM on October 23, 2008

I have the eee 1000h and I love it. I am triple booting osx 10.5.4, xp and ubuntu netbook remix and all run like a dream. It has everything you want. Highly recommend. I recommend if you get it dropping the 30ish dollars for 2 gigs of ram (replace the 1 it comes with). Very simple change.
posted by zennoshinjou at 6:08 AM on October 24, 2008

in answer to your question above about how it feels- I think it feels good. Its a lot more solid than some of the other models out there and the keyboard is nearly full sized. I have zero issues typing on it. Also I forgot to mention it has 160 gigs of storage.
posted by zennoshinjou at 6:09 AM on October 24, 2008

also I get ~4 hours in all 3 OSes on the battery with wifi on under standard load.
posted by zennoshinjou at 6:11 AM on October 24, 2008

Response by poster: zennoshinjou - how hard was it to get OSX installed on the 1000h? Does the sound card, network card, and wireless work properly?
posted by bshort at 8:14 AM on October 24, 2008

The wireless works with drivers from the manufacturer (ralink) but is a teeny bit wonky (you have to disable/enable the radio to see access points and you have to use the ralink app to manage it). The wired network I have heard doesnt work but Im not sure since I dont have a need for it.. Im sure people have a work around. The sound does not work- however, I got a 7 dollar usb sound card from new egg that works perfectly.

As for how difficult to install it- after obtaining a modified installer (I leave that to your imagination) it wasn't too bad. There are a lot of tutorials out there. I had to do one thing in the command line after install because it was looping on the initial setup but its easy and documented.

I can provide links/assistance if you go that road. Its by no means perfect, but based on what I have read/seen as far as netbooks go its one of the best in terms of having full functionality.
posted by zennoshinjou at 8:45 AM on October 24, 2008

by usb sound card I mean usb sound adapter
posted by zennoshinjou at 8:45 AM on October 24, 2008

I just got an Acer Aspire One. Like yesterday.

Good keyboard. Nothing weird -- I can type on it without thinking, which is important to me. No bluetooth, but 3 USB ports so a dongle would still give you 2 free. The newer 6-cell models get 5-6 hours battery life. Mine has a real hard drive, and I have no idea what I'll do with 160 GB. Webcam is built-in.

As far as Ubuntu, this is a popular netbook that does ship in Linux versions, and I haven't heard of anyone having real trouble. Here's some info. There are some issues with OS X, like you need to replace the wireless card, that probably make it a poor choice for that.
posted by smackfu at 12:02 PM on October 24, 2008

Re: size of Eee 1000. What I did when contemplating purchase was:

a) Go play with one in person. It helped that there was a display of all the available Eee models so I could directly compare. 1000 is bigger than its sisters, but still teeny when compared to full-sized laptops.

b) (This is so dorky) I googled up dimensions of the Eee 1000 and made a little paper mock up. Nothing fancy, just a box with a screen shape. Then I tried putting this on my work desk, in my backpack, on my knee in the bus...

Also, before I meant to say "switching into Advanced Mode"
posted by Tapioca at 5:39 AM on October 27, 2008

that is hilarious Tapioca- I did the exact same thing to gauge its size.
posted by zennoshinjou at 6:46 AM on October 28, 2008

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