What netbook to buy?
June 4, 2009 6:25 AM   Subscribe

Looking for a netbook to buy.

So my MacBook Pro is going to cost about $1200 to repair, so I was looking for a netbook to buy until I can afford to replace it.

Does anyone have any suggestions? I haven't really kept track of this niche and I'm sort of at a loss. Looking to spend ~$400. Any advice would be appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (32 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I bought an eeePC running Linux for 183 euros.
posted by Baud at 6:33 AM on June 4, 2009

I bought a Samsung NC10 a couple of months ago by virtue of its good listing in reviews. Added an extra 1GB of RAM. It has been a great machine.
posted by rongorongo at 6:35 AM on June 4, 2009

At the $400 level there are many options, some of which come down to personal preference. Since you didn't list any preferences, I'll just recommend the Dell Mini 10
posted by mcstayinskool at 6:37 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I picked up an MSI Wind U100 in March and I'm loving it.

Just out of curiosity, $1200 for a MBP repair? That sounds awfully high. WHat happened to it?
posted by zerokey at 6:39 AM on June 4, 2009

...and since you mention a MacBook in your post, it bears mentioning that the Dell Mini 10 can pretty easily be hacked to run OS X. While I run Ubuntu on my netbook, I've heard that the OS X "hackintosh" works extremely well on that platform.
posted by mcstayinskool at 6:39 AM on June 4, 2009

Lifehacker recently polled its (extensive, generally tech-savvy) readership about their favorite/top-rated netbook. The voting, with much commentary, is here, or you could cut to the chase and read the results, also with considerable commentary.

(For the record, I bought a Samsung N110, which is a refresh of the NC-10 with a better touchpad, and have been completely happy with it, but it's a bit above your preferred price point.)
posted by Kat Allison at 6:40 AM on June 4, 2009

I'm happy with my $290 HP Mini.
posted by halogen at 6:41 AM on June 4, 2009

I'll second the Samsung NC10. I did a great deal of research for my wife prior to her buying a netbook; the Samsung was the most highly-rated one I found on Amazon with a lot of reviews. And I've had good luck with Samsung products in the past.

My wife loves hers and has had it for several months; no problems at all.
posted by jjsonp at 6:42 AM on June 4, 2009

I absolutely love my 1000he EEEPC. It's worth getting an additional gig of RAM, which would put it just over $400.

One note, though: If you want to turn it into a Hackintosh, you'll either need to live without wireless or swap out the factory wireless card (for now, at least), which will increase the cost a bit more. However, if you're willing to wipe the hard drive and install Ubuntu, you'll likely be just as pleased with it as I am.
posted by SpiffyRob at 6:43 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I haven't really kept track of this niche and I'm sort of at a loss.

The netbook space is moving so fast that it's really hard to keep track. For instance, the Samsung NC10 was the hots stuff a few months ago, and the Acer Aspire One was the pick before that. I think the Asus 1000HE is the pick now, due to the absurdly long battery life.
posted by smackfu at 6:45 AM on June 4, 2009

Oh, and one additional comment -- it's really a good idea with netbooks to see if you can get a hands-on trial with the keyboards of several models. For some of us, the Asus eeePC keyboard is just too cramped to use with comfort. You can often find Asus, HP, and sometimes MSI models at Best Buy and can give them a quick whirl.
posted by Kat Allison at 6:46 AM on June 4, 2009

I got my wife the older Acer Aspire, and she likes it well enough (she's not exactly a power user), and I use it occasionally as well. I'd definitely go with something that actually has some form of storage space (4 gigs? Really? Is that all?), like the Acer with the 120 GB hard drive, if you're going to be using it all that much.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:00 AM on June 4, 2009

I bought a Lenovo S10--build quality was the deciding factor.

What qualities are most important to you in a netbook?
posted by box at 7:15 AM on June 4, 2009

I'm typing this on a refurb Eee 900A (1GB/4GB) which cost me $155. A new 32 GB SSD hard drive at Newegg costs around $90, and it would turn this into a pretty functional little computer. (I also suggest replacing the stock OS with Eeebuntu NBR)

But yeah, see if you can try the keyboard before you buy.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:17 AM on June 4, 2009

I got a Samsung NC10 after extensive research some months ago (the keyboard is glorious and its long battery life doesn't hurt) but right now I would get the eeepc 1000HE if only because of its absurdly long battery life.

My girlfriend has an Acer Aspire One and, considering that it's cheaper than most other netbooks, the version with 6-cell battery is really good. However, the keyboard is a little cramped and I would probably be uncomfortable writing for long periods of time. So, as Kat Allison said before, definitely try some models out in person before making any decision, the keyboard can be a deal breaker.
posted by Memo at 7:19 AM on June 4, 2009

I agree with the overall Lifehacker result that the 1000HE is the best deal right now.
posted by dixie flatline at 7:32 AM on June 4, 2009

I have the Acer Aspire One with the 6 cell battery and 160 GB hard drive and I love it. I don't use it for a lot of programming much, but it's fine for using the internet, editing documents on the go and (surprisingly) editing photos. Plus, having 6 hours of battery life is magical.
posted by Alison at 7:36 AM on June 4, 2009

FWIW, if you do go to Best Buy to try a 1000he, DO NOT BUY IT FROM THERE. The Best Buy-sold 1000he is a stripped-down version of the one sold elsewhere. Smaller battery, slower processor, weaker wi-fi card. 30 bucks cheaper, with about $150 worth of features removed.

That said, great place to test out the keyboard!
posted by SpiffyRob at 7:38 AM on June 4, 2009

Without any idea of your needs you might want to check out the netbook database over at Liliputing which is prehaps too much info - so here is a list of 19 netbooks for under 350$

I would suggest the HP Mini 2140 - and you would have to choose between normal screen and HD ($$) and 3 cell battery or 6 cell ($$).
I've used the keyboard on the HP Mini 2140, which is a netbook that resembles your macbook pro - it has metal case, accelomoter if you drop it, and its a "business class" machine. The keyboard is the nicest I've used on a netbook, but it has an odd trackpad arraingment. You can get it for as little as 300$, which is a steal over here, although I would likely opt for the HD version of the unit which is over your budget by ~60$. If you have poor eyesite I would avoid the HD one - by default it makes everything smaller. And the best recomendation is that it's the prefered machine of who ever is running that Liliputing site - and they have a reviews of the unit here (HD) and here.
posted by zenon at 7:52 AM on June 4, 2009

that the Dell Mini 10 can pretty easily be hacked to run OS X
Not quite: The discontinued Mini 9 is the easiest hackintosh yet; the 10 won't run it at all because of incompatible graphics. the 10v works, though, but not as well as the 9.
posted by fightorflight at 8:29 AM on June 4, 2009

I also bought an EEEPC 900A refurb like qxntpqbbbqxl, paying $170. I bought the 16GB SuperTalent SSD at Newegg for $55, and sprung for a 2 GB RAM card to replace the 1GB it came with ($24). It runs great, dual booting WinXP and PupEEE. If I was going to write a book I'd get one with a better keyboard, but for casual surfing it's fine.
posted by rfs at 8:46 AM on June 4, 2009

I picked up a Lenovo s10 a month or two ago and have generally been very happy with it. I chose it over the eeepc 1000he because the build quality seemed better and it was a little cheaper. Ubuntu install was a breeze. (Intrepid had some issues with the trackpad, but it was completely painless in Jaunty.)

My only complaints about the keyboard are that the up arrow is where the right shift key should and the ~ key is hard to get to. The mouse buttons on the trackpad are a little stiff, but I mostly tap the trackpad for left click so it hasn't been an issue.
posted by clockwork at 10:18 AM on June 4, 2009

The hackintosh requirement is really the issue. It's not hard...but it's not easy either.

I picked up a MSI Wind for someone and there's a specific torrent ready to go for it. It was (relatively) easy - like 3-4 hrs from turn on to 10.5.6.

I don't like the trackpad; MSI Wind sees there's a huge group of people doing this - they release OSX drivers for their wireless cards (but don't sell any machines with OSX!) I'd suggest the 120 over the 100 (you get bluetooth with that as well) and you can use whatever mouse/keyboard you like with it. You can get a 9 cell battery with >5-6 hours of battery life.

Last, I have to point out, there's the MB Air- refurb'd at $1k. Cheaper than your motherboard repair and ultra portable.
posted by filmgeek at 11:10 AM on June 4, 2009

My Eee PC 900HA rocks the shiznit. Amped the RAM to 2GB on delivery, and I can play WOW on it, not to mention run a development environment (Eclipse et al).
Paid $375 Canadian for it at Newegg.ca, + $25 for the RAM upgrade. Best purchase I ever made.
posted by Billegible at 12:07 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

yet another happy 1000HE owner here. The battery life and keyboard were what sold me. It meets all your requirements, minus the aforementioned wireless/hackintosh issue. I got mine from newegg, with the extra gig of RAM, and came in just over 400. And like you, I got it to replace a macbook, for whatever that's worth.
posted by namewithoutwords at 12:27 PM on June 4, 2009

Consumer Reports recommends:

Samsung NC-10
Acer Aspire One AOD150-1165
posted by Citrus at 1:06 PM on June 4, 2009

I've got the Linux version of the ASUS Eee PC 1000 and am mostly happy with it, especially considering its price at the time ($387). The keyboard is close enough to full size to be no problem. Battery life is wonderful. The size is handy for trips to town or abroad.

Some people complain that the right shift key is in a weird location, but I type using only the left shift, so I'm happy. The main frustration I have is that the buttons below the track pad are stiff, and the right-click button sometimes jumps to conclusions, doing things I didn't intend for it to do.
posted by PatoPata at 1:16 PM on June 4, 2009

I'm typing this on my 1000he right now (the Lifehacker top pick) and I love it. The battery life is what really sold it, but everything else is really solid too. I, like others above, got the extra gig of RAM, so it runs beautifully.
posted by MsMolly at 6:15 PM on June 4, 2009

Nth the 1000he. Wonderful little guy, easy to get used to, great keyboard and I have large hands.

My only complaint is the wretched multitouch drivers - I had to disable all the touchpad click features because it was nearly impossible to scroll through files without mutli selecting. Not a deal breaker, but it stands out to me because everything else is perfect.
posted by anti social order at 6:25 PM on June 4, 2009

+1 on the 1000HE. Best of class right now IMO.
posted by karizma at 8:09 PM on June 4, 2009

The HP's have keyboard that are 92% the size of normal keyboards and very comfortable. Some other manufacturers have this too & I would look for it if keyboard comfort is a factor.
posted by MesoFilter at 10:33 PM on June 4, 2009

I will admit that the HP's keyboard seemed a little nicer to me than the 1000he's, but its battery life is pathetic. The 1000he's is about the same size, but not quite as sexy.
posted by SpiffyRob at 1:57 PM on June 5, 2009

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