Too many netbooks!
July 3, 2009 5:21 PM   Subscribe

So I'm looking for a netbook. I know there are many comparisons online, and questions asked on here, but I'm drowning under the amount of reviews and the different type of netbooks. Especially as there seem to be new ones coming out each month. So which one would be best for me currently?

I'm really looking for personal recommendations please, but any advice would be grateful.

I'm not too concerned with battery life, as most places I go have power points somewhere, but a good battery life would be useful just in case.

Nor am I too worried about HD size. I'm happy to live with between 40-80GB if necessary.

Size of screen isn't that important, as long as it's large enough not to have to squint at webpages.

What I really, really want: VERY GOOD internet/wireless, and all aspects thereof.

Also it should be fairly fast (is that the CPU etc? Never too sure...)

I'm hopefully looking to pay between £100-£200 although a little above that is manageable.

Is there a netbook that currently suits my needs? Thanks in advance!
posted by Petrot to Computers & Internet (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I have a Dell Mini 9 that I'm happy with. Key points: it came with Windows XP, solid state drive is on the small side but I only use that for apps, the SD slot expands the drive capability for data purposes, plus you can always get an external drive. Wireless range is a hell of a lot better than my desktop. A small USB mouse was one of my first purchases, in addition to an external DVD drive since it doesn't have one. One can argue that by the time you buy the accessories and having to carry them around you might was well have bought a normal laptop, but I see it as a modular approach, just take what you need.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 5:41 PM on July 3, 2009

Best answer: I've seen two of these: an Acer Aspire One and an Asus EEE PC of some sort. (They make the EEE PC with a wide variety of screen sizes, I think this one was a sort of smaller screen.) My conclusion after researching them a few months ago was that they were all approximately the same, with one or two exceptions. Intel seems to make a very small set of distinct Atom motherboards (the platform which the netbooks are based on), and they all seem to have pretty similar specifications: an Atom processor, wireless, some USB ports, on-board graphics, 1.5gb-2gb of RAM maximum. The price point seems pretty similar among netbooks as well.

There are some minor exceptions to the everything-is-the-same rule:
  1. Some have a small solid state drive of 4-8 gb rather than a hard drive of 40+ gb. You in all likelihood want a real hard drive, unless it's for really light use.
  2. Some ship with Linux rather than Windows.
  3. The screen size, keyboard, mousing device, weight and dimensions vary slightly on each model.
Given all that, I would just go into a retail store, try out the netbooks they have, and see which one you like.
posted by pbh at 6:02 PM on July 3, 2009

(Just a minor follow-up: now that I think about it, I don't know if manufacturers make their own Atom-based motherboards or just use Intel's, but in any case the netbook market has standardised on a very, very similar set of specifications.)
posted by pbh at 6:05 PM on July 3, 2009

Since it's the thing that will frustrate you the most, pick the keyboard you like best... or that annoys you the least. For me, that meant the Acer Aspire One. I found the EeePC keyboards too delicate and toylike.
posted by rokusan at 6:07 PM on July 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I too have a Mini 9 that I tinker with from time to time and write the occasional note. 8GB SSD and a 9 inch screen (hence Mini 9) are fine for internet browsing and whatnot.

As for speed, the Intel Atom is good enough at doing what it does without too much fuss, although the first thing I did was take off XP (too much of Dell's crap) and throw on Debian with Fluxbox. Runs great. My friend has the old EEE 701 and it ran a fresh install of XP decently and 2000 excellently. The newer 900s and 1000s are even better.

Mine came with all the essential plugs and ports, but like hungrysquirrels said, you might need an external DVD drive, unless you are fine with doing things via USB.

What I would suggest is that you take some time and visit your local electronic retailer and play around with all the display models they have available. With that form factor, you might find one or two things about any model that can be irritating (weird keyboard layout on my Mini 9, but I got used to that). Find one that you are comfortable using, since heavy competition in the market right now means that most models in a given price range will have similar specs.

Finally when you pick something you seem to like, look for it on sale online, or wait a month if you can.
posted by shoebox at 6:16 PM on July 3, 2009

Another vote for the Mini 9. I bought mine certified refurbished from Dell Outlet for something like $200.
posted by chez shoes at 6:47 PM on July 3, 2009

As rokusan says, but I'd also consider the trackpad layout. It turned out that I was way pickier about button layout than I thought I'd be.

(Lenovo S10 here. I've raved about it in enough other netbook threads.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 6:52 PM on July 3, 2009

Just a sidebar, until tomorrow Target has the eeeH1000 (the 10 incher) for $250. Apparently with windows 7, people are getting up to 7 hours of run-time. After playing with the acer, the hp's, the dells, the mini-gateway, etc...the 10inch eee has my vote.

Caveat: I don't own any of them, as I have a work laptop and don't need one.

I decided on the eee because of the relatively minimal black plastic around the lcd, lcd resolution, battery life, xp/7 capability, and asus' open architecture.

And reading now I see you're not using US currency, but still...I like the eee.
posted by TomMelee at 7:32 PM on July 3, 2009

I have a EEE 1000HE that I love. Very much. I'm not generally inclined to get bonded to a computer, but this thing is awesome.

I run Word and Excel on it, at the same time, with firefox and Itunes. No problem. I would say, it's borderline zippy.

I have zonealarm and AVG installed on it. You don't want to get a virus with these things. Not much processing power to spare. But basically it's awesome. Youtube videos can be slow, but not really bad. Mostly I think it's my internet connection.

Never tried photoshop or anything like that but my guess is that it would work but really slowly and the screen size would be annoying.

Really I think they are awesome. It has a 120gb hard drive and the battery lasts around 6 hours. The model they have at Best Buy I believe has a 4 cell battery, mine has a 6. So I'd make sure you buy online.

But really, I think this is the best for the price. Great computer.
posted by sully75 at 7:42 PM on July 3, 2009

The Dell Minis are virtually silent which I can definitely assure you is not the case for all netbooks. Perhaps it's not that big a deal to you, but if it is, the Dells are the only way to go.
posted by fantasticninety at 9:23 PM on July 3, 2009

Best answer: I have an MSI Wind I bought back in March. It was between it and an ASUS (I don't remember which one specifically). I picked the Wind because reviews said it had a quieter fan than the ASUS I was looking at. (I did consider the Dell model, but I think the whole "I want it now" overruled the whole "wait for a custom build" aspect of it. That's possibly changed, however).

My overall conclusion, after hours of research, is that mostly, most netbooks are fairly indistinguishable and whatever I picked would be instantaneously replaced with an upgraded model as soon as I bought it. The hardware in most of them seems to be pretty much the same (even down to the same processor) and so personal preferences like color or size or quiet fans are where the difference is (but this was four months ago -- I haven't kept up with the changes since then).

I don't, however, have any complaints about my Wind -- it's speedy and tiny. Since I've been in transition for the past month due to moving, it's actually been my primary computer and it's served me well. I haven't done much else other than some basic photo editing and word processing in addition to Internet, but I haven't had any problems. I don't think it's even crashed on me once. Wireless connection is good -- I've used it in several different places and no issues.

So the Wind is my recommendation, but honestly, I get the feeling that most netbooks are going to do what you're looking for them to do.
posted by darksong at 9:25 PM on July 3, 2009

In terms of speed, almost all of them use an Atom N270 or N280, so they aren't going to be particularly fast. I have an ASUS EEEPC 1000H, and it has an awesome wireless adapter that picks up hotspots where my other laptop can't. Also, unlike many netbooks, it can be upgraded to 2 gig and you can put in a larger HD (mine has a 500gb) with the turn of a screwdriver. Upgrades on some of the others aren't that simple.
posted by Crotalus at 9:28 PM on July 3, 2009

The guy who sits next to me at work has a really nice HP netbook of some sort. It seems pretty sturdy and fast.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:55 PM on July 3, 2009

"Just a sidebar, until tomorrow Target has the eeeH1000 (the 10 incher) for $250. "

TomMelee had me going (I have an Eee 901), but it should be noted that the Target sale is on the 1000HD, not the newer and better 1000HE. The HD has a Celeron CPU,which means it will have poorer battery life. The sale is probably to clear the shelves for the HE, which Target is selling for $400.
posted by orthogonality at 12:16 AM on July 4, 2009

I must say that the MSI Wind has really impressed me. I've had no problem with mine, and the specs are great for work on the go, and also for short periods of using it as a primary device.

The 10 inch screen and spacious keyboard was a big draw, for me.
posted by Alex930 at 1:15 AM on July 4, 2009

Best answer: rokusan brings up my main point - as a fairly decent typist and someone who makes a living through typing, the keyboards on many netbooks are bizarre. We currently have a Dell Mini 9 as a living room computer, which is awesome because it runs OS X like a dream, but has a wonky keyboard that I find near-impossible to touch-type on - both size and key layout - although if I used it as my main machine, I'd probably get used to it. It's great in every other respect though.

I've also played with a relatively recent Asus Eee, which had what I considered to be a far nicer keyboard, and seemed relatively snappy.

Bottom line is the insides don't differ that much beyond RAM and drive space - they all have wifi, generally use the same Intel Atom processors, etc. Look for a form factor/price that you like and go for it - I don't think I've heard of any that are particularly bad, so you likely won't go wrong no matter what you pick up.
posted by agentmunroe at 4:57 AM on July 4, 2009

Response by poster: thanks all for the great answers; just what I wanted. I shall browse my nearest retail outlook based on your recommendations!
posted by Petrot at 6:26 AM on July 4, 2009

Roops, my bad. Nice catch, ortho.
posted by TomMelee at 11:23 AM on July 4, 2009

I just bought one of Acer's just released 11.6-inch netbooks and I am very pleased with it. It is only slightly larger than the 10-inch models, it has a full-size keyboard, Wi-Fi range is phenomenal and the 6-cell battery life is excellent (7-9 hours). I bought it from for $380 (USD) which is only about $30 more than the 10-inch screen models. It also has the very latest Atom processor in it, which is suppose to be faster and more energy efficient than its predecessor.

You say that screen size is not that important, but I think a 10-inch screen is just a little too small, especially if you want to use it for work. I waited for the bigger screen to come out because I do web page design and often deal with spreadsheets so I needed a screen with more vertical height.

They have a slightly more expensive version that has a bigger hard-drive (250G instead of 160G), Vista instead of Windows XP Home, 2G RAM and Blue-tooth. Don't be put off by Vista like I was. Microsoft is now offering a free upgrade to Windows 7 when it comes out in October.

One last thing. Battery life is important and you should get a netbook with a 6-cell battery instead of 3-cells. There is no point in getting a netbook if you are going to be tied to an electrical outlet.
posted by 14580 at 12:11 PM on July 4, 2009

I agree with others that there all basically the same internally. So go with what works for you based on the outside looks.

Had an Acer Aspire One for several months. Which I sold yesterday and got a Toshiba NB200 instead. The 8.9" screen of the Acer was just too small for me. The Toshiba 10" is better. Another reason for selling was that it was the linux version. My main computer is Windows so I wanted compatibility and I'm just used to the Windows environment.

Biggest factor in getting the Toshiba was the keyboard. Here in Canada, we have these stupid bilingual keyboards that have smaller left Shift keys. This annoyed the shit out of me on the Acer. (Along with its crappy trackpad.) And when I went to the store, the Dell and the Toshiba netbooks were the only ones that had decent sized Shift keys.

So, just make sure you play around with one before you buy.
posted by quoththeraven at 5:45 PM on July 5, 2009

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