Netbook Recommendation Filter
February 11, 2010 11:42 AM   Subscribe

I have decided to get a netbook with my tax refund and I wanted advice on what brand/model to get. I have read reviews online for netbooks, but I would like MeFi's input. I don’t want links to reviews or google results for ‘good netbooks’, I want advice from experience with different models of netbooks. What you like and don’t like about the one you have/used.

I already have a pretty powerful desktop computer and a Lenovo laptop, I want a netbook as something small and light I can carry around during the day in classes, on trips, and doesn’t cost as much to replace as my lenovo. I would mainly use it to work on documents, browse the internet, and play music; no gaming or AutoCAD. My plan is to install Kubuntu in place of Windows 7 starter, so if I can get a netbook that does not include a copy of windows in the price that would be great. My whole life I have used track points or mice to control a computer, so I am quite bad with trackpads but it seems that’s all the market has except for thinkpads, so an easy to use trackpad would also be a plus.

Once I get an idea of what’s in my price range I will go to the local Best buy and fiddle with a few. But I would like to have an idea of what to look at before going in. Also do any companies have an option to customize a netbook features like I did with my T61 from Lenovo on there website so I can get only the features I want and no extras to save money?

What I want:
-Price: ~300
-Built in Camera
-Decent battery life (4+ hours of use)
-Easy to use trackpad
-1 GB of RAM

Optional Stuff:
-Bluetooth would be nice
-To save on cost I guess I will go with a regular hard drive.
-SD or MicroSD card reader
posted by token-ring to Computers & Internet (32 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I've been quite happy with my Dell Mini 10v (I loaded Ubuntu). I got the 6-cell battery, which consistently gives me 5-7 hours of battery, depending on usage.

There really aren't many options available - a few different hard drive sizes, but that's about it. No bluetooth, but a usb dongle will cost you 99 cents on ebay and work just fine. The webcam is adequate, but nothing special. The trackpad isn't fantastic, (buttons built into the surface) but after a few hours of using it, I adapted pretty quickly.

They're available through the Dell Outlet for cheap, and Dell is currently running a 15% off coupon (MeMail me if you want the code and I'll dig it out of my email). That should bring you down below 300 bucks, even with the larger battery.
posted by chrisamiller at 11:49 AM on February 11, 2010

Am waiting for my week to run up so I can ask a similar question, so I will be watching the responses here. Perhaps some additional things you might want to think about:

-How big of a screen do you want? An 8" netbook is a lot different than a 11/12" near-laptop
-Do you need a full-size keyboard? Some people can't stand typing on mini netbook keyboards
posted by jckll at 11:51 AM on February 11, 2010

Most of the cheaper netbooks have 1024x600 resolution. IMHO it's well worth a few extra dollars to get 1366x768 instead.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:53 AM on February 11, 2010

You should make sure that you can type comfortably on the device. There are many netbooks with poorly constructed keyboards, i.e., tiny mickey-mouse keys, that makes typing very frustrating.
posted by jchaw at 11:55 AM on February 11, 2010

I also have a Dell Mini 10v that I bought to install OS X on, and I find the trackpad INFURIATING to the point that I considered selling it. If you're someone who is "quite bad" with a trackpad, it is probably not the netbook for you.
posted by cosmic osmo at 12:03 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Well I think the smallest I would want is a 10 inch screen, An 11 or 12 inch screen would be better, but I think those cost more. I have been Testing Kubuntu in a Virtual machine with the screen at 1024x600 and its doable, but if I find a model I like with the higher resolution I would defiantly go for it.

I can adapt to most keyboards pretty well, but I would defiantly prefer a full size or large as possible keyboard. What I am going to focus on more when I try the netbooks in Best Buy out is the trackpad positioning and buttons. Next to me in class is someone who has a Toshiba that cost about $400 at target and I like its trackpad and buttons. Haven't typed much on its keyboard so I don't have an opinion about that yet.
posted by token-ring at 12:09 PM on February 11, 2010

I've got an Acer Aspire One, which I use when on the go and working in libraries. Keyboard is reasonably comfy, processing speed is adequate, and plenty of hard drive space. Downsides: sometimes needs to be plugged in to get best results w/wifi; that screen can get rather uncomfortable after a while; tinny speakers (IOW, not your best bet for music).
posted by thomas j wise at 12:22 PM on February 11, 2010

I have an HP Mini 1000, and I love it.
posted by deezil at 12:29 PM on February 11, 2010

I recently got an Asus Eee PC 1005HA. I've got the 10.5 hour battery model, which Amazon currently has for $320 (the 8.5 hour is $310 but should weight a little less). I really like it. It's lightweight, the keyboard is almost full size and typing is easy, it's reasonably stylish IMO, and the battery lasts forever.

Has a 10" screen, webcam, 160GB HD, SD card slot, 1GB RAM (I upgraded to 2GB but, with Ubuntu, I don't think I really needed to). I can't speak to Kubuntu but Ubuntu Netbook Remix installed without problem (you can read about that in my question here). Performance is fine with general web, word processing, music, etc. Based on this computer I wouldn't hesitate to get another Asus, should I need to.
posted by 6550 at 12:30 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I just bought the new Acer Aspire One AO532h With Intel Atom N450. It was $299 in Canada. Pretty standard low-end netbook with the new processor; 1 GB ram, smallish but usable chicklet keyboard, pretty awesome trackpad with gestures (it's the first trackpad i've ever liked), camera. You can pay an extra $50 and get the 10 hour battery and 250BG HDD, otherwise the specs say 4 hours and 160 GB. memory card reader, but no bluetooth. 3 USB ports.

However -- it comes with Windows 7 Starter. Beware the evil Win7 Starter!!! Its so ridiculously locked down, it's insulting and the biggest piece of garbage MS has put out since ME. You can't even change the background! It'll cost $80 to upgrade to Home Premium from Microsoft directly (unless you can find, ehm, other ways to get the upgrade.) I did that, added another gig of ram ($40 in Canada @ NCIX on sale), and now it's a pretty sweet netbook, for me at least. I don't know the durability of it (it's only a month old), but so far I'm happy. Oh, and yeah, it's only 1024x600. My biggest issue with that resolution is that it's too small for a lot of flash games at their native sizes (although using full-screen mode helps.) Eventually I'll put Ubuntu's NBR on there (all my boxes end up with some flavour of Linux eventually), but right now I'm actually happy with a "real" version of Win7.
posted by cgg at 12:33 PM on February 11, 2010

I have an HP Mini 1000, and also an original Asus Eee (the 7" model). The HP Mini is a fabulous little computer, leagues beyond the Eee. I've been happy with it in every respect, and the keyboard, in particular, is excellent -- you could type on it all day.
posted by dacoit at 12:35 PM on February 11, 2010

I have an Acer Aspire AS1410-8414. It's small (about 3 pounds) and easy to carry around with me. The keyboard seems bigger than those of most small notebooks and works well. It has a multi-touch track pad though which is a bit annoying because sometimes I find myself accidentally shrinking or enlarging things.

It has 2 gigs of memory, an Intel chip, and full Windows. It's technically not a netbook because it has more memory, a faster chip, and full Windows (whereas netbooks tend to have lower specs). It cost about $400 and think the extra $100 was worth it. I just couldn't imagine 1gig of memory being enough.

Plus it has nice extras like an HDMI port and an SD slot.
posted by parakeetdog at 12:36 PM on February 11, 2010

Hardware thoughts only: I find the keyboard ridiculously easy to use on my 1000 Eee PC... but the touchpad is frustrating and the hardware for the buttons feels cheap. It doesn't bother me nearly enough to send it in for repairs under warranty, but everyone who borrows my computer will complain about it. The battery life, as 6550 mentioned on a similar model, is pretty awesome (I've had mine for nearly a year and no problems so far).

FWIW, lots of people will say that you need to upgrade your RAM, but I didn't bother upgrading and don't mind the performance. I mostly browse the web and listen to music in iTunes, but I have a lot running in the background (TweetDeck, Dropbox, etc.) and it works fine. I've used Eclipse on my netbook but do NOT recommend that.
posted by tantivy at 12:36 PM on February 11, 2010

I have been using a MSI Wind 100 for 15 months now, am very satisfied with it, but probably would not have bought it should I have to buy it right now. Considering there suddenly are more attractive options available every week.

The MSI Wind is a far more useful computer than I ever thought it could be. The screen, with its LED-backlight, is marvelous. The battery life, 6 cell, is great. It has a solid keyboard. The portability, which was the main reason to buy it, really makes it a machine to take anywhere with me.

It's so useful in fact, I regret I can only use it for a limited time without straining myself. The same sharp 10 inch screen that makes watching video a delight, is small. And after a couple of hours it always becomes too small.

So, I am looking at a bigger laptop than a netbook right now, with the same low weight, and thus portability, but with a larger screen. These are called ultrathin and/or energy efficient notebooks; and may cost $ 150 more than a netbook; but will be even more useful.
posted by ijsbrand at 12:36 PM on February 11, 2010

I just got a Dell Inspiron 10v, and I also find the trackpad exruciating to use. Perhaps I'll get used to it in the coming weeks, but I'm searching for a way to disable the scroll areas since I inadvertly turn them on nearly every time I move the mouse.

Other than that though, its great!
posted by Admira at 1:01 PM on February 11, 2010

Acer Aspire One, get the hard-drive, not the flash drive version. Buy a 6 or 10 cell battery on eBay. PERFECTION.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:22 PM on February 11, 2010

Response by poster: Ok, Thanks for all the answers so far. Keep 'em coming if anyone else has an opinion.

Right now I am leaning towards a Acer Aspire One AO532h I just played with at Office Max (the Best Buy near me closes two weeks ago without notice) and the only thing I didn't like was how the left and right click was a single bar, but I can live with that.

I could not find any Toshiba's or EeePC's on the store to play with yet.
posted by token-ring at 2:21 PM on February 11, 2010

I've an Acer Aspire One, but it only has 512MB RAM.


Love it otherwise, and will eventually get around to adding some.

(and yeah, get the extra capacity battery)
posted by knapah at 2:49 PM on February 11, 2010

I've been searching maniacally for netbook value myself, and I also keep coming back to the Acer Aspire One AO532h. If I found something significantly cheaper with both the 160GB drive, Atom N450 and 6+ hours of battery life, I might change my mind but I don't think it exists.

cgg, what kind of life are you getting out of the standard battery?
posted by rocketpup at 2:54 PM on February 11, 2010

cgg, what kind of life are you getting out of the standard battery?

To be honest, I haven't fully tested it enough times; I tend to recharge long before it's dead. The two times I've drained it however, it was around 4 hours of light browsing. More processor-intensive tasks however (flash, for one) will drain it much faster.
posted by cgg at 3:34 PM on February 11, 2010

I love my Asus EeePC. Mine has a real 7 hr battery length, which is fine for me. Here is something that was a total deal breaker with other models: I touch type and the other models I looked at had bizarre key placement around the right shift key which made it super awkward to type without hitting other keys. I use skype with the built in mike and camera and that's not great but good enough. I was also impressed that the battery didn't stick out when it was all closed up like some other models I looked at. There is nothing really that I don't like about this netbook.
posted by kch at 3:35 PM on February 11, 2010

Huh. Looking at the various options of the AO532h, it looks like it should be getting more. Maybe I have a smaller battery, I'm not sure. Don't trust me for my opinions on battery life; I live plugged in.
posted by cgg at 3:39 PM on February 11, 2010

cgg: Thanks! I saw claims of 6 or 7 hours for that model with the standard battery before, so I'll definitely be looking more closely before I purchase.
posted by rocketpup at 3:49 PM on February 11, 2010

HP Mini 1000 here. Something like 97% of regular sized keyboard so it's better than many other options.
posted by CwgrlUp at 4:04 PM on February 11, 2010

Regular hard drives cost the same as solid state ones. The difference is the solid state ones are bigger. If you don't need a lot of storage, you can get a solid state one which is much less likely to fail due to drops or other impacts.

If you do get one with a solid state drive, be aware that Windows is horrible on it. Windows has some write issues that constantly freeze the computer and lead people to hate solid state drives (see blue_beetle's comment). Put some variety of linux on it immediately. My personal recommendation is Ubuntu Netbook Remix. It is specifically designed for small screens.
posted by thekiltedwonder at 4:23 PM on February 11, 2010

Response by poster: I think I might have narrowed it down to either Acer Aspire One AO532h or the Gateway LT Series LT2119u and I can't seem to break the tie.
posted by token-ring at 4:23 PM on February 11, 2010

I have an Asus EeePC 1000HE with 2GB RAM and Windows XP, and it is a phenomenal little machine. The battery lasts 7.5 hours, the keyboard is great, it's light, it fits in my shoulder bag. This has been not only my primary, but my only computer for the past 10 months - I connect it to an external monitor when I'm at home. It does everything I need it to, including Photoshop and Illustrator. I'm a web designer and probably use it about 12 hours a day.
posted by oulipian at 5:15 PM on February 11, 2010

I'll second the MSI Wind line. Very sturdy and capable 10"-er.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 6:32 PM on February 11, 2010

I also recommend the HP Mini 1000. I don't know how much they are wherever you are (they're apparently pretty cheap in the states) but I think it's brilliant and love that I can watch videos, use iTunes, etc. It's a much more pleasant experience than using the lower powered netbooks, in my opinion. In fact, I have been using it as my primary computer since I bought it a month ago.
posted by Lucie at 6:40 PM on February 11, 2010

I also love my Asus Eee PC 1005HA, specs described above by 6550. I shopped for a while (online only, mostly AskMe and and ended up with this one because of the battery life. So far I have found its claim of 8-10 hrs battery life to be close enough to true. I use it for ~45 minutes twice a day, and don't plug it in for 2-3 days. So that's 3-4.5 hours awake and 48+ hours asleep before the battery gets cranky.

Also, I love the keyboard a LOT. It is just a smallish normal keyboard. I have had no issues adjusting.
posted by librarina at 9:27 PM on February 11, 2010

no matter what netbook you get, you should upgrade the ram (aftermarket) -- i have a dell mini9 running a beta version of windows 7 (with a SSD, but still) AND nothing turned off/changed/whatever

most def upgrade the RAM
posted by knockoutking at 5:54 PM on February 14, 2010

also, id look @ acer as well if your looking @ battery power

...and although this is out of your price range, if your looking for a very high quality netbook look at the samsungs!
posted by knockoutking at 5:55 PM on February 14, 2010

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