Recommendations for netbook
November 3, 2010 11:41 AM   Subscribe

Looking for recommendations for a netbook.

I am considering purchasing a netbook. I would like to use it creating, reading, and editing Word documents, reading pdf documents, and getting access to the internet while away from the office. What would be a good netbook to purchase if I want to spend about $300 on it?

For word processing, I want something that is compatible with Microsoft Word (.doc and .docx) since that is what I use at work. It should also be able to read pdf files, and if it will also allow me to edit pdf files, that would be even better. Also, it should have wifi capability, and I should be able to plug in my memory stick. In addition, if it can also handle Excel and PowerPoint (or allow me to install them), that would be great too.

posted by jujube to Technology (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have this Acer Aspire One, and I love it. It does all the things you're asking for. I maxed out the memory, and now it's fast enough to watch Netflix on. Be aware, though that MS Office doesn't come with most new computers, so you'll have to buy that separately, effectively adding 30-50% to the cost of your computer. What I've done is install Open Office, which creates and reads all MS compatible documents, and it's free and open source.
posted by decathecting at 11:48 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

So for netbooks one of the key things is how well you can type on them. Pretty much all of them will do the same job, but usability can be key. Sit down in front of a few and type on them and use that as a starting point.
posted by bitdamaged at 11:51 AM on November 3, 2010

I have an ASUS 1000HE and happy with it.
If you don't want to spend money on Microsoft office try LibreOffice.
posted by WizKid at 11:54 AM on November 3, 2010

I love my Samsung N220 netbook. Its battery life is awesome and I find it as comfortable to type on as my 13" Macbook. Its performance improved greatly when I replaced the default Windows 7 Starter installation with Windows 7 Home Premium. It will run Office and Acrobat, has wireless capability, and has three USB ports. It cost €294 (I already had a spare Home Premium license).
posted by neushoorn at 11:57 AM on November 3, 2010

Response by poster: Sorry, for some reason I thought that I couldn't install software on netbooks or something and had to use whatever it came with. So if it makes a difference, my work will supply me with Office 2007, Adobe Acrobat, and Adobe Contribute, if that makes a difference in the recommendation. Thanks.
posted by jujube at 11:59 AM on November 3, 2010

Please, if possible, try to check them in person. The keyboard makes a world of difference and the only way to be sure it won't suck is to physically test them out.

Other than that, I'm very happy with my first gen Samsung NC10, awesome keyboard and great battery life.
posted by Memo at 12:05 PM on November 3, 2010

I agree with bitdamaged. There is a big difference in netbook keyboards. I really like the Samsung NC10 (they have newer models now). It runs Windows so you can just install your favorite PDF reader and MS Office or any of the free applications that can open office documents. Also look at the screen. Matte and bright screens are very different. A bright screen looks really nice in the store if they play videos on it, but some people prefer matte screens for office work. I see Wikipedia has a nice comparison table that mentions many features. I think all $300 netbooks have wifi and usb.
posted by davar at 12:06 PM on November 3, 2010

I have an acer aspire one. One thing I've found is that Internet is very slow. Pages take a long time to load, it's frustrating. I don't know if the delay comes from how the machine handles wi-fi (I'm using wi-fi to connect) or if the browser is coming up against processor speed / memory limitations. A couple of other things: battery life is only around 40 minutes. There's no DVD drive, so you can't watch DVD movies, if you use a computer for that. Otherwise, it's a durable machine and useful.
posted by Paquda at 12:16 PM on November 3, 2010

Paquda, the battery life on my Acer is 5-8 hours, so you may want to try a new battery.
posted by decathecting at 12:17 PM on November 3, 2010

I have the Toshiba Mini NB205, and think it's great. I chose this model over other netbooks because the track pad felt the most comfortable -- the most like a larger laptop's track pad. This was 18 months ago, so YMMV based on newer models. The battery life is awesome. It's rated at 9 hours, and at 18 months old, it still gets me through two 3-hour classes plus about two hours additional web-surfing or reading before it drops low enough that I plug it in. I have been really happy with this netbook, but strongly recommend trying out different keyboards and trackpads to see what's most comfortable for you.
posted by sk932 at 12:32 PM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have an eee901. While old it's still plenty fast. But what made it fast was buying a new and much better SSD and installing Ubuntu rather than windows.
posted by rhymer at 1:01 PM on November 3, 2010

Okay, decathecting. It's quite possible there's something wrong with mine.
posted by Paquda at 1:49 PM on November 3, 2010

I've been using an ASUS 701 (with upgraded RAM) for a few years now, and I absolutely love it. It's light, portable, perfectly adequate for my needs (which are very similar to yours: web, email, text editing, PDFs, some light image editing), and cheap. And since it's solid-state, it goes with me everywhere and doesn't give a damn if I'm a little rough with it. Another bonus: it's got a built-in SD bay, which is cheap storage and compatible with my digital cameras.

I was running Windows XP Pro early on, but recently switched to Ubuntu for Netbooks. No problems whatsoever, and better performance.
posted by fracas at 1:51 PM on November 3, 2010

Love love love my Toshiba Mini NB305. I hear the older versions are also great. Fantastic battery life (about 9 hours with heavy internet use). Best keyboard in terms of type-ability (scientific term) -- I tried typing on about 30 other netbooks before choosing this one. Doesn't get overly hot. Good graphics, mediocre sound.

I maxed out the memory, which cost an additional $64 (on Amazon). Even using the upgraded Windows 7 Ultimate, Word, OneNote, pdf reader, Skype, and dozens of tabs in Firefox simultaneously, the computer runs very quickly.

If you look around at various reviews, you'll find that other people like it, too.
posted by lovelylucy at 2:09 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can recommend a Dell Mini 9. As a bonus, it's also perfectly compatible with OSX if you want to go down that route.
posted by Biru at 2:13 PM on November 3, 2010

I can recommend a Dell Mini 9.

Sadly no longer available, from Dell at least.

I would highly recommend Ubuntu over XP as your OS if you just want it for writing and web browsing, but it sounds like you want to transfer files back and forth for work so you might want to stick with windows - Open Office is great but can occasionally do odd things when loading and saving as MS Office.
posted by Artw at 2:34 PM on November 3, 2010

There is nothing special about a netbook vs other laptop except it has no built in dvd/cd player and not massive amounts of memory. Most have some version of windows so you can easily run your ms office software.
As others have said make sure you are comfortable with the keyboard.
I've had an acer aspire one with win xp for about 6 months and love it.
posted by canoehead at 2:42 PM on November 3, 2010

This won't fit your budget... but my vote is for the new 11" Macbook Air. it will cost you $1000 plus tax.

While you said you want a netbook for work and internet, the key thing is the keyboard (no pun intended). I had the Dell Mini 9 and the keyboard was workable, but I was constantly making mistakes with it because of it's size and it's trackpad is horrible. The processor couldn't play HD video files (such as Youtube) and the screen resolution was so small (1024x768) that getting anything done was more of a hassle than being productive. As far as computers go, netbooks work, but not well.

The Macbook Air 11" (which I own) will do everything you need and more. Most importantly, it wall make doing work on a small device enjoyable, and has enough power that it will age well and allow you to do a few other things at once.

And you can run Windows on it if the need arises.
posted by darkgroove at 3:06 PM on November 3, 2010

seconding the 11in macbook air. i just got one and it totally blows my old msi wind so far out of the water that it's completely inland. you would be surprised how much things like opening it and having it instantly turn on and be ready to go, the amazing trackpad, and the very comfortable keyboard and beautiful screen add to your ease and enjoyment of working on the device, as well as the ease of carrying it around- it's the perfect size and weight. in my mind, totally worth blowing the cash that i was saving up for a new camera lens...
posted by raw sugar at 5:24 PM on November 3, 2010

I have an acer aspire one as well, and love it - but my boyfriend says that he finds it hard to type on. If you have big hands, you may want to test it out first.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:34 PM on November 3, 2010

I'm typing this on 13" macbook air. What really surprised me was how much I enjoyed it's silent operation. Though it does have a (quiet) fan, it's rarely on with (my) normal use.

Granted it's also triple your current budget and the 13 inch has SD card slot in place of memory stick. But it's also enough of a 'real' laptop that I use it as my only home machine.

I seriously recommend trying the 11" at an Apple store if there is one near you.
posted by lucidprose at 8:43 PM on November 3, 2010

I have a Dell mini, and I love it, although the keyboard does take a little getting used to. It came with Microsoft Office Suite, which meant Microsoft Word Lite or some such horrible non-program, which I junked and replaced with Open Office.

The installing software problem may have stuck in your memory and may indeed cause minor problems since most software still comes on optical drive disk and netbooks don't (usually? ever?) have optical drives. You can work around this using USBs or downloadable software.

One other thing to watch out for is power cord length. They often seem to make them proportionately smaller than those that come with a full sized laptop. Remember this whe looking at specs.
posted by sarahkeebs at 6:10 AM on November 4, 2010

I got an Asus UL20A based on this comment and have been pretty satisfied with it.
posted by Lexica at 1:38 PM on November 4, 2010

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