Netbook vs. Standard Laptop
November 30, 2010 7:01 AM   Subscribe

Christmas List Question: Netbook or Cheap Laptop for wife

I'm planning on getting my wife either a netbook, ipad (doubtful) or cheap laptop for christmas. She would probably only use it for Hulu, Netflix, Facebook and gmail.... Should i go with a $200-300 netbook, or a $200-400 laptop...

She isn't that tech savvy, and would be using it only via wireless up in our bedroom. Battery life isn't too much of an issue, as she'll be able to keep it plugged in...

I don't have much experience with netbooks, so i don't know if they can handle facebook, hulu, netflix, etc... probably not multi-tasking, just watching TV shows from our bedroom or checking email.

Thanks Cloud...
posted by fozzie33 to Computers & Internet (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I had an ASUS netbook 1000HA awhile back. I bought it for these same reasons, but I can't recommend it for video of any sort. In my experience, it tends to choke up and not even load Youtube videos properly. There's all kinds of stuttering and terrible.

For Facebook and Gmail it was fine. But that was really it, a nigh-claustrophobic browsing experience and not so much else. I used to recommend netbooks for quite awhile, but I can't anymore.

Get a laptop!
posted by Askiba at 7:04 AM on November 30, 2010

Response by poster: also, this is replacing an older 15" powerbook that had its lcd broken last year...
posted by fozzie33 at 7:10 AM on November 30, 2010

I would probably rock the iPad. Less for you to clean up after if she's not technical-- the walled model pretty much removes the malware factor, and updates are fairly simple. If she's streaming everything on wifi, you don't need the 3G or a high-capacity model, which cuts your costs.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 7:12 AM on November 30, 2010

I'd go with an iPad if I weren't planning to write a lot or use non-web based apps. It's really the perfect entertainment device. The screen, as an IPS display, is so much better than any cheap laptop screen. Netflix streaming is gorgeous on my iPhone, and can only be better on the big screen. The games available for iOS appeal even to my wife, who is about as far from a gamer as people come. It's a way better ebook reader than any small laptop. For TV shows I stream content to my iPhone off my mac via Plex and it's very decent quality.

The big downside here is that I don't think it's possible to view Hulu on the iPad yet, though I'm neither an iPad owner nor a Hulu viewer so I might be wrong on that. That, and I wouldn't want to pound out a 10 page email on that keyboard (though even just playing with them for 15 minutes here and there I've been able to get pretty proficient with it).
posted by pjaust at 7:17 AM on November 30, 2010

I love my Samsung N220 netbook, which plays most videos just fine. However, it can't handle big HD videos (like rips of 1080p movies). So, if that's what she's going to watch on Netflix, a full-sized laptop might be a better choice.
posted by neushoorn at 7:19 AM on November 30, 2010

My wife bought a Dell Mini 9 about 2 years ago and it struggles with online video. It works fine with Orb and SageTV though, but not the commercial video sites. She can't open too many tabs at once on the browser. It's also still really slow (even to boot) even though it has a SSD.

I would also choose the iPad for your wife. If you guys have a second computer that she could use when she needs to do something it can't, then you're golden.

A netbook is nice b/c they are small. My wife is small, so she has no problem typing on the keyboard. However, I struggle to use it, b/c I am 6 feet tall.

Netbooks have progressed a lot in the past 2 years. I recommend going and trying some in the stores. Go down to Best Buy and try out all of the use-cases that you can see.

If you had the cash, I'd recommend a Macbook Air, those things are so sweet.

If the iPad had been released a few years ago when I bought my mother a computer, I would have bought her an iPad and a keyboard stand. It really reduces the hassle around using and owning a computer.

My folks are divorced and my father never had time for computers. He received an iPad for his birthday and now he does email and browses the web; it's really been fantastic for him.
posted by reddot at 7:21 AM on November 30, 2010

If she plays some of the games on FB, make sure they will work on the iPad. Bejeweled Blitz and Zuma Blitz do not as they require Flash.
posted by JaneL at 7:25 AM on November 30, 2010

I can't recommend a netbook. It definitely struggles with any sort of online video.
posted by volatilebit at 7:29 AM on November 30, 2010

I have all of the above and the ipad is TOTALLY winning that battle. I have not taken anything to work except for the ipad..... pretty much since I got it.
I have the ipad and a 17 inch Macbook Pro on a rolling "bed" table and when I use anything, it's usually the ipad.
Hulu runs wonderfully on it as does Netflix by the way. The netbook is surely getting SOLD!
posted by Studiogeek at 7:34 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have a Dell mini10v which I got from Dell when they had a buy-one-get-one deal, so I split it with a colleague. Total price including shipping: $205.

I use it daily and installed Ubuntu on it. With Ubuntu I routinely web surf (Google Chrome), send email, write documents (Open Office), chat on IRC (Pidgin), upload pictures to flickr.

Watching video on it is impossible. It's probably the Flash implementation or possibly the video drivers, possibly the (lack of) memory - but YouTube videos run at 5 maybe 10 frames a second - unwatchable.

Video ran better when it was running XP.

I tried doing Android development on it - nigh impossible. It runs eclipse (badly) and I can see maybe a dozen lines of code at a time.

It can be Hackintoshed, though, and reports I've read say that YouTube videos are OK.

Upgrading the memory is a serious PITA. Order it with the 2G - you'll be happier.
posted by plinth at 7:37 AM on November 30, 2010

Bejeweled 2 + Blitz is its own app on the iPhone and iPad. I haven't checked on Zuma, but wouldn't be surprised if it's either out or coming soon.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 8:01 AM on November 30, 2010

I got the Dell 10V about a year ago with Ubuntu loaded (NB, Dell would not discount the price w/o Windows so you may want to get it with Windows and install Ubuntu yourself). Videos are great on mine and primarily what I use it for. Great for committing or just when I have some idle time and want to watch something. All I've watched has been .avi files watched using DIVX. Have not tried full DVD rips or streaming.
posted by evilelf at 8:09 AM on November 30, 2010

I recently used an ipad and wasn't thrilled with the quality of the video, either on the abc player or on netflix. But maybe I was doing it wrong?

The netbooks I've worked on have been very slow and sluggish with video. I'd go with the laptop.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:14 AM on November 30, 2010

I was looking for the same thing for my wife a few years back and she ended up with an HP full size laptop with a 15" screen. It's still going strong for her. Occasionally I'll check it out to make sure her antivirus and anti-malware are up to date, but that's it. Only downside is it has vista, but that's only because I haven't gotten around to updating it.

if she doesn't need the portability, you should steer clear of netbooks. The keyboards and screens are cramped, and they still don't do video very well.
posted by Sir Cholmondeley at 8:19 AM on November 30, 2010

If she's always going to keep it plugged in in your bedroom, why pay extra for devices that have to be portable?
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:35 AM on November 30, 2010

There really isn't a reason for a netbook if she's just using it in the bedroom. Get a laptop and be done with it. It's not like you can't put a different OS on a laptop if you want to. (Though I could see being swayed into the iPad side of things. They are pretty great if they do all you want them to do.)
posted by advicepig at 9:15 AM on November 30, 2010

To counter these opinions, my samsung NC10 does video just fine.
posted by zug at 9:42 AM on November 30, 2010

posted by thilmony at 10:07 AM on November 30, 2010

I have all three and the only time I do not use the iPad is when someone else is hogging it. I am just thrilled to bits with the iPad as a way to watch movies in bed.
posted by saucysault at 10:09 AM on November 30, 2010

I find a laptop to be most usable at home. It goes to the kitchen for recipes, the bedroom for reading, etc. The ipad is a fantastic shopping device. There are lots of cool apps, a few of them free. I was annoyed at the tether to the itunes store when I testdrove one. It does not play cds, dvds, etc., and does not support Flash. These things are pretty problematic for me. However, the screen is lovely, it's nice to read books on. I suspect I'll end up with a small laptop for my personal use.
posted by theora55 at 11:28 AM on November 30, 2010

I'm on my second netbook and I've been fairly happy with both of them. They both handled youtube fine and they seem good with streaming videos, although I've never used Hulu or Netflix.

If you're just using it for movies/browsing and not for it's portability, avoid the small netbooks. The screen space is just too small to enjoy a movie and the keyboard feels a bit cramped. I really like my current netbook/subnotebook though, it's the Acer Aspire 3820T. It has a 13.3" display which makes watching videos SO much nicer than a tiny 10" screen (although the main reason I got it was for the battery life of 4+ hours, so ymmv). You'll probably have trouble finding larger laptops/netbooks with your budget though... The ipad might be your best bet for quality vs price, since most laptops will set you back 600+. I've never used the ipad though. If you can live with a tiny screen, I found the Acer Aspire One to be acceptable.

Definitely go to a store and test some out if you can, even if you don't plan on buying it from that particular store.
posted by Elachim at 12:13 PM on November 30, 2010

If you want to give the gift of suffering that will only get worse through the life of the machine, go ahead and give a netbook.

A more useful recommendation would be a refurb/clearance T series thinkpad or if you want smaller, a
refurb/clearance X series Thinkpad (AMD Neo processors are equivalent to Intel Atom processors and they should be avoided as they are netbooks).
posted by fief at 12:29 PM on November 30, 2010

For entertainment, definitely the IPad. I love my little Acer Aspire One, but video is usually sluggish and sound always tinny.
posted by thomas j wise at 1:12 PM on November 30, 2010

Netbook = sacrifices power for tinyness. Weak, but it will fit in her purse. 3rd choice.

Notebook = if she needs one computer for everything and needs a real computer, get her a notebook. But a $400 notebook won't be very good. 2nd choice.

iPad = if she's just checking mail and facebook and watching video, all she needs is an iPad. Bonus, she'll have a hot new thing that she can brag about, and it's both cute and user-friendly. 1st choice with bells on.

Money saving tips: if she's not going to be roving around outside needing to be connected to the net, then skip the 3G models and save $130; unless she's going to store a huge iTunes library on it, then get the 16GB model.

In short, you should get her the cheapest model iPad and she'll love it.
posted by bartleby at 1:18 PM on November 30, 2010

No matter what you think now, it's always nice to have something that will burn CDs or DVDs (as storage media, not movies).
posted by feelinggood at 2:11 PM on November 30, 2010

Response by poster: Ipad is too costly, leaning toward refurbed laptop...
posted by fozzie33 at 8:51 PM on November 30, 2010

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