Give me the biggest, most portable, and cheapest thing you have
June 13, 2011 1:52 PM   Subscribe

What would work as a portable device for my dad with aging eyesight to check email and browse the web?

Last year, my sister and I got our dad a laptop with an enormous screen so that he could do his internet browsing in the living room (or wherever) but not have to strain his eyes. This year, my mom told us that he discovered his friend has a netbook - simple and portable - and was intrigued enough that my mom suggested we get him one for Father's Day.

I have reservations about this because -

1) Aren't netbooks on the decline? Are they even worth buying over a regular small-sized laptop?

2) One of the netbooks' features that draw the loudest complaints is how small everything is. Would this null the benefit of its portability?

3) What else can I get him that would work better? He just wants to browse the internet and check email. Budget: under $250, which means iPad is out.

4) My sister and brother-in-law are suggesting a Nook, which they say is pretty much like an android tablet and works well for browsing the web. I have no experience with the Nook besides the fact that it is an e-reader. Wouldn't there be disadvantages with using it primarily for internet browsing? (My dad does not really read.)

5) Should I just give in and get him the netbook to play around with, even if it's not going to be the most fantastic long-term investment?

Thank you in advance!
posted by pinksoftsoap to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The iPad lets you use the nifty expand feature, onscreen, to embigginate* text. It's sort of nice. I'm testdriving one from work, and I really think I'll just stick with a laptop.

* Yes, I know it's not a real word.
posted by theora55 at 2:12 PM on June 13, 2011

Netbook screens tend to be really dinky and low-quality, which combined with crammed resolution doesn't exactly support poor eyesight.

Don't buy one without handling it yourself and carefully examining the screen under various lighting conditions.

I see your dismissal there, but I'd still definitely try to squeeze some sort of first-gen or refurb iPad, though you'll need to reach $350 or so to do that, $100 over your budget. Even without considering the user-friendliness and ease of e-mail and web (the two things the iPad does best, IMHO), the screen quality alone is leaps and bounds beyond any netbook I've touched.
posted by rokusan at 2:15 PM on June 13, 2011

Does your father know how to make the default font bigger on his laptop? Just a thought. After Lasik, I had to go from nearsightedness to suddenly being farsighted, and I have my default font settings at something ridiculous like 14. Also, I love my Macbook because I can just hit command+ to make the print bigger any time.

1,2: I wouldn't recommend a netbook for your Dad with poor eyesight.

3. I think a Kindle might do what you want (in addition to being an EReader) for less than a netbook. You can browse the internet and even check email on it.

4. Nook is also a great suggestion. The Nook Color is awesome, and it looks like it has full-featured email functioning. But I do like that the Kindle is not backlit.

5. No, I don't think so. I have an iPad, and if you were going to go bigger, I'd say go that route before you give in on a Netbook.
posted by misha at 2:16 PM on June 13, 2011

Considering the budget, a low-end Android tablet might fit the bill but I don't think it would be any better than the current laptop. I would not suggest the netbook; I love mine but it's tiiiiiiiny.
posted by goblinbox at 2:40 PM on June 13, 2011

Netbook: 250$, 10.1" display
Cheapest laptop: 300$, 12.1" display
Nook color: 250$, 7" display
iPad 2: 500$, 9.7" display

Conclusion: Talk to him and find out what he wants.
posted by anaelith at 2:45 PM on June 13, 2011

I've checked email (Gmail) from a Kindle. It's not really the way you want to do it regularly. You can't really type normally on a Kindle keyboard. Also, all navigation is via tabbing between fields - no pointer device or mouse.

I don't even have an iPad but it sounds like the best solution for your dad.
posted by COD at 2:46 PM on June 13, 2011

You can get a refurb ipad 1 for $349 right now - can you stretch the budget for that?

My only experience with netbooks is that the screen is little - not the best for the eyesight. I had trouble when I borrowed one and I have decent eyesight. But as far as long term investment, if it's what he wants and it fits the budget, go for it - not much in technology probably is a long term investment these days anyway, so as long as it works for him it works well enough.
posted by mrs. taters at 3:07 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I should add: My experience with dad gift giving has been that they really enjoy some things that they may not end up getting a ton of use out of, but they really enjoy getting it and playing with it for awhile.

I might err on the side of getting him what he wants if he's one of those dads who doesn't really need anything specific and but would be really happy to get this, because on the enjoyment scale it might trump a more useful gift. But I tend to want to indulge my dad because it's soooo hard to get him a gift, if I have an inkling of something he'll enjoy I just jump on it. I figure he got me plenty of stuff over my lifetime that he might have wanted to second guess but didn't :)
posted by mrs. taters at 3:14 PM on June 13, 2011

Your dad might like the netbook simply because it's smaller to tote around than his laptop. I put the NoSquint add on for Firefox on my netbook. It can make just the text larger or the whole page. An older relative with bad eyesight liked it for his larger laptop, too.
posted by dragonplayer at 3:25 PM on June 13, 2011

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