I need to replace my netbook
May 17, 2012 2:05 AM   Subscribe

Help me replace my eee901 netbook. My needs are annoyingly specific.

For the last four years I’ve had an Asus eee901 which I’ve really liked, but it is now dying. I’ve loved the size and portability and, by putting in a decent 64GB SSD and extra RAM and using Ubuntu, I’ve mitigated the slowness of the N270 Atom chip somewhat. I use it mainly for email, word processing and browsing so I’m not that bothered about the speed, although it would be nice to be able to watch smooth videos. The keyboard I’ve learned to live with. In fact, the only thing that really annoys me is the low resolution of the screen (1024x600).

So, it’s replacement time and, irritatingly, netbooks have barely moved on and don’t come in 8.9 inches any more. My needs are: highly portable, can run Ubuntu, better than 1024x600 screen, can write longish docs on (so no tablets please). I don’t play games and I don’t really want to spend up into Ultrabook territory (yeah, the Asus UX21 is cool and thin, but it has a big footprint and is £750+). I’m thinking a max of about £550. This is not my primary computer. I live in the UK.

So I find myself looking at some very different machines:

One is the Acer Aspire One 522 which has 1280x800 resolution. It has a C-60 processor and again I’d upgrade the RAM and put in an SSD. Here I’m worried that I’m looking at something that is little better than the four year old netbook I’m replacing. I’m also worried that Acer’s build quality isn’t great.

The second is a Lenovo x121e which is 11.6 inches (1366x768) and rather bigger. But it is a fairly serious laptop and far better engineered and specced than the Aspire. It’s pricier too, at about £400, but I’m not really concerned about that. What I am really concerned about is the extra size. I want something I can carry in a smallish bag without really noticing.

A third, outside, consideration is the Asus Transformer Prime. The size of this is fantastic. But I’m very, very unsure of being locked into Android or, if I’m lucky, some iffy future Ubuntu port. Also, I’ve heard that word processing capabilities on it are terrible.

Anyway, if anyone has any experience of these machines or any other suggestions, I’d be very grateful.
posted by rhymer to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I promised myself I would never say this, but I think you should rethink the tablet. You can attach a keyboard to it to type longish documents and is small enough to be toted around everywhere. As much as I swore I was a computer guy, I have been watching all my friends use their tablets in ways I can only dream of using my eeepc, and it makes me green with envy.
posted by Literaryhero at 3:06 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Literaryhero, I'm not entirely averse to rethinking the tablet. But to do so I need a half decent word processing app. Is there one?
posted by rhymer at 3:13 AM on May 17, 2012

If you're looking at Android tablets, you might be interested in the following programs:
OfficeSuite Pro Here is a review.
Polaris Office (which comes with the ASUS tablets, at least it came with my ASUS Transformer)
posted by mbarryf at 6:41 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know what you require for a word-processing app, but Apple's Pages ($9.99) for the iPad is plenty for me, and it gives you the option to email documents as PDFs or Word files. If you sign up for a (free) iCloud account, it's easy to access the documents you create on the iPad from your desktop computer without fussing with email. (I use a PC.) There's some talk about a Scrivener iPad app maybe coming out down the road, and I'd be pretty happy about that. My major complaint is that Google Docs seems a little fussy on the iPad -- the interface doesn't port over too well, and sometimes I get double keystrokes when typing. But if you use Pages and iCloud, it give you the same functionality.

Performance is night and day compared to the netbook. Responsiveness is aces. Video playback is glorious. If writing and web browsing is your primary usage scenario, I'd really recommend you consider getting an iPad 3 with an Apple smart cover and an Apple wireless keyboard. It's amazing technology, and I love using it to write -- the fact that multitasking is still a little clunky just means distractions are minimized when I'm in writing mode.
posted by Joey Bagels at 8:43 AM on May 17, 2012

Response by poster: Joey Bagels, I use my eee quite a bit on trains, on my knee etc. so I think I need something similar to a laptop form to type, hence my interest in the Transformer Prime. I presume the iPad doesn't really offer this stability?
posted by rhymer at 9:31 AM on May 17, 2012

Rhymer, you are correct. There are fancier keyboard-plus-tablet holders for the iPad, but I'm not at all sure they'd give you what you're looking for.
posted by Joey Bagels at 9:51 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a transformer (original, not prime) and it is a very versatile device. There is however, a noticeable lag with keyboard entry. When you press a key it takes a tiny bit of time to appear on the screen. It was worse before the ICS update, but its still there. I'm not the only one with this problem, the forums are full of complaints.

My wife doesn't notice and types long emails happily. It drives me insane and I can't type anything more than a few lines without getting annoyed by it. I've tried writing in office apps on it and given up in frustration. So test drive before buying.

I bought the transformer to replace an ancient EEE 701 (the original EEE) which was slowly dying. IMHO the tablet form factor is not a replacement for the netbook. I went out and picked up a very cheap 2nd hand EEE 901 soon after.
posted by samworm at 7:45 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

A friend of mine has the transformer prime and the keyboard and he's quite happy with them. Tw keyboard also includes a heavy duty battery, so he can use the thing for like basically forever. One interesting difference from the iPad w/ keyboard is that the TP adds a trackpad and mouse cursor when the keyboard is attached. Interesting. It does seem to feel super heavy though w/ the keyboard. Might be heavier than my wife's Air. But it might be what you're looking for.

BTW, why Ubuntu? because models w/ it are cheaper, or ideological reasons?
posted by reddot at 5:44 AM on May 20, 2012

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