Are netbooks/"mini" laptops even still a thing?
June 14, 2016 3:56 PM   Subscribe

I have an exciting opportunity to expand my transcription business by taking on some work transcribing real-time lectures at the local universities next semester. However, with all of the equipment I'll need to carry, I fear that my everyday laptop is too big and heavy to drag around all day. I'd like to buy a used, maybe a few years old, lightweight device that I can transcribe from, but I'm not sure what I should be looking at exactly.

I've found an older Asus 1015PX eee PC for about $60, which seems like it would be great in terms of size, has an actual keyboard, and has the Windows operating system. I'm just wondering if there's anything I haven't yet considered that I should think about before I buy it.

I've thought about buying a tablet of some sort with an external keyboard, but I would really like something that has a standard PC operating system/programs instead of the tablet operating system format that's more like a smartphone in my opinion. I need to be able to use Microsoft Word and plug a USB footpedal in, as well.

So what are your thoughts? Should I go the mini laptop/netbook route? If so, is there something out there that's better than these eee PCs? Or would a tablet with external keyboard meet my needs in some way I'm not thinking? Basically trying to figure out what option and model will give me the most bang for my buck here.

I'd like to stay under $100, don't mind used or several years old, just want to make sure it will do what I need and I don't end up with a complete dinosaur of a machine.

Thanks all!
posted by Malleable to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Is Microsoft Word a for sure requirement or will Google Docs or Microsoft Office online work? If one of those will do, I highly recommend a Chrome Book. If not, I would go with something more recent - A Dell Inspiron 11 is $200 new and at 2.6-2.7 pounds I think it's lighter than the Asus 1015PX eee (at 2.8).
posted by brainmouse at 4:04 PM on June 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

One other excellent option is a MacBook Air, though you should be prepared to pay a few hundred dollars for a used one. An MBA running LibreOffice, which can convert to Word when needed, seems like a very good solution. The data files interchange with Windows-created files flawlessly.
posted by megatherium at 4:10 PM on June 14, 2016

My work provides me with a Microsoft Surface and I'm quite happy with it.

Chromebooks are also nice.
posted by brookeb at 4:29 PM on June 14, 2016

The modern $200 laptops that are effectively Chromebooks running Windows 10 with a little more storage space are going to be smaller, lighter, and faster than an old Eee.

Asus and HP definitely make them, I believe Dell does as well.
posted by Candleman at 4:29 PM on June 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

I do outreach work and am out in the community more often than not, and I need a computer for most of my work.

My employer provides most of us outreach workers with Dell Latitude 3330s. I have no idea how much it costs, but it's lightweight enough for me to schlep it around in my backpack all the time (usually commuting on mass transit, even).

So depending on your price range, a smallish regular laptop may be mobile enough for your needs.
posted by tivalasvegas at 4:36 PM on June 14, 2016

Best answer: I would really discourage you from buying an old netbook. They're ungodly slow, cheap and unreliable, and it's just not worth the small dollar savings. If you really need to go cheap, and you must have something new, look at the newest 2016-model HP Stream 11 or Stream 13 at $180 to $250.

If you can live with an older machine, look at Dell Refurbished, or Dell Outlet as they often have refurbished Core i3 laptops with a short (90 day?) warranty for around $200 with a coupon you can find online. If you need to go even cheaper, look at refurbished business laptops like Dell Latitide D-series or E-series (e4100 etc.) or HP Elitebooks (2560p) on eBay. You can get into the low to mid $100's on those, though you won't get a warranty. Consider buying a Squaretrade warranty with the device if you go that route.

It really is worth it to spend a tiny bit more for a much less frustrating experience. If you act quickly, you can upgrade to Windows 10 for free before Microsoft pulls that offer in late July.

Also, make sure the laptop you buy comes with Windows 7 and NOT Vista or XP.
posted by cnc at 5:23 PM on June 14, 2016 [5 favorites]

Before buying a laptop predicated on LibreOffice being a sufficient replacement for MS Office please see if you can try it somewhere.

I am not a MS fanboy (repeat five times) but I really found LibreOffice to be a drag . I can use Google Docs for a lot of things (and I'm sure the online version of Office would provide similar functionality) but there were a lot of small things about LibreOffice which really got up my nose.

If I had no choice it would have been OK but as I did I eventually gave up.
posted by southof40 at 5:29 PM on June 14, 2016

I just want to second not buying a netbook -- I had one (an Asus...something?) for a few years and although it worked for word processing and playing with spreadsheets, my major memory is of frustration; mostly it was underpowered and kind of a huge pain in the ass. You can do better!
posted by kalimac at 5:42 PM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, if you're touch typing, you really don't want a 10" laptop. They have to make too many compromises on the keyboard to get them that size.
posted by Candleman at 5:50 PM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everybody! Glad I didn't purchase one on impulse. I'm now looking at an HP Stream and other similar laptops. Microsoft Word is a must have, as well as Windows OS, so I don't think a Chromebook would be a good fit but I appreciate the input.
posted by Malleable at 6:02 PM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

My eee 900ha is a real work horse. It runs full Office suite and MS Sql Server and Dreamweaver with external monitor and other peripherals. I had upped the RAM to 2 MB and the OS to Windows 7. You have to work with it a bit to get the most out of it but I love the 9" form factor and as long as I can keep my little guy going I will keep using it.
posted by irisclara at 7:08 PM on June 14, 2016

Yeah, I was a major netbook fangirl way back when, but switched to a MacBook Air at least 6 years ago and never looked back. (And my ancient Air lasted 3x as long as any of my old netbooks, and got passed down to a kid and is still going strong. So worth the money.)
posted by instamatic at 7:27 PM on June 14, 2016

Seconding HP Stream - I have the 11 and love it. It's super portable and a better quality than I expected (certainly way better than a Samsung netbook I used to have).
posted by Ender's Friend at 7:42 PM on June 14, 2016

If you're going to be typing, consider a used ThinkPad x series. They're tiny and have amazing keyboards, and are built to last.
posted by thack3r at 8:57 PM on June 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

Seconding a refurb thinkpad x series. The keyboards are great. Actually the x220 and older have better keyboards than newer x230+ models. The batteries are also easy to replace.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:27 PM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have an HP Stream 11, which i bought on the strength of the keyboard. It's definitely got a good keyboard - it's not tiny and there are no awkwardly placed keys. The screen isn't glossy either, which i like. It's light and boots up fast, and mine is an attractive blue. I run Word 365 without problems.

The one caveat is the size of the SSD, which at 32gb feels too small. But as MicroSD cards are so cheap, it's not that big an issue.

Incidentally... it was also five times cheaper than a MacBook Air. I paid £150 for mine, new.
posted by Rissa at 9:36 AM on June 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Just bought a top of the line retina MacBook 12 inch for ~$1700. I'm never going back to anything else.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:30 AM on June 16, 2016

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