As the need arose for me to replace my previous work laptop, I was very keen to go to the opposite end of the scale. From a 17″ semi-powerhouse laptop to a smaller 10″ Netbook.
It was a mission to carry it around everywhere, battery life sucked, and it was just not functional for anything but sitting on a desk.
So I wanted something portable, to take with me on-site as I visit client sites for VoIP / IT support etc. I wanted something with good battery life (3-4 hours would be good I thought, which is over double what my previous was good for), I wanted it to be lightweight, semi-durable as I chuck it in my bag with other computer gear like routers and cables, and I didn’t want to have to sit around waiting for an OS like when installing on the EeePC 900 Flash Drive. A decent GPU would be nice, like an ION-based system, so I could do 1080p movies in my spare time, but that’s a lower-priority. 2GB RAM is a must, if it’s going to run Win7.
I would have liked an ARM machine running Linux, just for the geek factor, but couldn’t find anything, so I was pretty much stuck with an Atom CPU, 1.6Ghz. They’re not bad CPU’s, we use the dual-core ones in the PBX systems we build at work. Not uber-powerful single-core, but still powerful enough for browsing, word processing, IM’ing and ssh’ing into systems.
It came down to a 10″ Asus EeePC, the Acer Aspire One, or the Toshiba NB200.
I’d had a good run with my EeePC’s (700 & 900-series w/Celerons), but they felt a little “flimsy”, like the plastic was cheap & thin. I know I’m nitpicking here but the fact they didn’t even remove the modem socket left me with the feeling that it was rushed out the factory door without enough time put into foresight of the product. The under-clocked CPU bugged me, even though after a while there were utilities you could use to fix that.
The Acer Aspire One running Android would have been a cool novelty, I liked that idea, but to be honest I simply didn’t have enough of a chance to look into it because the retailer was out of stock. In fact PBTech recently had a boxing day sale, $399 for the Aspire One.
This left me looking at the NB200. Now don’t get me wrong I didn’t simply pick it because I didn’t like the other two, but for a few other reasons:
The “finish” on the laptop feels nice, I dunno how to describe how it feels different from the others but it does and it’s comfortable to use.
The battery life (6-Cell battery) is rated at 9 hours. On the WiFi I get around 7-8 hours quite easily, and it’s marvelous! Not having to plug it in constantly is so, so nice!! Not to mention that replacement batteries are readily available and cost only around $70-90 from PBTech, so when I’ve abused the heck outta this one, I’ll have another one ready to go.
Now this is a small bonus, but the placement of the USB ports is good, they’re well spaced apart so some of the slightly larger thumbdrives don’t collide.
The HDD utility is also cool (Though the popup gets annoying as hell), having it park the HDD head when it detects vibration or movement. I dunno how well it works, but it sounds like a good feature, especially on a Netbook which you’re likely to have on-the-go!
The battery also sticks out a little at the back, which I’ve decided is actually a benefit. It’s nice to hold on to while carrying it, and it also prevents it from falling back on your lap while you wriggle about getting comfortable.
I read a review on it prior to buying it, which did a crappy as job of identifying pro’s and cons. It said that the “WiFi On” LED down the front was a bad thing and a major annoyance. Not really.. Here’s what I’ve found annoying, or less-than-good with it.
Win7 Starter, I got rid of it immediately. Didn’t even waste my time with booting it more than once, though I did boot it just to see what A/V (Nortons) was installed. It’s running Win7 Enterprise for now.
The Touchpad, I found myself tapping with my palms when I didn’t want, I never had that issue with my EeePC’s, though maybe that’s because this one is much larger (Which is cool), but anyway I installed the Alps touchpad driver and set it to disable when I plug in a USB mouse. I’ve got a Logitech which is awesome, cheap, and I can leave the receiver in at all times.
There’s no “sleeve” or anything that comes with it instead of a bag, like the EeePC had. Not a biggy, but I must admit to being disappointed.
The back of the screen holds fingerprints incredibly well, better than it should, and it’s always looking grubby which is unfortunate.
I replaced the 1GB RAM stick with a 2GB one. I guess because it’s Win7 Starter it doesn’t need more than 1GB, but I’m being picky here.
The mono speaker is poorly placed underneath and is terribly quiet. I have headphones though and won’t use it as a “jukebox” without other speakers, so it’s a moot point. It’s not a media-box.
I haven’t installed Linux on it, but I will be, and I’ll update this when I do.
Overall there are some minor annoyances, but I’d still rate it around 8.5/10. I’m very happy with it, and the minor annoyances are pretty easily remedied.
If you have one, or any other Netbook, I’m keen to know your thoughts on yours