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Last post Author Topic: Advice on Netbooks  (Read 12316 times)

wraith808

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Advice on Netbooks
« on: June 29, 2009, 05:00:01 PM »
I've used a USB drive for a while now to carry around my programs everywhere, and it's great!  However, I think I'm ready to take the plunge again into a readily portable device instead of depending on there being a device where I go.  This isn't my first time down this path- I've had the Fujitsu P1510, the Sony UX280P, the OQO Model 02 and one of the first Motion Tablet PCs.  But I ended up getting rid of all of them because they weren't as useful as I first thought; the Sony and OQO were too small for my purposes, I couldn't do without a keyboard to use a Tablet PC, and the P1510 was just inconvenient.

So I decided to wait, and now netbooks seem like what I was waiting for, but I'm not sure about committing to one.

Basically what I want is a device that I can carry just about everywhere, that I can actually use productively to write anywhere I want.  I need something that has a keyboard that if not comfortable, at least lets me type at a half way decent rate that's not so inconvenient that I keep using that as an excuse not to write.  I also want something inexpensive enough that I can justify keeping it around in an environment where I already have an iPhone, a giant Laptop, and a Desktop.  I also need it to be Windows based, since the software I use to do research and write in is Windows based, and I don't want to change.

The devices I know of include the Sony Netbook (too expensive- though it appears perfect), the HP Mini (again, too expensive), the Dell Mini (too expensive for the space), the Lenovo Thinkpad (too expensive), the Asus eee pc, the MSI Wind, and the Acer Aspire One.  I was trying to keep near $200, though a little on either side is fine.  I was leaning towards the Acer Aspire One, but wondered if anyone had any experience with that model, or any netbooks.

Thanks!

hamradio

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Re: Advice on Netbooks
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2009, 05:08:48 PM »
I am not affiliated with them but...with google I found a site that appears to talk about the Acer Aspire One in detail. I have not looked at the site much. The site is "http://www.aspireoneuser.com/". Might be worth a check.
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mrainey

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Re: Advice on Netbooks
« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2009, 05:24:33 PM »
I've used an Acer (8.9" screen) for several months now.  It has XP Home, 160GB hard drive, a gig of RAM, and the extra-cost 6-cell battery.

XP boots up and runs beautifully.  No problems whatsoever.  I can do my development work on it with tolerable speed.

The screen is very sharp, maybe a little glossier than I'd like.

No heat problems or excessive fan cycling.

The battery is supposed to last for six hours.  Mine initially gave five +, now it's down to just over four at 100% charge (?).  It sticks out the back a little, no big deal.  My wife carries the Acer in her purse, so size and weight must be pretty small.

I just took it on a three-week vacation to the UK and it worked like a champ the whole way.  A seven-dollar plug adapter was all it took to use the electrical outlets.

Wireless works fine.

The computer feels very solid.  My wife and I absolutely love it.  I paid $350, including the six-cell, but I'll bet it's cheaper now.
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wraith808

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Re: Advice on Netbooks
« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2009, 05:41:55 PM »
Development work?  I didn't expect that!  What kind of development work is that?

Thanks for the replies!  Especially that site hamradio!

mrainey

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Re: Advice on Netbooks
« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2009, 06:00:47 PM »
Quote
What kind of development work is that?

I do this kind of stuff.

http://closetoleranc...tware.com/index.html
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4wd

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Re: Advice on Netbooks
« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2009, 06:40:40 PM »
Also for the Aspire One: macles*, 30 Cool Aspire One Hacks and AAOWiki (German).

I also have an AAO, more precisely the AOA-110-Ab which is the 512MB, 8GB SSD based Linpus version in a very nice metallic blue.  Since upgraded to 1.5GB RAM + XP Pro.  This travelled with me during my recent South America/Antarctic/Turkey trip and always worked without a problem, (and if I'd had a few more I could have sold them all at a profit on the ship).

Of all the netbooks available last year, the AAO was considered one of the best, (probably because it's so easy to hack), normally only beaten by the Samsung NC10.

I find the 8.9" screen pretty much perfect for what it's designed to do and as mrainey said, it is sharp and clear - any bigger and I'd probably just get a 13.3" notebook with a lot more grunt at only 1kg heavier.

The SSD that they included with it is an absolute dog wrt to read/write speed - do yourself a favour and get the HDD version.

The 3-cell battery will last approx. 2.25 hours ex. WiFi or 2 hours inc. WiFi.  The charger they supply is lightweight but the mains lead for it is both bulkier and weighs more.  You can, however, now get wall-wart type PSUs for the AAO as well as lighter socket type PSUs, (as opposed to the normal brick type for lighter sockets).

The mousepad buttons are in a rather strange place, off to either side of the pad rather than below but most people end up using a wireless/Bluetooth, (I use a MS 5000 Bluetooth), mouse with them anyway so it's not that big an issue.

Given a choice of all the current netbooks available, would I buy it again ?

Yes, although I'd probably get the HDD version.

I've posted about it a couple of other times here on DC, mainly in regard to using EWF on it:
SSD File System Recommendations
alternatives to firstDefense ISR

wraith808

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Re: Advice on Netbooks
« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2009, 07:40:56 PM »
Quote
What kind of development work is that?

I do this kind of stuff.

http://closetoleranc...tware.com/index.html

So standard Win32 development?  What IDE do you use?

mrainey

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Re: Advice on Netbooks
« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2009, 07:56:35 PM »
Quote
What IDE do you use?


My language of choice is Emergence BASIC.  I do all my coding with UltraEdit, so don't really use an IDE.
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wraith808

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Re: Advice on Netbooks
« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2009, 08:14:44 PM »
That's pretty cool stuff for BASIC.  :Thmbsup:

justice

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Re: Advice on Netbooks
« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2009, 04:04:53 AM »
If you choose the Acer Aspire One please don't go for the SSD model but choose one with a regular harddisk inside. Not because of the much larger storage space but because the SSD's in the AAO are painfully slow in writing (acer turns off the swap file by default!). I had to buy a 4gb memorycard and ebooster to get it running slightly quicker but not nearly as quick as the model my colleague has. Search the Acer Aspire One user forums and you'll see I'm not alone.

Ah 4wd said the same thing ;)
« Last Edit: June 30, 2009, 04:06:30 AM by justice »

Jibz

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Re: Advice on Netbooks
« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2009, 04:12:22 AM »
The Samsung NC10 may be worth a look as well .. it had the best keyboard of the ones we tried (the actual keys are close to full size making it more comfortable to type on).

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Re: Advice on Netbooks
« Reply #11 on: June 30, 2009, 01:44:21 PM »
Lifehacker had a recent article about the best 5 netbooks - the ASUS EEEPC 1000HE came out on top.
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wraith808

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Re: Advice on Netbooks
« Reply #12 on: July 01, 2009, 09:57:05 AM »
One more question... does 10" make a big difference over 8.9"?  What's the consensus amongst you that have them- is the extra inch a boon or not, and how much difference does it make in overall size?

Thanks for all of the feedback!

Dormouse

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Re: Advice on Netbooks
« Reply #13 on: July 01, 2009, 10:53:21 AM »
I'm interested in the SSD Vs HDD issue.

The advantages of SSD are supposed to be silence, robustness, power usage.
The advantages of HD are supposed to be size and speed.

For relatively simple usage (eg just note taking), is the speed of the SSD a real issue? Does it make a big difference to load times? Better power usage is an important factor if you are likely to need the machine on most of the day with no access to power sockets.

wraith808

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Re: Advice on Netbooks
« Reply #14 on: July 01, 2009, 03:16:51 PM »
I'm down to Acer Aspire One AOD250-1151 vs Asus EPC1000H vs Acer Aspire AOA150-1635.  I'm thinking about ordering today, but I'm not sure...  :tellme:

wraith808

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Re: Advice on Netbooks
« Reply #15 on: July 01, 2009, 07:07:45 PM »
For better or worse, I went with the Acer Aspire AOA150-1635.  I started to think about why I wanted it, and the smaller size made the difference.  I'll post about my netbook experience when I get it in case anyone else is in the same situation of looking for one.  Like every other device that makes it to the consumer level, there's so much obfuscation and confusing terminology when dealing with the netbooks, that it's hard to make a good decision without a lot of work.

Thanks for all of the comments; the really helped to gel my choice.  :Thmbsup:

4wd

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Re: Advice on Netbooks
« Reply #16 on: July 01, 2009, 07:49:39 PM »
I'm interested in the SSD Vs HDD issue.

The advantages of SSD are supposed to be silence, robustness, power usage.
The advantages of HD are supposed to be size and speed.

For relatively simple usage (eg just note taking), is the speed of the SSD a real issue? Does it make a big difference to load times? Better power usage is an important factor if you are likely to need the machine on most of the day with no access to power sockets.

Regarding the power usage angle: people with HDDs have reported the same battery life as those using the same battery in SSD versions.

The simple use angle: it depends on the operating system.  W.r.t. the AAO netbook, Linpus loads faster and is faster for all program operations because it writes less to the SSD, whereas XP runs like an absolute dog with complete system slow downs every 30s to a few minutes as it does a lot of small writes keeping the filesystem up-to-date, etc, etc.

If you want to use the stock SSD that they provide with the AAO, (and the eeePC), with XP, then to make it anywhere near usable you should install the Flashpoint driver or it's equivalent.  This will take all those little random writes and turn into a single sequential write with minimal impact on operating performance.

Note: Flashpoint downloads have been disabled for the moment.

wraith808

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Re: Advice on Netbooks
« Reply #17 on: July 01, 2009, 08:10:10 PM »
Ok, so I'm wishy washy.  I'm still getting the Acer, but I'm getting the 10 inch.  :-[

justice

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Re: Advice on Netbooks
« Reply #18 on: July 02, 2009, 04:25:06 AM »
I was using the SSD AAO and when i pressed start it took longer than 2 seconds to bring up the start menu, more than a second for the menu to disappear after clicking and more than 10 seconds to bring up an internet explorer window. By that time I'd fired up my ipod touch and browsed to the site in question.

And why Acer decides to ship an SSD netbook with mcafee security center installed and google desktop search so that it takes literally 5 minutes to boot up is beyond me.

Dormouse

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Re: Advice on Netbooks
« Reply #19 on: July 02, 2009, 05:42:06 AM »
Regarding the power usage angle: people with HDDs have reported the same battery life as those using the same battery in SSD versions.

The simple use angle: it depends on the operating system.  W.r.t. the AAO netbook, Linpus loads faster and is faster for all program operations because it writes less to the SSD, whereas XP runs like an absolute dog with complete system slow downs every 30s to a few minutes as it does a lot of small writes keeping the filesystem up-to-date, etc, etc.

Wouldn't need XP. Quite happy with Linux. Weight, usability, battery life are the most critical factors. Long start up times could be a problem.

4wd

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Re: Advice on Netbooks
« Reply #20 on: July 02, 2009, 07:53:03 AM »
Wouldn't need XP. Quite happy with Linux. Weight, usability, battery life are the most critical factors. Long start up times could be a problem.

Well, as far as the AAO goes, the standard 3-cell battery in the AOA-110-Ab lasts 2-2.5 hours, weight is ~980g and I find the screen resolution, (1024x600), fine and particularly sharp and clear on the 8.9" screen, better than most 19" LCDs I've seen.

My version of XP Pro boots in around 45 seconds, with the original Linpus booting in 15 seconds.  These times are for AC powered.

The keyboard is 89% full size and I think it's fine, I don't find myself hitting two keys at once.

All-in-all, I find myself using it more than my 15.4" laptop.

Dormouse

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Re: Advice on Netbooks
« Reply #21 on: July 02, 2009, 09:30:28 AM »
That sounds pretty good.
I'm not looking for myself (atm anyway), so the next stage will be to go and try how they work & feel physically & then think about it. We could try a laptop, but I think they are likely to be too heavy & battery life too short for the main need; the size of a laptop is both a + (bigger screen and keyboard) and a - (leaves little room on a small table/desk).

40hz

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Re: Advice on Netbooks
« Reply #22 on: July 02, 2009, 10:51:20 AM »
Nice introductory review-type article on various OS options for a Netbook. Nowhere near as in-depth as I would have liked, but still a good starting point. You might even be surprised at some of their findings.

And what the heck is Jolicloud ? (Read page 6 to find out.) That was a new one even for me! ;D

Products covered in the article:

  • Windows XP
  • Windows 7
  • Ubuntu for Netbooks Remix
  • Moblin
  • Slax
  • Jolicloud

Quote
That shiny new netbook is light and portable, plays music and movies, and cost less than an iPhone (with service). Problem is: you might be ready to chuck it off a bridge. Running the Intel Atom processor at only 1.60GHz, netbooks are a bit on the clunky side when it comes to actual data processing. No one is going to play World of Warcraft on one of these thin machines, but it sure would be great if OpenOffice, a music player, and Mozilla Firefox could run a little faster.

The answer to the netbook dilemma is: find an alternative operating system. Of course, this is a time-consuming proposition, considering you have to download the OS, burn it to a CD or USB key, load the OS, and then configure it. To find out which OS will actually add pep to your Sony P – or any number of low-cost, Atom-based netbooks – we loaded six different options on the same machine and performed a series of tests – looking at the interface, networking features, the browser and built-in apps, and how much customization you can do and ended up picking a clear winner.

Link to full article: http://www.maximumpc...r_netbook?page=0%2C0

 :)


wraith808

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Re: Advice on Netbooks
« Reply #23 on: July 02, 2009, 11:28:02 AM »
Link to full article: http://www.maximumpc...r_netbook?page=0%2C0

Seems like in the end, they still picked XP by default.  :huh:

Oh, and I waffled again- I canceled the order from Tiger Direct, and am looking for a 6 cell version of the 10" Acer.  Tiger Direct does have a program that looks good on paper though- you pay a premium and for up to 2 years, you can sell it back to them for a guaranteed 65% of the purchase price.

mrainey

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Re: Advice on Netbooks
« Reply #24 on: July 02, 2009, 11:58:22 AM »
I'm not a gamer and I wouldn't want to use my Acer as my main computer, but like I said previously, it's fast enough for most things when using a combination of XP with a hard drive.

Just as important, everything worked properly the first time.  When you look at all the posts on the Aspire forum, the vast majority of complaints and problems relate to non-XP units or those with SSD's.
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