Tuesday 9 December 2008

What are your netbook requirements?

Too much spare time and money on his hands? Larry Dignam from ZDNet bought a netbook, but he doesn't like the keyboard and doesn't know what he is going to do with it...

Personally one of the key features I looked for when I purchased a netbook was the size of the keyboard because I knew I would be using it to type everything from blog posts to email to reports.

Other than the Acer Aspire One, which I ended up purchasing, I found the keyboards on all the 8.9 inch screen model netbooks I looked at far too uncomfortable to type with. The Aspire One keyboard is slightly bigger than similar models, however the keyboards on the 10 inch screen models, like the ASUS EEE 1000 range, are naturally much better.

In this respect I think the use case for the smaller models (unless its for a child with smaller fingers) is as a Web-access device - effectively giving you a bigger screen than a PDA or smart phone. This may also determine if you need Windows OS or not. The Linux models can run more effectively on solid state drives so you end up with a quieter, cooler and more energy efficient machine. On the other hand, all the netbooks come with plenty of ports to add keyboard, mouse and full size screen as an alternative approach to dealing with the keyboard size when you are back at home or in the office.

But what ever you option you pick, ultimately one of the major benefits of a netbook is that you will be carrying around a much smaller and lighter machine, which is great for commuters and frequent travellers.

Also, these shouldn't be treated as low power machines. The main issue of using a netbook as a laptop replacement is that some applications and Web apps don't scale to a smaller screen very well (or don't provide enough options to tweak the interface). On the entertainment front I've also found that while the display quality on my Aspire One is very good, the speakers are pretty average - but to be honest, if I'm listening to music I use headphones anyway. Also, the mobile computing orientated graphics and CPU chips do limit their use for 3D multi player gaming! Otherwise I've been able to install and use everything I had on a full sized laptop.

BTW I had some initial problems with my Aspire One, but I updated the BIOS and other than continuing to use a1ctl for fan control, I haven't had any other problems with the wifi so far.

Note: The image above isn't my Aspire One, but gives you an idea of the keyboard size.

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