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Lightweight Computing With Netbooks

I recently posted a video about my Nokia N800. While it’s an amazing machine, sometimes it’s just too underpowered for my needs. Currently, my only alternative is to drag my Dell laptop around with me. I’ve long dreamed of something in the middle, and now it exists. It’s a new class of devices commonly referred to as Netbooks (or, at times, subnotebooks).

Over the years, we’ve seen an interesting trend where powerful computers are getting smaller and more portable while mobile devices (such as phones) are becoming more feature rich and powerful. The netbook craze is a wonderful step in that evolution.

So what can a netbook do for you? A lot more than a PDA but not as much as a full rig. Netbooks typically have limited storage space, particularly those using solid state technology (hard drives have moving parts). The screens are somewhat restricted as well. Most of the latest generation netbooks have 1024×600 screens. Many web designers work around the assumption that most users are running at a screen width of at least 1024 pixels. This means the current state of netbooks are riding right on the fine line of general usability.

Most netbooks deploy the relatively new Atom processor. This means they’re powerful enough for multimedia and most producitivity applications. To get even better performance, not to mention saving a lot of money, many netbooks offer a Linux operating system instead of the common (and bloated) MS Windows OS. One of the most popular Linux distributions, Ubuntu, is currently working on a distribution targeted directly at netbook type devices. I’ve personally used Ubuntu as my primary operating system for nearly 3 years and love it. However, I’m also a general fan of open source – being that I’m an advocate for Intellectual Sustainability.

So what netbook should you buy? That’s a tough question. The Asus EEE really started it all. Since then we’ve seen the Acer Aspire One, Dell Inspiron Mini 9, HP Mini 1000, MSI Wind, Samsung NC10, Toshiba NB100, and just today Pac Bell announced their new netbook. If you want to do the research and start comparing features, there are many buyers guides on the Internet including this one and this one. In the end, you’ll want to find the feature set that best matches what you use your computer for.

Personally, I’m leaning towards the Acer. It has a good feature set and a good price point. The machine does run Linux, howerver it is a customized version from Acer. I would prefer a more standard distribution such as the Ubuntu machines. Dell provides Ubuntu on their Mini 9, but their pricing is a bit steeper than other options. My decision, at least for now, is to wait until next year to buy.

If you want one NOW, this weekend is your chance. Every physical world Microcenter is recieving 30 machines (20 MSI Winds and 10 Acer Aspire Ones) and they are on sale for $300. A viable, usable, and extremely lightweight and portable computing solution for just $300 is something worth smiling about.

Comments (3)

  1. According to this post, newegg.com will have the Acer Aspire One on sale this Friday for $249.00 with free shipping.

    http://gizmodo.com/5099346/neweggs-black-friday-deals-unveiled

  2. Zaskoda

    Awesome, thank for the tip!

  3. […] to Neotrobe for the heads up, on the Acer Aspire One on New Egg for […]

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