The Netbook Models You Love (And Don’t)

March 2, 2009

Netbook Twitter poll results Cheap and tiny netbook computers are so very tempting in this crappy economy, since they promise the full computing experience in a compact, throw-in-your-messenger-bag package for less than $400. The idea of a netbook got under my skin because I want a light computer for traveling that can live in the kitchen and living room for cooking and couch-surfing when I'm home. In the throes of my netbook lust, recently I asked my Twitter followers if they had a netbook and if it was worth it. That tweet drew a whopping 243 passionate replies.

Most people said they LOVED! LOVED! LOVED! their netbook, and many said they make great gifts for teens, parents, and spouses who don't need a beefy system. Some complained about the tiny keyboard and screen, short battery life, and lack of performance. Of all the netbook owners who identified which models they owned (77), the ASUS Eee PC was the most popular (33 owners), followed by the Acer Aspire (17), then the Dell Mini 9 (9) and Samsung NC10 (8). Here's the full breakdown, in pretty colors--green for pros, and red for cons.


ASUS EeeThe ASUS Eee PC 1000HA is $349 at Amazon. Here's what it (and other Eee model) owners had to say:

atyoung: Picked up a eepc in pink at best buy for under 300 and works like a champ with a 160g HD. You can mod them too if so inclined.
silvina_g: Asus EEEPC - I have the Surf one and I'm very happy with it. No complaints at all.
cjm2576: I have an Asus Eee and love it for what it is. I wouldn't recommend it for prolonged typing tho.. they keyboard is too small.
rfrancis: To be honest, I found the Eee that I had at work for a while not all that great to use. But it was the first gen, so who knows
jonthysell: EeePC 1000HA, $380 with 10" screen 160GB drive, lovely machine runs XP or ubuntu great!
hassan: most critical netbook aspect? keyboard. bought an eee pc for travel, in practice its tiny keyboard is nearly unusable for me.
tregeagle: eeepc 701 running cruncheee and it is perfect.
poetofzwan: Highly recommend any of the Asus EeePCs. 701 (I have) and 901 are pretty damn cheap now. 1000 and S101 models look awesome too!
XavierLanier: Love the HP Mini 2140- good for rugged travel, 10-inch screen. ASUS EeePC 1000HE is also great for high battery life.
melstarrs: asus eee is great but not for prolonged typing. Very tiny.
merindab: Have an eeePC. Always, always makes people stop and stare. Love it (and not just because of the staring)
merindab: also though, at least for eeePC's. Small hands helps
aplus01: Definitely love my EEE 701. I'd get something with an Intel Atom processor though so you don't cook your lap while using it.
wadehays: <3 my Asus EeePC, but if I was buying today I think I would go with the HP Mini 1000
keefmoon: EEE-PCs are great. I've got a 701, love it but you'll need a bigger screen. The Acer Aspire One is now cheap, with 9" screen.
JacobyDave: Got my wife an EeePC 900 for Xmas. She loves it. But you must be able to work around the lack of CDROM drive.
wixtech: I really like my Asus eeePC 1000HA. I'm running eeebuntu-nbr on it. Just loaded xbmc last night. Windows 7 was also nice.
jmoriarty: Love netbooks; have Eee and Dell Mini. Best for cloud computing; minimal typing; high portability. NOT for heavy writing.
Philbradley: Asus EEEPC 1000H 5hr + battery life, 1.45 kg, clear screen, reasonable price 3USB ports. Very happy with it 3 weeks in.
PRCog: Love my EEE 700 series. Drooling over upcoming netbook tablet T91 coming in March.If works out would be willing 2 wait in line
bsdpunk: I lived off of my EEEpc for about 4 months....left it for a 13" macbook....never going back.
SonoranDragon: I have a sort of basic Eee PC. It's sitting next to me right now here at work. Used it a while ago to help rehearse a speech.
awzitcer: asus 1000 w linux and ssd. 5.5 hr battery, less than 3 lbs.
norcross: I have an Asus and love it. I am getting a 9 cell battery so I don't have to charge as often

Acer AspireThe Acer Aspire One is now $343 at Amazon. Its owners said:

RobboM: Like my Acer aspire. works like a charm good wifi and xp got mine at bb for 359cdn
dwax: Love my Acer AspireOne. Most netbooks are same specs, though - not a decision you can really mess up!
andysblog: love mine. Cheapie acer 1 with 1.6, 1mb,120gb. Very handy.
MikeCerm: Netbooks can be had for $300, so I can't imagine why you wouldn't have one. I have an Acer Aspire One, and love it.
Stefano_TT: I have an Acer Aspire One and it's great a true Internet beast
davidswinney: My wife purchased an Acer Aspire One with Windows XP last November and absolutely loves it.
bobstarrorg: the acer aspire one is my new best friend...but any netbook is great!
RosanneLambert: Acer Aspire One netbook owner. Love the light weight. *HATE* XP on it -- bloated & slow. Switching to Linux next chance I get!
cripesonfriday: give the acer aspire one a look
BeingGeeky: LOVELOVELOVE my Acer AspireOne. I just throw it in my bag and go. Feels like I'm carrying nothing more than my phone.
duffbert: also went the Acer Aspire One, Windows XP Home, 1GB RAM, 160GB drive. love it.
nilegomez: have the Acer Aspire One and love it. See related article
sakeeler: I use an acer aspire one from newegg.com running Ubuntu Netbook Remix and couldn't be happier
boredcollegekid: love my acer aspire one, works great for quick trips and basic computer usage.
HockeyPhool: bought my wife an Acer Aspire One at Costco. She loves it (not a geek) - I like the size and portability, but it's a tad slow
sethmsparks: Love my Aspire One!
anon: Got my son an Acer Aspire One for 13th bday. WinXP, 1GB RAM, 80GB HDD. He loves it. Very light, fast enough. Bright readable screen.

Dell Mini 9The Dell Mini 9 is $249 at Dell.com. Its owners said:

formerglory: Get a Dell Mini 9 and Hackintosh it. 100% hardware support, how-to by Gizmodo.
cadencecase: Have a Dell Mini 900 Linux 1GB RAM. Runs like a charm and feels supersolid. Key board smaller than some, but I like small ones
cadencecase: Hardware flawless, but don't expect ANY support on Linux issues, even if they're Dell's fault. I solve every problem w Google
cadencecase: Finally, ditch the "custom" UI and run the standard Ubuntu desktop. PS Compiz slowed things down, so easy on the graphics. GL!
nickmil: Just bought the wife a Dell Mini 9. She loves it for couch surfing. Can't wait to tuck that into a carry-on, backpack-free
bglick: I couldn't use the dell mini 9. Keyboard was too small for typing, too big for thumbs. I do better w/ my BBerry + OperaMini
stuarthall: several of us have the Dell Mini @nvelocity I've also seen the HP MiniNote and it looks equally decent. Nicer keyboard.
RubyGrrl42: Had the super-mini inspiron years ago. Loved it for it's small size running to classes. Now find the keyboards too small.
hifisamurai: Travel with Del 9" ubuntu. Also comes in handy in the kitchen looking up recipes. Tough getting used to small keyboard though.

Samsung NC10The Samsung NC10 is a bit pricier, but had some particularly ardent recommendations. It is $445 at Amazon right now. Its owners said:

fotoflo: Got a Samsung nc10 for trip to Malaysia - replaced a HP dv6000. LOVE IT. Use it daily for Photoshop, Word, Linux, Everything.
fotoflo: Wired guys got it running OS X. I take it everywhere, USE it in the subway, on taxis, etc. ~6 hours batt
justdot: I did some research, I was between the dell mini 10 and samsung nc10, after their fixed 1gb ram, nc10 won, my pick
cazwell220: samsung nc10 all the way... love it love it love it... guaranteed.
Pelanne: very happy with my samsung nc10 - even though it's a netbook, after RAM upgrade it supports pretty much all of my dev tools.
jeffsandstrom: I got a Samsung NC10 after much research. Hasn't gotten the buzz of Acer or Asus, but it's _awesome!_ Best keyboard layout.
shayhurley: Samsung NC10, drop dead gorgeous, runs Windows 7 beta with no problems too.
markmcc: Samsung NC-10 is my new fave....

The MSI Wind ($320) and HP Mini ($290) also got a handful of mentions.

After a cooling-off period, I decided not to make my netbook purchase just now. I already have a MacBook Pro for portable computing, and a few of the following tweets helped knock some sense into me. (However, if I didn't already have a laptop and smartphone, I'd be typing this on a netbook right now.)

ifundera: The recession netbook equivalent: Moleskine notebook, iPhone and memory
tomhadley: Too underpowered, keyboard too small for me! Get the same basic functionality out of a 13' laptop
zen_habits: Internet cafe! Simplest way to stay connected while traveling.
Danjit: Do it! I've wanted a netbook for ages… I've even gone as far as ordering one & then canceling the order after the guilt hit!
jasonsalas: yes for browsing, email or light coding...not so much for blogging.
rodageo: wait till summer so you can get a free upgrade to windows7?
eremiticjude: have had three. all were great, but usability really based on keyboard. if you can type on it, then everything else negotiable

Thanks to everyone who let me in on their netbook experience. For more on netbooks, see Clive Thompson's Wired article, The Netbook Effect: How Cheap Little Laptops Hit the Big Time. Thanks, podcastbunker.

Thanks for the post. I’ve been thinking about getting one for a few weeks and I’m bouncing back and forth between the HP Mini 1000 MIE and the 1000HE from Asus. Both offer nearly full-sized keyboards, which is something I think will be important. The pros I see with the HP is mainly price, size/weight, and available with linux. The pros of the 1000HE seem to be the battery life, port selection, wireless n, and bigger hdd. The main problems I have with it is the price and heavier weight compared to the HP Mini. If the HP can offer a 6-cell battery for not much increase in price or weight, I’m all about it. Dell seems to be bottoming out the price of the market (especially at $200 on Fri), and I almost pulled the trigger. If it wasn’t for the smallish keyboard, I would have.

Jonathan [+3]
Mar 2 09 at 10:01 pm

Of course, we’d love to see a review from you of whatever you end up picking out.

Tom Trelvik [+2]
Mar 2 09 at 11:31 pm

It’s amazing how informative a collection of Twitter responses like this is – thank you! I’d welcome more posts on economical product options.

phoebe [+2]
Mar 3 09 at 2:25 am

It sounds like most of the negative comments about the 10″ eeePC actually refer to the 7″. “I’ve got a 701, love it but you’ll need a bigger screen,” “But it was the first gen, so who knows,” “I lived off of my EEEpc for about 4 months….left it for a 13″ macbook….never going back,” etc.

Complaining about the size of a smaller machine doesn’t really mean much in the context of the larger machine.

My wife’s 12″ Averatec laptop was slowly dying last year, so I got her the Acer Aspire One from Wal-mart for Christmas. She loves it. Because it lacks an optical drive, she still uses her Averatec to play The Sims, but she really enjoys the Acer. Her 12″ looks huge in comparison.

The Acer Aspire One is selling for $298 at Wal-mart currently. If I wasn’t waiting until the free upgrade to Windows 7 comes out, I’d grab one for myself, as my 14.1″ Compaq laptop is slowly dying too.

Eric Mueller
Mar 3 09 at 4:49 am

After extensive reading, I got the Samsung NC10 recently was really surprised at how good it is. Another year or two from now and we’re all going to think about computing *very* differently–netbooks are an important part of that equation.

jzawodn
Mar 3 09 at 6:03 am

I’ve had a Fujitsu Lifebook 1610 for almost 2 years. I guess it proceeds netbooks but I’ve used it the same way; the small keyboard takes getting used to for sure. The 1610 is a Tablet so I also use it as an e-book reader. What I _think_ I’d like is the new Sony Vaio P series – but it’s pricey.

warfield.hal
Mar 3 09 at 7:45 am

I’ve wanted a netbook for a while but unfortunately my financial situation precludes me from being able to afford one (being a grad student sucks some times!). Anyway, a netbook is one my list of things to buy once I get out and start making some money so I’d also be interested to see what you choose to buy and why.

ZLoether [+17]
Mar 3 09 at 8:02 am

I quite enjoy my 7″ eee (701, first gen) running xubuntu. Granted, the arrival of my 32gb iPT soured the love affair, for awhile, but I keep returning to the Asus.

It’s not as portable as the iPod but it has a keyboard. It’s not as long-batt’ried as the MacBook, but it has better wifi (really!) and with the 6-cell, it’s actually close.

It can’t run multiple OSes (lord I love Fusion), but it does just about everything else, including drive my 22″ monitor at upwards of 1600 by xx resolution. And I can type at about 80% of my max on the leetle keyboard.

What’s not to love?

gyffes [+4]
Mar 3 09 at 9:31 am

Hey Gina,
I heard you the other day on TWIT.I’ve been a fan of LifeHacker for ever and I decided to come take a look. Great site! I have added you to my RSS reader, you are awesome. I like the fact you’ve added Facebook Connect to your blog, I did that myself on my blog its a really cool plugin.

Jose Gomez
Mar 3 09 at 1:58 pm

I’ve been debating getting a netbook for a while, too. The big difference in my situation vs yours is that I don’t have a laptop. My partner has a MacBook that I can get on in a pinch, but he uses it heavily, so it’s not generally available for my whims.

If I didn’t have my iPhone, I’d probably already have a netbook. But the iPhone allows me to check emails and surf the web fairly well, so I’m still holding back.

Craig Sauer [+1]
Mar 3 09 at 3:02 pm

I just guess that Netbooks are all about the concept:- it is still possible to squeeze out power from an undersized CPU using a last generation OS without too much thrills. At last, all the models from various manufacturers use the same hardware, the difference being in ergonomics and battery autonomy (the latter is usually the true cons).
I’m working on my Aspire One to clean up the desktop, minimize installed software (basically no more than the tools coming with XP), select essential portable applications with launcheer(installed either on HD and on USB drive) and maximize web services/cloud applications in order to get the maximum portability (at home, on the go, on a work computer – through USB key – and @internet café) with a consistent interface and set of tools.

Stefano_TT [+1]
Mar 3 09 at 3:28 pm

Great article, and very timely. I wonder if the Eee has a lot of feedback just because it’s been out there longer? I like the Dell.

I am into Tablets big time and it’s a must for work. Anyone have ideas as to who is offering these in with Windows Tablet version?

patrickkaine [+5]
Mar 3 09 at 5:42 pm

Since I don’t Twitter, here is my netbook:

I just bought a Lenovo Ideapad S10, base unit in black, which I got for $310.00 plus tax. I then bought a 1GB Dimm from Crucial for $12.00 plus tax, which I used to upgrade my S10 to 1.5GB of RAM.

I have installed Arch Linux, OpenBSD, and Vista on it and they all work just fine. The screen, a 10″ LED backlit 1024×600 TFT LCD, looks great and the keyboard, though small, feels very nice.

If there is one downside to the S10, it is the fan. It turns on and off far too frequently and sometimes it can be annoying, But otherwise I love this little netbook.

Jeff-Flowers [+1]
Mar 4 09 at 7:20 am

I am eyeing the asus T101H (introduced at Cebit 09) or an equivalent (gigabyt 1028 etc.) , because of its tactile screen and also it is convertible into a tabletpc-like.

I think this should be the right tool for taking notes, and sketched and drawing every where you go (meeting, conference etc.) since to me, like the portable pc starts from a fix pc to be its exaustive portable equivalent, netbook starts from the fact that we take them everywhere and they need not be exaustive (no dvd player etc.) and they have what you need to have on the go.

Thibault [+8]
Mar 4 09 at 12:27 pm

My Toshiba Libretto U100 is probably too small to be considered a netbook.

It’s excellent for short business trips, presentations and mostly, backcountry navigation with Garmin topo maps and a USB GPS puck antenna.

drmelho [+28]
Mar 7 09 at 1:57 am

I bought an Eee 1000HD as a replacement for an aging (read: dead) Palm T|X for several reasons: I could test the keyboard in the store, it has a small adapter block, and it fits (perfectly!) in the bag I carry my diabetes supplies in. Only one gripe: I would like a way to disable the trackpad when a mouse is plugged in — when I’m typing I tend to brush the trackpad and characters wind up where I don’t want them to go.

annexgb [+2]
Mar 10 09 at 4:42 pm

Update: found new driver on Asus website that has the “disable trackpad when USB mouse present” option. I’m doing a happy dance… [grin]

I spent about six months doing research and test runs for this purchase — if I could pass along one piece of advice, it would be to try out the keyboard before you make your final decision. I almost bought a smaller netbook — after trying to type on it for a minute or so I crossed that model right off my list.

annexgb [+2]
Mar 11 09 at 3:44 pm

Great post and really attests to the utility of Twitter. We’ve gotten a lot of great feedback on our first netbook, the Mini 9, and while this class of computer isn’t optimized for users who are “all thumbs,” we now offer the Mini 12 and Mini 10 for people who prefer a bit more room to maneuver.

JohnatDell
Apr 18 09 at 10:24 am


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