End of a 3-Year Netbook Experiment

It was nearly three years ago that I got my first netbook, an Asus Eee 1000HA. And despite a failed hard drive a year later (still under warranty), and complete failure six months after that, I loved my compact little machine. I loved it so much that I got another one in May of last year – the Asus Eee Seashell 1005PE. The upgrade included 2 GB of RAM instead of 1 GB, an Atom N450 processor, and a long-lasting battery. It too wound its way into my heart, but there were evident flaws from the beginning. Most importantly, the 2 GB of RAM didn’t seem to improve my operating speed, an annoying problem given how many tasks I like to run simultaneously. (Maybe a result of the OS upgrade to Windows 7?) Then in the spring of this year, I dropped my poor little netbook, and it’s never quite been the same.

Fast forward to today, and I’ve upgraded yet again. This time to a Lenovo ThinkPad X220 laptop. While I love netbook portability, I’ve decided that performance is more important. My X220 comes with 8GB of RAM and an Intel i7 processor. It’s also got decent battery life (5-6 hours), and a trackpoint – my favorite navigating tool. I’ve jumped in screen size from ten inches to 12.5 inches, which has its pluses and minus, and the laptop is a bit heavier than my previous netbooks, though not significantly. The big difference is the price. Fully configured, the X220 is roughly triple the price of any netbook. It was no small expenditure, and there will be no further upgrade in a year or 18 months.

I am cautiously optimistic about my laptop choice. The Lenovo brand means my X220 should last for several years, and I have high hopes for my improved productivity as a result of fewer computing slowdowns. Is the laptop worth the price increase over a netbook? I won’t know until I’ve had more time to try it out. My guess is that after a few months with the X220 I’ll have trouble considering a netbook ever again. I may be wrong, but I think my netbook experiment is over. It’s a new laptop era.

9 thoughts on “End of a 3-Year Netbook Experiment”

  1. Funny… as this is the year I’ll probably GO netbook. Trading in my 13″ Macbook Air (not done) for a 21″ iMac (done) and a small Windows laptop (not yet done).

  2. I think netbooks still have their place, though that place is mostly for teenagers with sharp eyes and small hands.

    Myself I moved on a while back, to an Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830 11.6″ thin ‘n light. ALMOST as small, under $500 when I bought it, much better display, and almost 8 hours of battery life. I think its been pretty perfect actually. No i7 here, not even an i3, but it handles everything I throw at it quickly enough for me.

    I do think we’ve reached a place where most people really don’t care about the advances being made in CPU performance, but netbooks still aren’t at that place.

    These days I’d be holding on waiting for the ultrabooks to show up. I think the MBA 11/13″ designs are pretty close to perfect. I have high hopes for the new generations of ultrabooks even if they are clones, but I’ll need to see reviews of the trackpad performance, look closely at the keyboards etc before I’d pick one up.

  3. Dave, out of curiosity, what is your use case for a 10-11″ notebook? Why not keep Air or trade-up to a newer model?

  4. Completely agree SouthPaw, an SSD will make your computer feel brand new and much more responsive in most cases. You can PROBABLY get by with 128GB or 160GB in a laptop and those aren’t that expensive anymore. An Intel X25-M 160 should run under $200 these days. Yes I know there are 500GB or 750GB laptop drives selling for less, but they’re just so much slower you really want to think whether you can live with something smaller.

    Personally based on my experience I’d stick with something reliable even if it isn’t quite as fast. Intel, Samsung, Toshiba. Stay away from Sandforce and OCZ drives. You’re risking your data more than you think. If you aren’t sure, read the comments on newegg.com and Anandtech before you make a decision.

    Honestly, very soon now most computers should ship either with an SSD alone, or two drives–and SSD boot and a spinning data drive. Windows for example makes it easy enough to do this using the junction command to say move the User directory to the data drive, but the support for this configuration should be in Windows out of the box with no user knowledge required at all.

  5. “Completely agree SouthPaw, an SSD will make your computer feel brand new and much more responsive in most cases. You can PROBABLY get by with 128GB or 160GB in a laptop and those aren’t that expensive anymore.”

    Hell, you can get by with a 64GB SSD for a boot drive, just as long as you store your media on the LAN, rather than on the laptop.

    Best value is to keep the laptops cheap and disposable, and keep the media on platter drives on the LAN. When at home, good WiFi infrastructure makes accessing your media easy. When traveling, getting at your LAN over the WAN is simple.

    (Personally, I have a 128GB SSD in my laptop, but even that is overkill. If you’re on the Cupertino ecosystem, a Mac Mini on the LAN will save you money in a multitude of ways. If you’re on the Redmond ecosystem, things are even easier to put together.)


    And as far as netbooks go, if ChromeBook ever gets its act together, we’ll have a winner.

  6. Mari,

    I have been a fan of ThinkPads for years. Great documentation and apps like Access Connections. Few (if none) bloatware apps installed (except for MS office). If you are not using a WWAN adapter you might be able to put a mSATA drive (Intel 310) in.


  7. BTW Mari, I should have said I use Thinkpads in my work and am typing this on one (a W510, just a hair under $1500) right now. I think they’re great. Solid build, easy to modify/upgrade. Great keyboard. Solid trackpad and yes I like the little red nipple. Lots of configuration options etc. And yes I think the X220 is probably a great choice. I think some of the new Edge models are cool choices too.

    There’s a bunch of semi-bloatware on Thinkpads honestly. You don’t need a lot of their little control panel/tray thingamabobs, though some of them may be of interest and/or useful to you. You’ll likely find uninstalling some of them speeds up your boot time quite a bit. Depends if this is of concern to you.

  8. I like my old Gateway 11.6″ Netbook with dual core intel and SSD. It has 4GB of memory and runs Windows 7 64bit with no issues. HDMI out, gigabit ethernet, wireless N etc. My only complaint with it is that the keyboard is n t backlit. But I get much more use out of it than my older Gateway 11.6″ netbook with a single core AMD. Now that one was much slower. It just sits gathering dust now.

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