Mini netbook reviews for writers

By Katharine Swan On Tuesday, December 16, 2008 At 11:30 AM

I've blogged before about my little Averatec 1000 series laptop, which I bought more than three years ago now, just before quitting my job to freelance full time. I love this little laptop, which weighs only a little over three pounds without sacrificing any of the features of a full-size computer.

Lately, however, it has started having little problems here and there. Recently my dad bought one of those little mini computers for about $350, and I've been wondering if I should get one too as a backup or a second computer.

I've done a little browsing at local stores, and here is what I think so far:

Asus Eee with the Intel Atom Processor N270 — $279. This is my least favorite of the mini computers so far. The processor speed is decent — 1.6 GHz — but the keys are tiny and difficult to type on... And that's coming from someone who is types on a smaller-sized keyboard all the time!

Someone I met during NaNoWriMo this year had one of these, and her complaint was the lack of memory: The hard drive is just 4 GB. She said that by the time you load the software you need, there's not much space for anything else!

HP Mini Netbook with Intel Atom Processor N270 — $399. I wasn't very impressed by the HP version, either. It has the same processor as the Eee listed above, but with a 10.2 inch widescreen, so it's a little bigger — the same size as my Averatec, actually, just without the CD/DVD drive. The hard drive is 16 GB — bigger than the Eee, but still not big enough, as far as I'm concerned.

Unfortunately, someone at HP had the bright idea to make the keys larger, flatter, and more ergonomic. The result is a keyboard where nothing is where it should be. When I tried it out at Best Buy, my typo rate was about 25 percent. I'd never get anything done, at that rate!

Asus Eee Netbook with Intel Celeron Processor 353 — $379. Like the HP, this mini computer has a 10 inch widescreen and a larger keyboard, so it's about the same size and weight as my Averatec (except that my Averatec has a CD/DVD drive and these don't). And unlike the HP, this keyboard is normal enough to type on it comfortably.

Another advantage to this machine is its large hard drive: 120 GB, which is much more generous than the 80 GB drive on my Averatec. However, my complaint was how slow the machine seemed. It was a 900 MHz processer, which is only a little slower than my Averatec, but felt ridiculously slow when I was playing with the machine in the store.

Acer Aspire with Intel Atom Processor N270 — $349. This little computer impressed me the most. The screen is a small 8.9 inch widescreen, the same as the smaller Asus, and it has the same 1.6 GHz processor. However, it also has the 120 GB hard drive and a workable keyboard. It weighs 2.2 pounds, a pound less than my Averatec and the two larger minis (the larger Asus and the HP).

I didn't get to try out Dell's version of the mini, and if there are other brands I haven't heard of them.

I think if I decide to get one of these mini laptops, or netbooks as they seem to be called, I will probably prefer the Acer — I like the keyboard the best (which is important since I'd be typing on it a lot), the faster processor, the large hard drive, and the small size. I'm not sure yet whether I can fully justify having a second laptop for work, but it's hard to say no when it's that cheap — not to mention when this is pretty much the only way to get a small laptop (my preference) these days!

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Blogger Irreverent Freelancer Says:  

This was great information. Keep me updated on any new findings since I'm actually planning to buy a Netbook instead of a laptop next go-around. Remember when I said my laptop was kind of a useless purchase? Well, I proved that claim wrong while my dad was in the hospital. It was the only way I got any work done for a month straight. The weight is what got to me, which is why I'm downscaling once the depreciation period is up on my laptop.

 
 
Blogger Katharine Swan Says:  

Kathy, the weight is my biggest concern too. With the huge screens they are putting on laptops these days, they are way too heavy for my tastes.

My biggest concern with the netbooks is not having the CD/DVD drive. My dad said he thinks some of them have it now, but I'm not sure of that. I'll let you know if I find out anything.

However, if you don't mind the cost you can get the weight down AND keep all of the functions of a normal laptop with the Sony Vaio. I just checked their website and they still sell their smallest size Vaio, which has an 11 inch widescreen and weighs less than 3 pounds. That is basically the same size as my laptop, and a half pound lighter. Michael has it (a hand-me-down from a friend who upgraded to a different laptop), and he loves it.

I definitely don't think I'd recommend a netbook being your only computer.

 
 
Blogger Irreverent Freelancer Says:  

Oh, it definitely won't be my only computer. I'm a desktop kind of gal as long as life allows me to be at home. Thanks for the Sony recommendation. I'll check it out.

 

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Katharine Swan is a full-time freelance writer with more than 5 years of professional writing experience. In addition to maintaining several personal blogs, she writes a variety of online marketing materials for clients, including company blogs, articles, and press releases. In her free time, she spends time with her horse, reads, and writes fiction.

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