Small laptops vs. netbooks

By Katharine Swan On Wednesday, January 28, 2009 At 11:51 AM

Michael (who took a second day off) and I spent some time at Microcenter yesterday afternoon. We went there to get a portable hard drive for picture storage, and while we were there I browsed their small laptops and mini netbooks. And this time I even got some pictures!

A while back I posted on the feasibility of mini netbooks for writers. I hadn't seen the Dell version yet, so that wasn't in my post last time. Here it is:

Dell Mini (with my hand on the keyboard for size comparison)The first thing I noticed about the Dell Inspirion Mini 9 is that it is ridiculously small and light — comparable with the smallest Asus. Dell tried to compensate with larger keys (the similar to the smooth keyboard that I didn't like on the HP version in my other post), but it is still difficult to type on this netbook. I think Dell has a slightly larger netbook now, but I haven't seen that one yet.

Personally, if I were going to get a computer this small, I would go for one of the less expensive ones. The Dell costs about $450, and you can get the Asus and Acer models for at least $100 less.

LenovoI also took a look at several regular sized computers. This Lenovo IdeaPad really caught my eye, because it weighed only about 2 ½ pounds, because it was a widescreen, and because it was really pretty (the top isn't just red, but has a pretty pattern etched into it). The drawbacks are the price (ouch!), the smooth keyboard, Windows Vista, and the external CD/DVD drive.

LenovoUnfortunately, the smooth keyboard isn't just a drawback — it's a dealbreaker. Since I spend the majority of my time on the keyboard, it has to be one I am comfortable using. I personally like having the key definition (and the clicky feeling) of the traditional keyboard, so that I can tell better by touch where I'm at on the keyboard. However, while typing on the computers today I discovered another problem with the smooth keyboard: Since they have straight up-and-down edges, your fingers can trip up quite easily when going from a key you've just pressed to a neighboring key you plan to press next.

Lenovo ThinkPad laptop with docking stationI also looked at another Lenovo, a ThinkPad. This one had some really great characteristics. First of all, it had a docking station, where the DVD drive was at. Since I rarely ever need that drive when I'm out and about, this seemed like a good tradeoff to me for a small, light computer.

But the best feature of the ThinkPad was that the battery lasted for upwards of 8 hours. I mean, good grief! Can you imagine how heavenly that would be for a writer — especially a writer who likes to work at coffee shops, bookstores, and the barn at every chance I get??!!

The ThinkPad also had Windows XP, which I really like, even though it fairly screams "old model!" I've heard of a lot of peripheral compatibility problems with Windows Vista, and I just don't feel like dealing with that. The laptop also has a traditional keyboard — no fancy styling. Yay!

Unfortunately, the ThinkPad does have some drawbacks too, the biggest one being that it doesn't have a widescreen. I just don't know if I could deal with that after using a widescreen computer for more than three years! It's such a shame because honestly, if the ThinkPad had a widescreen and was that small and had an 8-hour battery, I probably would have gone home with a new computer today.

ToshibaAfter these computers, the next smallest was a discontinued Toshiba Portege with a 12-inch widescreen. There was no weight rating on this one, but with the battery I'd estimate it to end up being around 4 pounds, which is heavier than I am looking for. (My current computer weighs just over 3 pounds, and I am spoiled!) This laptop also comes with Vista, so I dismissed it as not being worth considering.

Well, if you have been following my netbooks reviews, here are some more things for you to think about. I'll blog in a future post about why I've been doing this research, and what I think I've decided to do.


for this post

Leave a Reply

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.

Subscribe to posts

Content copyright © 2005-2011 by Katharine Swan Leppert.
No part of the work displayed on this site may be reproduced without the author's permission.

Previous Posts