To Netbook or Notebook

Netbooks have become increasingly more powerful since their initial debut.  Some sport the Intel Atom Z530 (1.6GHz), 2GB of RAM, 320GB HDDs, and 1280×800 screens with decent clarity.  That also overlooks extras like integrated Webcams, ability to output to an HD monitor (some with an HDMI port), surprisingly decent graphics cards, bluetooth, and Wireless-N.

There are still a few significant detractors:

  1. small keyboards.  The best have a 92% scale keyboard.
  2. single-core, slow(er) processor.  I enjoy my pow-ah.
  3. not all have my ideal minimum resolution of 1280×800.  Most are ‘x768, some are even smaller.
  4. for just a little bit more money ($100 – $300 depending…) you can get an Intel dual-core, 15″ laptop with more memory, more power, more HDD space, a DVD drive, better graphics, and a better sound card.  Tempting, no?

The decision seems to have come down to “ultimate portability” or “good portability” as long as I am not talking about massive code compilations, running VMs, playing games, etc.   I don’t mind a 15″ laptop.  I used to have a 17″ for work, and the current 15″ laptops are much lighter than the HP ze5500 I am keeping alive.  (Of all my machines, THAT one should be Frankenstein…).

With my upcoming move to Verizon, I will be receiving a coupon to the HP store.  I get to make a decision.  For the coupon plus about $100 I can get a netbook with decent specs.  What I REALLY dislike about the HP netbook is that the height is the worst in all the market:  1024×576.  That is even more claustrophobic than the postage stamp, sub-quarter-acre my house is on.  OR I can use the coupon plus about another $300 and get a laptop:  15.6″ HD 1366×768, dual core, lots of memory, etc., etc., etc.

I have a desktop for all of my “power computing”.  I think what I need to figure out is exactly what I plan to do on a netbook, and is 1024×576 good enough for my uses, or is it too confining and potentially insanity inducing.  This is where a VM can come in handy.  I can fake that screen size and see what it is like.

My OS thoughts are no surprise.  I can actually get the laptop with an HP supported Linux mobile remix.  I would quickly convert that to either the Ubuntu Netbook-remix, or straight-up Kubuntu 9.04 32bit.  Some quick searching has revealed that is decently supported on this netbook (and the notebook I am pondering).

If I am going to use it for mobility, writing, surfing, email, and pretty much nothing else, I guess the question comes down to living with the resolution.  The price difference plays in here (I think we have established that I can be cheap) as does simple tech-lust:  the Netbook is the neat new technology, I have the ability, I wanty.

The one, maybe one, significant extra factor is that a notebook could become my “TV computer” — the thing I can hookup to the television in the living room for the rare times we want to watch something streaming.  But, again… rare times.  I’m not a complete Hulu convert yet.

“What to do.  What to do.” — Q’s Mother


About John

I write about technology interests, cooking, and my own writing (sci-fi and fantasy... sometimes both). I try to keep things light, but sometimes I get side-tracked on an issue that I feel strongly about. No offense is meant, I'm just like any other person who feels strongly about something when I write. View all posts by John

6 responses to “To Netbook or Notebook

  • jhimm

    My younger brother’s hands aren’t -nearly- as big as mine. He bought a netbook some months ago, and the keyboard is driving him BONKERS. Even worse, the constant switching back and forth from that keyboard to a normal one throughout each day is making adjusting to either one nearly impossible.

    You may find the keyboard a bigger impediment than the screen in the long run.

    • John

      Good point. I find the minor difference between my laptop and desktop keyboards is enough to drive me a little off the mark. My touch typing suffers heavily.

    • John

      Out of curiosity, and for a reference point, what netbook did your brother get?

      • jhimm

        reply via email with direct copy from my brother which seems wrong somehow to paste in a “public” page.

        • John

          No problemo.

          As I said in my email, I’ve used netbooks “that sized” and I think the smallest keyboard reduction I’d be able to stand is a 90% — though preferably something better like a 97%. I’ve tested a few other netbooks to know anything below 90% is not going to be sanely usable. The HP Mini 110 has a 92% keyboard… something to contemplate.

          • jhimm

            yeah, he was looking to maximize portability while retaining battery life.

            i think based on what you’re saying here, i’d say just find yourself the smallest, lightest laptop you can live with and go with that. by the time you get a netbook with a keyboard that big, it seems like you’re giving up a lot (hard drive, etc) with little in terms of portability gain.


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