What netbook features to look for

Discussion in 'hardware' started by axial, Apr 8, 2009.

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  1. axial

    axial Registered Member

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    I'm getting a netbook in the next week, for easier footprint / portability than my laptop. Haven't settled on mfg yet, in early hours of research. Would appreciate any comments on specific features that you have found are significant.

    Aside from general surfing and mail-checking, I would like to be able to use something like TeamViewer to get back to my desktop. Won't initially be using it with a 3G modem, just with public WiFI (although I see Sony/Verizon have a combo deal). Will be using supplied XP not Linux.

    Would be using firewall such as OA or Comodo; any particular type of processor more likely to be compatible with these types of firewalls?

    Other questions:
    Comments on preferred processor welcome.
    Are USB ports generally standard?
    Ethernet ports usually standard?

    Do they typically perform as per their advertised battery times?
    Any comments on keyboard noise, ease of use, and style of action?
    Some don't have touchpads; do they use the ThinkPad style button or ??
    VGA port to connect an external monitor sounds useful.
     
  2. Cloudcroft

    Cloudcroft Registered Member

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  3. axial

    axial Registered Member

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    Cloudcroft, thank you! I hadn't seen that posting, and it turns out I'm eyeing the next version of the one BlueZanetti describes (Samsung NC10), which is the N110, just released. For anybody looking, here's one review:
    http://www.laptopmag.com/review/laptops/samsung-n-110.aspx

    It's amazing how much decision-making is involved, I mistakenly thought it would be a easier-to-make decision than for buying a laptop, silly me :eek:
     
  4. Cloudcroft

    Cloudcroft Registered Member

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    Glad to help!
     
  5. BlueZannetti

    BlueZannetti Administrator

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    For me, battery life and decent (not stellar, just decent) keyboard are the most significant traits. Because of the usage profile for my NC-10, I also prefer a matte screen.
    To hop a public WiFi conveniently, I also have an Alfa 500mW USB Wireless G/B Adapter with an extended antenna. My son appreciated the range on some of his recent travels. It runs fine off the NC-10.
    They all should be fine. Naturally, you want the fastest possible consistent with battery life requirements
    Since my older son is on the market for one of these as well, the usual purchase related questions have come up again at home. Taking yours in order and adding a couple....
    • Right now, he's waiting for the next wave of higher resolution screens in the 10" segment (1366 x 768 or so). These are just hitting the market now, but may really need a bit of a video and CPU upgrade. He's waiting to see how these shake out right now, but seems to be leaning to NVidia Ion equipped (some have been announced - not sure of projected release dates, but they're a bit off.)
    • 2-3 USB ports seem typical
    • Most should have a hard wired ethernet port.
    • I think SSD vs HDD still resides on the HDD side. My wife picked up an early Acer Aspire One on fairly steep discount. The negative comments on the write speed of that SSD are spot on. I would have already switched it out except the disassembly of this unit is a little more complicated than many others. Try to get a feel for the ease of user RAM/drive/wireless card upgrades before settling. Many of the netbook sites are frequented by hardware modders, and their comments are generally valuable.
    • If fingerprints are a personal peeve - go for a matte or white case finish - a minor point...
    Generally, with light duty type usage (i.e. what they're really designed for).
    Samsung's keyboard is quite nice, no direct experience with the others. Experiences seem more variable for genuine touch typists..
    Not sure on the touchpad, on the VGA port - the use I see here is for mobile workers who need to plug into a local presentation display system. I really can't imagine a use outside of that aside from debugging.

    Blue
     
  6. Cloudcroft

    Cloudcroft Registered Member

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    Axial, let us know what you decide on. The Samsung N110 looks pretty nice!
     
  7. axial

    axial Registered Member

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    Oh, drat, the decision is getting more difficult by the hour. Now there are TWO Samsung choices, the aforementioned N110 and the brand new (in the US, at least) NC-20. The NC-20 is a 12.1-inch, 1280 x 800 screen. Those extra pixels are awfully tempting. About half a pound higher weight. VIA NANO chip. Still a gloss outer shell, unfortunately, and only black so far.

    Odd difference between them in the keyboard placement of the tilde/backslash key, the N110 being in the "normal" place beside "1", the N20 being to the left of the space bar. I'm mulling on the irritation factor.

    Agreed on your comments re: matte screen, screen glare is also a pet peeve of mine (years ago, at an otherwise "formal business attire" client, I gained fame by wearing a baseball cap to mitigate the glare from overhead lights).

    Many thanks for your additional comments, Blue, they've helped me tremendously.

    sigh. This techno-lust is incurable, I think. :D
     
  8. Brian K

    Brian K Imaging Specialist

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  9. axial

    axial Registered Member

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  10. BlueZannetti

    BlueZannetti Administrator

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    I believe Lenovo also uses that technology in some models...., not sure if it extends to their netbooks....

    Of course, the big question out there is whether Apple will join the netbook fray. I know I'd snap one up if it ever came to pass..., there's a market there, but the margins are lean...

    It is interesting to see how this segment is evolving. There are two rather distinct camps - the ultralow power/extended battery life group and then there's the performance mavens. The sweet spot's somewhere in the middle.

    Blue
     
  11. axial

    axial Registered Member

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  12. axial

    axial Registered Member

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    Glad tidings to report -- got the NC-20, and I'm very impressed so far, it definitely fits the requirements. Got it from Newegg, ordered at 11am, shipped overnight from CA to WA.

    The screen is excellent, it's very bright so I've turned it back to about 30% or so. It's not super reflective; I used it outdoors and found it reasonably free of glare, certainly better than what I had hoped. Great having the extra pixels size, I'm definitely glad I got this slightly larger resolution and screen size. Tremendously better for surfing and doing actual work, I would have hated doing the extra scrolling with the smaller screen.

    Surprisingly large -- the Comcast guy had an Acer and it was miniscule by comparison. This is much easier to use as a laptop than my Sony Vaio 15" size, much more convenient for "casual" use where one is moving around frequently, balancing on the edge of window-sills or side tables, laps, etc.

    Keyboard is great (and I'm very picky on keyboards and screens), I like it better than the Sony too. Keys are surprisingly huge, actually. The Fn key symbols could be a touch brighter, they're difficult to see in low light, wish they were illuminated.

    Touchpad is ok, but will get one of the "nano" size wireless travel mice where the transmitter barely extends 1/3" from the USB port so it's not prone to mangling, probably Logitech.

    Haven't yet got much sense of battery life, although I did manage to drain it surprisingly quickly by leaving it in some sort of suspension where the HD was still running; happened much faster than I had expected. It was fully recharged again in an hour. The plug-in wart is smaller than most.

    Glossy exterior shell is annoying; will look for some sort of a silicone overlay.

    Setup was veery smooth. Came with WinXP Home preinstalled. Several month-long trial apps such as McAfee security / AV, which I deleted in favor of a test with Online Armor from http://www.tallemu.com Unfortunately OA ver 3.5.0.9 has a problem with suddenly dropping into some untrusted mode and dropping the internet connection, plus a false report about spoofed MAC addresses, but those are apparently almost resolved.

    Had no problem using the built-in wireless with public wifi for a 2-day period; connections were always stable (other than the OA issue).

    Have had some sudden reboots due to an as yet undetermined driver issue. Had a problem with Bluetooth causing crashes so I've disabled it for the time being.

    Will definitely be upgrading to 2gigs, as it seemed sluggish when I had multiple FF windows and text editors open.

    Didn't have time to set up CrossLoop or TeamViewer prior to the first intensive use, but I think those will also benefit from more RAM.

    I'll try to get a screenshot to post here. Thx to all for your comments, much appreciated.
     
  13. Cloudcroft

    Cloudcroft Registered Member

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    Axial, congratulations on your purchase, and thanks for the review! I'd like to use a Bluetooth mouse with my netbook (if I ever make up my mind), so I hate to hear you've had problems with the NC-20.
     
  14. axial

    axial Registered Member

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    A couple of other issues with the NC-20:

    • Annoyance with the power connector, it's constructed as a "straight in" plug rather than with a 90-degree bend in it, so the power cable is much more annoying than it should be
    • Recovering from Hibernation gives a "Windows has recovered from a serious error" msg, this is the one that points to the generic MS troubleshooting page that indicates a driver problem. Unfortunately still haven't had time to debug.

    EDIT: Recover from Hibernation crash resolved, it was something with Online Armor 3.5.0.9; will be posting issue to their forum.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2009
  15. BlueZannetti

    BlueZannetti Administrator

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    Have you considered a bluetooth mouse? The MS one is actually pretty good.

    Blue
     
  16. axial

    axial Registered Member

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    I'm fairly strong on the Logitech camp, but with your comment I took a look at the MS site today. All I can say is "They're at it again!" -- they have a proprietary "BlueTrack Technology" on some of the mobile mice, complete with "glowing blue light effects ... ". oh, cool, I guess :cautious: No mention of whether it's a BlueTooth knockoff, but the emphasis on blue might clinch it.

    The marketing is good, though, as they say it works on more places... granite countertops, carpet, wood table, rough unfinished park bench ... I think I saw another mention of "airport carpet".
     
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