So I bought a netbook. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a year or so, and the recent changes in my circumstances meant I could indulge myself. As I usually do, I dwelled on this for weeks, trying out different models, experimenting, researching … my mothers have a Dell Mini 10, which I’ve used and liked. When the Dells went on sale after Christmas I thought I’d made my choice.
But the Dells were sold out, so I went shopping, and ended up with a Compaq Mini 110, only because the store I went to had really fantastic customer service and the sales guy figured out that I was willing to trade some features for a larger keyboard. That turned out to be crucial. I am large, and my hands are big and clumsy; a tiny keyboard would not work for me. Had he not noted that, I might not be so happy. Thank you, Mike at Staples Business Depot.
This is why my previous experimentation with subnotebooks failed. About 10 years ago, I bought a Toshiba Libretto from a pawn shop. It seemed like a good idea at the time: a paperback-sized minicomputer, running Windows CE, that I could use in my work as a reporter and writer. But it was useless. I couldn’t type on it. It couldn’t transfer files easily (this is pre-USB key, folks … pre-CD burner, too, for that matter). Its operating system was a joke. It couldn’t go online. After a few weeks, I put it down somewhere. I couldn’t tell you where it is now.
Years later, I would buy a Compaq EVO laptop, second-hand, a weird little machine with a docking station. Undocked, it’s an inch thick, a truly compact laptop running Windows 2000. It still runs. It was my primary computer for a couple of years, and got me through some times when I really needed to be portable.
As I write this on my Compaq Presario desktop, my new Compaq netbook is sitting on top of my closed Compaq laptop. We’re a three-Compaq family now, with Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby bear. Years of use, years of good performance. I can’t argue with that. Yeah, my Mac is here to the left, and I’ll be going back over there once I’m done this. And I’m still dead set on buying that 27-inch iMac in 2010, or, at the very least, a MacBook Pro.
The Compaq netbook:
- Pros: Fast, light and simple. Starts up quickly. Has a 160-gig hard drive, a 1.6-ghz Atom processor with a gig of RAM (I plan to upgrade that to 2 gigs this week) and a matte monitor (more important for me than for you). Keyboard is close to regular size. Holds a charge for about three hours of heavy use, including watching the digital edition of Star Trek included on the DVD release. Crystal-clear video display. Finds other networks effortlessly, and connects on its own. Charges really quickly when plugged in.
- Cons: Half-sized shift key on the left, which is where I shift, and a weird placement of the backslash near the return key, meaning a lot of typos. The casing feels cheap and brittle, and the shiny finish holds every single fingerprint. The touchpad doesn’t always do what you want it to, and the placement of the buttons on the side is strange and awkward. There’s a single audio port for both headphones and a microphone. Overall audio quality is poor.
A note: There’s no Bluetooth on this thing. At first I was a bit ticked, but then I remembered that I have Bluetooth on my two desktop computers and I’ve never actually used it. You know what I miss? IR ports. My old phone and my old laptop used to swap photos via infrared. A great system.
For now, I’m loving the netbook. I’m a journalist; I need that quick, easy access to the web, to word processing, to photos. I used it to take notes at a meeting the other night, and just finished editing a short video on it — with its built-in card reader, no less — and it’s firing on all cylinders. The next step is to test audio recording and editing. I’m still downloading software (VLC, Audacity, iTunes, Ad-Aware, Chrome, OpenOffice) to it in stages.
It’s a real wonder tool. It may not last; I have concerns about the build quality. But really, it’s a $260 computer; worst-case scenario, I give it to one of the kids, and it’s used to visit Littlest Pet Shop Online.
Wait, that’s what happened to the Libretto. I remember now. It became someone’s Tetris machine, kind of an early Nintendo DS, but with a keyboard, and probably covered in Doritos dust. It disappointed a whole new generation. And then it was donated to the Dharma Initiative.