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Summary:

Netbooks — small, light and inexpensive portable computers — have become very popular in the past year, and come in enough flavors that many web workers may want to consider getting one. I use an Asus Eee PC netbook as a secondary machine for mobile work, […]

Netbooks — small, light and inexpensive portable computers — have become very popular in the past year, and come in enough flavors that many web workers may want to consider getting one. I use an Asus Eee PC netbook as a secondary machine for mobile work, when I don’t want to carry a heavier notebook. Netbooks guarantee compromises, though, and there are a few key areas where you should closely study compromises you may have to make, before you buy.


Here are four significant examples.


A Comfortable Keyboard. JKOnTheRun has a good piece up today on the netbooks that readers of the Smarterware blog are using, and why. The majority of them — almost half — use Asus Eee PC systems.  Still, if you look at some of the user comments from netbook owners in the post, you’ll see some of the Eee PC users complaining about the small keyboards they have. The keyboards on the Acer Aspire One netbooks, and other models, are larger, and if you have big hands, this may be an important consideration.

Solid Battery Life. Small and light as they are, netbooks are very convenient to carry around for mobile work, such as writing on the go. In the past year, when I’ve needed to write from a remote location such as a conference, I’ve frequently chosen to carry my Asus Eee PC netbook instead of my bulkier ThinkPad X40 sub-notebook. You can really shoot yourself in the foot, though, if you don’t get a netbook with strong battery life. This varies widely, and some of the netbooks have extraordinary battery life. This CNET story from a few months ago, for example, shows Acer Aspire One netbooks (very popular models) getting two hours, while the Asus EeePC 1000 got more than five hours.  Look for reviews on models that you are considering.

Wireless Broadband Options. Easy and affordable wireless broadband solutions are available for use with many netbooks, and even if you aren’t going to go this route to begin with, consider your options before you buy. Netbooks are defined by their limited connectivity, and there is such a thing as too limited. Many people just want to hang a netbook off the Wi-Fi network in their homes, but you may end up wanting to use ubiquitous wireless broadband plans if you fall in love with the light weight and convenient size of your netbook. Check your options up front.

Affordable External Storage. Some people shy away from netbooks altogether because they often have very limited local storage, but if this is a sticking point for you, consider good, available workarounds. I carry a USB thumb drive around with 64GB of capacity, and it works great with my Asus Eee PC. I mostly write on it, and the files I want to store and back up aren’t huge, so the thumb drive solves the storage problem for me. These are very cheap right now, too. Alternatively, you can choose from the many free, online storage sites, such as ADrive, which I wrote about here.  It gives you 50GB of capacity for free.

  1. Can the author/someone link where to buy a USB thumb drive with a 64 gig capacity?

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  2. http://www.kingston.com/flash/dt150.asp

    Amazon has them for US$112.

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  3. Users might want to be aware that if you buy a netbook with a linux install on it, it will prove harder to install a mobile broadband dongle. Most of these come with the software on them and run an executable for Windows when you plug the device in.

    When I got my Aspire One last year, there were rumours of them putting a slot for a sim card in. But I’ve since sold it and dropped out of the loop for netbooks. To much of a fad imo :)

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  4. @alex, yes, good point, the Linux-based netbooks are inexpensive, but it’s important to remember that wireless broadband, if you, say, want it later, is harder to lash up with them.

    Sam

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  5. The reason why i love netbooks is because they are small and easy to carry. Considering that i walk a lot, this is a great advantage.

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  6. [...] WebWorker Daily has a timely article on Netbook shopping.  There are four criteria listed (which seem pretty obvious to me, but WWD [...]

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  7. I have nothing but good to say about my Acer Aspire One. Battery life on this device is better than acceptable – it’s downright amazing at 5+ hours when you consider that most PC laptops conk out after 2-3. That said, the Aspire One has sold me on the concept of the Netbook and I’m now contemplating a 2nd unit with a slightly larger screen (10″) and 8-hour battery life.

    Now, if only Apple would introduce their own Netbook I wouldn’t have to feel guilty for valuing portability over OSX usability.

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  8. Just to provide a balanced point of view to above poster, my Acer Aspire One has caused me a lot of hassle with connection problems (it drops wireless and doesn’t even recognise the wireless card). From searching on the net to find a possible solution I found that many people are finding the same issue. Also, I only get 2 hours battery life at most (although I usually use it plugged in so not an issue). Mine is the A150-BW model, not sure if things have improved since I got mine.

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  9. Aside from the considerations about the netbooks themselves is figuring out a way to sync the work you do on one with your main computer. That might be “it’s an email/web thing for me” or it might be “I use SaaS software (Basecamp, Google Docs, Zoho)” but doing this is important.

    Finally another question should be “why a netbook vs a 5lb laptop?” I can see valid reasons, but if mobility is important it might be time to toss the desktop altogether and invest in a good laptop.

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  10. you may also like to read the netbook buying guide here

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