Time to start evaluating my netbook needs

23 Comments

Wakoopa

So I’m nearing 60-days of living in a web browser. Yup, for 97% of my time over the last two months, I’ve been using Firefox on my Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium UMPC and have been quite happy. There’s still a few activities where I need a client application and perhaps the UMPC is overkill for my usage scenario. Then again, maybe it’s not. Remember that I’ve upgraded the RAM from 1- to 2 GB in my device, and it does have a 1.33 GHz Core Solo that runs for 5 to 6 hours. This setup actually works quite well for me when I’m out and about or when I’m at the home office driving a 24-inch monitor at 1920 x 1200 resolution. There’s times when things seem to come to a halt, but it’s not that often. Overall, the experience has been more positive than I expected and I don’t fell like I’m missing all that much in terms of apps or functionality.

So now I’m on the fence with all of the netbooks out there. In fact, I’m wondering if I need one at all at this point due to a few questions I have. Will an Intel Atom or VIA Nano device perform as well as my Core Solo or will Firefox be choking on my my all-day, multi-tab usage? How many netbook batteries will I need to have the same 10 to 12 hours of runtime that I enjoy today with the two 6-cell batteries? Part of my web-only challenge was to see if a meager netbook could actually meet my needs, but perhaps the activity has proved to me that what I’m using today is more than adequate.

I’m still in the early evaluation stages at this point, especially because the netbook market continues to grow wildly in terms of product choices. I do know that I really don’t need a Core 2 Duo notebook for what I do. I have that in the MacBook Pro, but that device isn’t nearly as portable, nor does it run for hours and hours. I love my MBP, but it’s effectively become a desktop replacement for me: only getting used at home and even then, just for limited activities like podcast and video production plus photo imaging. But even photo imaging is starting to migrate to the cloud for me.

Honestly, any netbook right now will be hard pressed to beat my UMPC. The biggest difference between any netbook and my current device is the price: the UMPC cost me between two and four times any of the netbooks out there. Still, I enjoyed the Asus Eee PC 701 while I had it and comparable, new devices are much improved, so I’m still tempted. I’ll definitely be waiting to see what Dell releases in a few weeks, but for now, I’m making a list of pros / cons / needs. I know that’s the logical thing to do, but I’m afraid that when all is said and done, my current mobile device will meet or exceed everything on that list!

23 Comments

Kevin C. Tofel

Mike, I didn’t put the Eee through the same paces back then.

Solomon, when in my home office, I’m on the 24-inch display. Anywhere else (at home or out) is the 7-inch screen. I haven’t kept track of the percentage as I’m not testing productivity between a 24-inch and a 7-inch monitor. That experiment would yield the same results regardless of using web-only, client apps or a mixture.

Johan, I don’t think Wakoopa is 100% accurate to begin with. Example: when I click “Last Week” in my profile, it says I used Firefox for 25 hours. I know I used it far more than that in a week. The graph I showed is from what Wakoopa says is “Last Month”. There’s no way to show 60 days.

James Kendrick

One thing I’m hearing regularly in discussions about Kevin’s cloud-only experiment is how many feel that using anything like big screens or client-based programs is against the “spirit of the cloud”. I’m not sure I understand that thought process at all as it defeats one’s ability to use the best tool at hand. I don’t feel that using a desktop computer is “against the cloud” for example if that’s what is at hand. To me as long as the data is in the clouds that’s good enough, and others as long as the apps are in the cloud that’s even better. But not using particular hardware for cloud work? Is the cloud against larger devices?

Johan

60 days and you’ve been using your computer in total only ~120 hours? That’s 2 hours per day, sounds a like somethings wrong or you’re a productive one maintaining the site during only two hours a day. =). Explaination?

solomon

i would say that using that 24″ screen, in someways, defeats the whole idea, “mobile/cloud, productivity” essentially you are cheating on the mobile productivity side of things.

what % are you on the 24″ versus the 7″?

Gordon Cahill

It’s gadget lust, pure and simple. RESIST KEVIN, RESIST.

I’ve just bought a Mini-Note as a result of relenting. It’s a great little machine and even runs Photoshop and Lightroom for lightweight tasks. But I didn’t need it and I really do miss my touch screen and active digitiser.
Also it would take 3 extended batteries to get 10 hours mobile.

I think you need to list the events where a netbook would be a more useful device than the Q1 you have now. And then list the time when the Q1 has been a pain to use. If the list is long then away you go. But your choices of a good keyboard are limited.

I feel that a massive netbook round-up and comparison article is in order (hear that manufacturers?). You should be good for at least a couple of months then.

Gordon

Mike Cane

>>>will Firefox be choking on my my all-day, multi-tab usage?

Well what happened when you had the 7xx with the Celeron? Did you at least try that?!

Nate

@ Paul

I do view Flash sites, and it’s true that they can sometimes be laggy. But, it’s never been bad enough for me to even think twice about it.

Flash isn’t one of my primary concerns. As long as it’s serviceable, it’s good enough for me. And, to me, the HP is more than serviceable.

Keith

If your Q1 is treating you so well, and meets all of your needs, I see no reason at all to buy a netbook of your own.

Feign interest so manufacturers will send you test units to play with and “review” therefore driving up your hits from other tech sites and search results, yes. But spend your hard-earned money on 5 year old quality hardware just because it was built this year? Seems silly to me.

Conri

i still dont understand why Kevin is even doing the whole cloud thing, its more of a gimmick for you than anything with substance.

you primarily only use 1 machine. you arent really mobile by going to coffee shops & traveling 1-2 times a year. the “cloud” was created for people to have access to their information with multiple machines from multiple locations. it’s is suppose to create a division between a person & dedicated hardware so they are no longer tied to it, which you are doing the exact opposite of.

you could do just as well (actually better) with 1 machine & a big HDD to store your apps & data.

TateJ

Very cool article Kevin.

I’ve been experimenting with using a Q1 (original 900mhz Q1 upgraded to 2 gigs of ram) as my primary tablet for note taking and inking. I’m finding that the vectoring is a real problem for me. I just can’t find a way to rest my palm without my handwriting becoming unreadable. I not evening trying to convert it to text, I just want to be able to read it.

Any suggestions.

BTW, I just tried the office apps at acrobat.com. They work pretty well, but no offline mode yet.

jkkmobile

Well…

Eee 901 has the best size/weight/performance/batterylife ratio..

You know how the keyboard is, as it’s the same as on your Eee 700…

dennisvjames

also, sorry to be off comment, but you were using some podcasting software in your youtube video about the Q1UP and I couldn’t hear the software product’s name…what was it?

Dave Zatz

I’m also trying to downsize and recently ebayed my Vista Media Center. Right now my only computer is a MacBook Pro (which belongs to my employer). I’m thinking 24″ iMac for desk and one of these Dell, Lenevo, etc 10″ laptops for mobile stuff. Kevin’s a beast, but I just can’t function without a built in keyboard and have no desire to lug an accessory along. Maybe Apple will finally give in an provide a 12″ (or less) laptop…

Paul V

Yeah, but how do these things perform when running Flash 9 applications? Have you really tested out multiple sites that use Flash 9 as their base? I have and they stink. 100% utilization at times. I love the form factor but hate the performance….. and battery life…. What happens when Flash 10 comes out? As background, I am using MSI Wind.

Nate

I see.

That being the case, I’d really take a look at the keyboards before purchasing. For a primary device, to me, that’s the most important feature of these netbooks. I only say this because I’ve been on both sides of this coin, and when it’s bad, it’s really bad.

Currently, I use and HP Mininote. As James has said, the keyboard is excellent. I use mine 8 hours a day with no adverse affects.

I moved to this machine from the Eee Pc. The primary reason being, the keyboard on the Eee Pc was giving me some pretty bad RSI problems. These small keyboards make it so you have to contort your hands in an unnatural way. The negative affect it can have on your hands and forearms can be pretty drastic.

So, keep that in mind on your search.

Battery-wise, I get about two hours out of mine. That’s with the slim three cell battery. HP claims you can get 4.5 out of the 6 cell, but we all know how accurate manufacturer specs can be.

To me, this HP isn’t the be all end all of mobile computing. But, because of the keyboard, it has me in a position where I don’t feel the need to upgrade.

dennisvjames

I am very interested in hearing more about the inking. I see a lot of reviews but few about using the Q1UP in real life situations. Can you see this being used every day as a note-taker, Web browser, word and maybe light excel machine? How much do you ink each day? How quickly can you do it with Q1UP? How accurate is it with Vista? Do you use OneNote? So it’s not an active digitizer (neither is the Fujitsu P1620, but that’s going to cost $3K ). You get where I’m coming from, in the end, it’s cool to have great technology, but I really want to graduate to a low weight (under 2.5 pounds) fairly powerful machine with good battery power (hey if I can get 5 hours that would be great – 7 would be ideal). BTW, I’ve been using a Nokia N800 as a browser, and it works incredibly well for answering email and other light stuff like that (with the Apple Bluetooth keyboard – tho most of the time I just use my finger or stylus). That showed me that I could leave my laptop at home and still get work done. Now I’m looking for something a little more powerful. thanks for the great info!

DJ

Kevin C. Tofel

Steve, I’m in general agreement with you thoughts but we unsurprisingly have different needs/requirements in terms of location. I notice that you make a distinction between “lap work” and other scenarios. I’m not sure that I do. I often use the Q1UP while sitting in a chair, i.e.: without a work surface to put the unit down. That’s where inking can be useful to me. However, I generally don’t create content with a device on my lap. I tend to consume it, so the Q1UP works well for me in that use case.

Many cloud apps are still limited in function so if I want to do something VERY specific, there are times that I still MUST use a client app. My photos are shot in RAW, for example… can’t do anything with those on the web. I’ve worked exclusively in WYSIWYG editors since I started blogging in 2004, so there’s no issue there either. I’ve often looked at offline editing apps, but they didn’t give me enough reason to switch I guess. ;)

Kevin C. Tofel

I really don’t want many devices, I try to keep my usage to one dedicated home machine and one home/travel machine. I don’t have any devices that I only use when I travel, for example.

Steve 'Chippy' Paine

As for cost, just think about the times and places you’d be more productive with the Q1 than with a netbook. As a business user, it’s easy to justify the cost of a UMPC.
Think ‘fingerprint reader’ = security. Battery life = productivity.
As long as you don’t do any lap work, the modular approach with Ultra Premium + Keyboard is perfect. I can’t think of a reason to use a netbook. Just imagine if the Q1 ULtra had a decent docking station!

Well done on the 60-day no-app project. Have you reached a point of diminishing returns? (Photo apps in the cloud not so efficient perhaps. Photo editing restrictive? Online WYSIWYG editors starting to feel cramped?)

Steve.

Nate

I guess I’m thinking more in terms of, where would this device be in your chain of devices?

Primary?

Secondary?

Only when you travel?

Kevin C. Tofel

I’d like to be able to use the device for the same amount of time I use my current one: 10-12 hours. In this line of work, there’s no such thing as an 8-hour day and I like the freedom of not needing an AC adapter.

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