Achy wrists, bleary-eyed? You may have “netbook fatigue”

13 Comments

msiwind_hqNetbooks are wonderful little laptops that are so great due to their small portable size.  They are so easy to carry around that it’s easy to throw them in a bag “just in case” you need it while on the run.  That portability comes at a price: a compromise in the screen and keyboard size that can be fairly taxing on some netbook models.  If you have a netbook and have noticed that your wrists are often achy and your eyes get bleary more often than in the past, you may have “netbook fatigue.”

We have stated many times that the compromise OEMs have to make with the keyboard can be very important when you try to decide which netbook model to grab.  We have used many different netbook models and one of the key factors for us is how big the keyboard is, as it affects how comfortable it is to type for any length of time at all.  The HP (s HP) Mini series of netbooks has almost full-sized keyboards (92 percent) with good key spacing, and that goes a long way to providing a comfortable typing experience.  Ditto for the MSI Wind.  Good keyboards are easier to put on 10-inch netbooks, but we’ve found even that varies from model to model.

When you type for any length of time at all on one of the netbooks with cramped keyboards, it becomes very uncomfortable.  More than once I’ve used a netbook for a bit and realized that my wrists get all achy, and eventually I have to stop.  This is due to the keyboards being too narrow overall and the keys being too close together.  It forces the user to adopt an unnatural position for touch typing, and that leads to aches and pains as well as fatigue.

I don’t have a problem with the screens on 10-inch netbooks, but smaller netbook screens can give me bleary eyes after a while.  It just gets too hard to focus on such tiny screens for any length of time, and eventually I’ll find my eyes getting all watery.  Most netbooks use a screen resolution of 1024×600, and this works fine for me on 10-inch screens, but I’ve heard from those who have a hard time using even those larger netbook screens.

A blogger on Wired has had to give up on using a netbook for these very reasons.  It seems the achy wrists and bleary eyes got too much for the author to bear and the netbook was retired quickly.

Over the weekend I carried the Wind to the coffee shop on the next block. Thirty minutes later I was out of the door nursing a painful wrist and watery eyes. It was the same story at the beach next day. My dreams of typing the next great manuscript didn’t work out. I couldn’t stay on the machine for more than 15 minutes.

I am surprised to hear that the MSI Wind was the cause of the author’s netbook fatigue, as it’s one of the best, most comfortable netbooks to use.  I can’t imagine how much trouble one of the other netbook models I’ve tried would give this author.

So how about you?  Have you experienced “netbook fatigue”?  What did you do about it, and what model netbook caused you grief?

13 Comments

Gary Graff

In the 1960’s my two sisters both got a job as the telephone information operator. The had to look up phone numbers given in small print. They said that in six month’s time their glasses prescription doubled. There may be a similar problem using these small netbooks with the tiny type, a problem that has not yet been addressed by the experts.

Sunjay

Well, the reason why searching through small print causes prescription to double is generally due to poor lighting. I know many people who’s eyes got worse after three years of reading through law school, or a full stint in med school. Few people seem to consider the light source where they read and such, the reason why eye sight deteriorates when under such conditions is partly due to this. Increasing eyestrain certainly doesn’t help.

John S

We tend to let our wallets do the talking lately and for good reason. But cheap netbook’s do have their price. Most of it comes from fatigue of the small keyboard and tiny screen. But the real problem lies in how we use them. They are great for traveler’s who occasionally want to check email before a flight or maybe have a cup of coffee and catch up on news. But many have replaced their desktop or full size laptop for these netbook’s and it is going to create health issues for some.
I find a world of difference between a 10 inch screen and a 12 inch screen. I could not imagine trying to use anything smaller. In fact I bought a wide screen 12 inch laptop and had to take it back because to resolution was too high. Yes, their are some solutions like changing the DPI and font sizes. But in reality this does not fully help the issue. But the question I have is with all the hype about bigger TV’s and such. Why have we decided to try and use smaller computers when we don’t need too?

D

I have the HP Mini 2140 which I really like and it doesn’t hurt my wrists at all. But if I use it for more than 10 minutes I start to feel terribly: eye strain, headache, the works. I really don’t know what to do and am considering selling it. Any advice?

Dan Ashley

I have an HP Mini 1000. It has the good keyboard mentioned above. I tried out several other models and picked the HP Mini 1000 because of the keyboard.

That said, I think I’d like them to build the same computer with an ergo keyboard, with the keys split in the middle and angled left and right, at the same angle as the “practically perfect” (as Mary Poppins would say) Microsoft Natural Keyboard.

To make it fit, they’d need to shave a bit of an angle off some of the keys, like Caps Lock, Tilde, backspace, backslash and the shift keys. In my opinion, for me, a little shave job is perfectly acceptable!

mark

This woman’s not on intel’s pay roll is she. Pulling a stunt like this, too dis netbooks even more. Even after a few hours of playing Farcry on my Acer One, i have no problems. Still cant believe i’m able to play games like that on this platform. AS the saying goes Dont believe the hype. Do it and find out yourself

HG

I have no such problem using my MSI Wind every day, but I don’t use it for long periods at a time. I might use it for about 1 hour and then another 45 minutes, then a 1 and half,and when I use it for longer periods of time I have it hooked up to my 22″ LCD using my Logitech diNovo BT keyboard and BT might mouse. :) Works out great. I even at times take my Kohjinsha SC3.

JeffD

That is one person’s view. To me everyone has different needs and preferences for typing. I have no problem with any of the 10″ or even smaller computers so long as they have a reasonably good keyboard design.

Steve

The HP TX 2000 does the eyes for me. I don’t do much typing.

Eddie W.

I use the Acer Aspire One. I always use it on a desktop or table when typing notes or long e-mails. When websurfing, watching movies, or typing short answers to e-mails, anywhere will do, though I notice I tend to hold it about lower-chest high. Don’t have any problems yet with the screen (I’m almost 50 years old — gosh that looks awful in print!!). My co-workers have told me I have Steve Austin, Astronaut, A Man Barely Alive’s eyes, so maybe it won’t be a problem for me. The only thing I miss so far using one of these is my tablet’s ability to lay flat out.

cr0ft

Netbook nothing… ALL laptops stink ergonomically. Full stop.

I mean how often do you see people doing the “laptop hunch” over their machine? It is next to impossible to sit properly in front of a laptop of any kind.

That is why it is foolish to not use a full size ergonomic keyboard at home. You’re just begging for RSI, hand pain, back pain and yeah even eye strain. I had a bout with RSI myself but fortunately caught it in time and got good ergonomic keyboards both at home and at work.

mikecane

This is why I’d never buy anything sight unseen. JK raved about that Lenovo U101 (I think it was) months ago. Then when I finally fondled it for myself at J&R, the keyboard was crap. OTOH, JK also raved about the hp 2133, which I also hated in person. But now I like the hp mini 1000 — though the keyboard seems to be the same!

pimlicosound

Even full-sized keyboards aren’t very ergonomic, because they force the users arms to point inward at 45 degree angles – hence special ergonomic keyboards that split the main qwerty area so that both arms can point forward naturally. I find most regular keyboards quite small in that respect, so I don’t find my MSI Wind to be particularly bothersome. I can happily type on my Wind for a couple of hours.

Having said all this, there’s a lot more to ergonomics than keyboard size. The short height of a netbook screen can cause problems when you’re using it on your lap, because your head has to point forward at an unnatural angle. I often end up bending my legs and propping my Wind on my knees to get the screen at an appropriate height.

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