Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 12th Aug 2008 00:00 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems There's a new hype going on in the world of computing. I used to call them 'tiny laptops', but somewhere along the way, Intel's marketing got at me and now I call them netbooks. Every self-respecting manufacturer has a netbook product line, or is about to introduce one (Apple?), so I figured I would take a look at what all the fuss is about: I bought a netbook.
Order by: Score:
v Apple has a notbook line.
by theTSF on Tue 12th Aug 2008 17:08 UTC
RE: Apple has a notbook line.
by dagw on Tue 12th Aug 2008 17:28 UTC in reply to "Apple has a notbook line."
dagw Member since:
2005-07-06

At a screensize of 13.3" I'd hardly call the Air small. I personally wouldn't consider anything with a screen larger than 10" a netbook. I have a 12" x41 thinkpad and the size and weight difference between that and an Asus EEE, while not so much on paper, is truly significant in actual everyday usage. Personally I'd quite like to see a mini Air, with the same basic design, but a 8-10" screen.

The other huge advantage of the EEE or the Acer One is that it is really cheap. You can bring it with you on trips and never have to worry too much about it being stolen or broken. I'd be seriously nervous bringing an Apple Air on a backpacking or some other more adventurous trip, but I wouldn't think twice about throwing a EEE or Acer One into my pack.

Reply Score: 6

RE: Apple has a notbook line.
by fretinator on Tue 12th Aug 2008 17:51 UTC in reply to "Apple has a notbook line."
fretinator Member since:
2005-07-06

At the price Apple would probably charge, it would definitely be a "notbook" for me!

Reply Score: 14

RE: Apple has a notbook line.
by StephenBeDoper on Tue 12th Aug 2008 18:43 UTC in reply to "Apple has a notbook line."
StephenBeDoper Member since:
2005-07-06

Isn't the MBA close to a pound heavier than typical "netbooks"? If the Air is a sub-notebook, then the Eee (et al) are sub-sub-notebooks.

1024x600 is now low res... sorry...


Eh? I doubt anyone is going to find that shocking. Low-resolution isn't unusable by any means - nor his high resolution inherently "good", as evidenced by all of the Dells, Compaqs, etc, with 17" displays with ridiculously-low pixel density.

Now there are the pluses and minuses to these methods but if OS X doesn't look good on it. Apple won't release it.


That doesn't seem to have hampered them too much with the iPhone.

IMO, the biggest reason why Apple *probably* won't release a netbook is that selling something with such low profit-margins would be completely antithetical to their business model.

Reply Score: 6

RE[2]: Apple has a notbook line.
by Jon Dough on Tue 12th Aug 2008 20:23 UTC in reply to "RE: Apple has a notbook line."
Jon Dough Member since:
2005-11-30

IMO, the biggest reason why Apple *probably* won't release a netbook is that selling something with such low profit-margins would be completely antithetical to their business model.


Actually, Apple has released a netbook. It's called the iPod Touch (or the iPhone if you need the added functionality of a cellphone). Both devices have wireless capabilities and internet browsers. Combine that with Google Docs and a Gmail account, and you're all set!

Reply Score: 0

StephenBeDoper Member since:
2005-07-06

Actually, Apple has released a netbook. It's called the iPod Touch (or the iPhone if you need the added functionality of a cellphone). Both devices have wireless capabilities and internet browsers. Combine that with Google Docs and a Gmail account, and you're all set!


Apple certainly priced it like one - but the iPhone would first need non-crippled Bluetooth support (or does the 3g model work with BT keyboards) at the very least before it was anywhere near the functional equivalent of a netbook.

Reply Score: 5

netbook...
by mmu_man on Tue 12th Aug 2008 17:19 UTC
mmu_man
Member since:
2006-09-30

is (or used to be) a Psion trademark.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NetBook
Seems it expired though, nothing shows up for it, not even from intel:
http://www.wipo.int/ipdl/en/search/madrid/search-struct.jsp
Would intel push marketing on a term they didn't trademark yet ??
Go register it ;)

Reply Score: 3

Sweet!
by RandomGuy on Tue 12th Aug 2008 17:24 UTC
RandomGuy
Member since:
2006-07-30

I've been thinking about getting a netbook quite a lot lately.

It's odd that you complain about write performance for _small_ files since this is one area where (in theory) SSDs should do better than HDDs.
Can any expert comment on this?

For me, however, the main reason to choose SSD over HDD is rough handling. An object this small and lite is bound to get dropped. I'd probably forget I put it in my backpack and just drop it on the floor like I always do...

The only reason for me not to buy one this minute is that I don't really travel that much...

Reply Score: 2

RE: Sweet!
by pxa270 on Tue 12th Aug 2008 20:45 UTC in reply to "Sweet!"
pxa270 Member since:
2006-01-08

You're confusing reads and writes. For reading lots of small files, flash memory are much faster than HDD, as the seek times (which are dominant when reading small non-contingent blocks) of flash is at least an order of magnitude better.

However, unlike HDD where reading and writing are roughly the same speed, writing on flash is typically much slower than reading. On NAND flash, you can't just flip bits at will. Data is written in pages which are many (sometimes even hundreds, depending on the total size) of kilobytes. Anytime a single bit in a page needs to change from 0 to 1, all other bits in the page needs to be erased/reset to 1 as well. This is especially bad (relatively speaking) for very small writes.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Sweet!
by RandomGuy on Tue 12th Aug 2008 21:24 UTC in reply to "RE: Sweet!"
RandomGuy Member since:
2006-07-30

You're confusing reads and writes.

Ah yes, that's it.

Makes me wonder though if the limited number of writes could become a problem after all (if it's mainly small files).
But whatever, it doesn't cost a fortune and it fails rather gracefully (on writes instead of on reads).

Reply Score: 2

kragil
Member since:
2006-01-04

It was 'bout time.

Summer sux ;)

Reply Score: 3

Comment by friday
by friday on Tue 12th Aug 2008 17:47 UTC
friday
Member since:
2008-07-08

No mention of a CD-ROM in the review, nor are there any pics of the left side. Just curious as to these specs.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by friday
by spikeb on Wed 13th Aug 2008 02:34 UTC in reply to "Comment by friday"
spikeb Member since:
2006-01-18

none of the current gen netbooks have optical drives. not even an option for one.

Reply Score: 2

I don't understand
by fretinator on Tue 12th Aug 2008 17:50 UTC
fretinator
Member since:
2005-07-06

One of the things I find odd about the netbooks is how short the battery life is for many of them. Really, to me, the WHOLE POINT of a netbook is to create a light, easy to user, "throw it in your book-bag" kind of computer. Well, I guess most people are expected to mostly leave the netbook in the book-bag while they are on the go. Myself, I believe it should always have a battery life approaching 8-12 hours, so it can be used on the go for the WHOLE day, not just a quick web surf or email check here and there.

So, again, why is it so difficult to get an appropriate battery life out of a netbook? I realize it must remain light, but if a little less powerful cpu is used, a flash drive for storage, and other power-saving measures are employed, isn't it reasonable to get 8-12 hours? What's missing?

To me, the standard for this was the Palm III. Using just 2 AAA batteries, it lasted for weeks before I had to worry about a low battery. Meanwhile my CE device would only go about 4-6 hours. I remember taking notes in my C++ class with a CE hand-held. I had to plug it in before the end of the class (a four-hour class). That seems to be the current state of most netbooks.

Reply Score: 9

RE: I don't understand
by Thom_Holwerda on Tue 12th Aug 2008 17:55 UTC in reply to "I don't understand"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

I heard it was due to a fire at a major supplier that the proper 6-cell battery (7hrs of battery life) is hard to come by. Not sure how truthful that one is though.

Reply Score: 0

RE: I don't understand
by StephenBeDoper on Tue 12th Aug 2008 18:46 UTC in reply to "I don't understand"
StephenBeDoper Member since:
2005-07-06

Myself, I believe it should always have a battery life approaching 8-12 hours, so it can be used on the go for the WHOLE day, not just a quick web surf or email check here and there.


Yeah, really - IMO, that's the most disappointing aspect of most of the netbooks I've seen/read about.

It seems that portables have backslid in that sense - E.g., I know several journalists who still wax nostalgic about their old Radio Shack Model 100s and how they could get 12 hours on four double A batteries.

Reply Score: 2

RE: I don't understand
by _txf_ on Tue 12th Aug 2008 22:26 UTC in reply to "I don't understand"
_txf_ Member since:
2008-03-17

This particular issue is true with pretty much all portable devices.

whilst technology has evolved massively to produce a lot of utility in a portable form factor, battery technology is still stuck in the dark ages. You can cover it up by adding more cells but then you sacrifice portability.

Pretty much all our power generation and storage technology evolves at a much slower rate than computing technology ( would we still be using fossil fuels if that weren't the case?).

Eventually we will get to the point where it becomes impractical to have something portable as the batteries become a ball and chain to any portable electronics device. Fuel cells may solve that or super capacitors but those two are either still too large or still to theoretical.

Reply Score: 1

RE: I don't understand
by Accident on Wed 13th Aug 2008 00:01 UTC in reply to "I don't understand"
Accident Member since:
2005-07-29

But you have to remember that the Palm and TR-100 had:

1) A small black and white screen
2) No COLOR! to power
3) No OS per se that taxing the HD or SSD
4) Come on the CPU...
5) No eternet to power
6) No USB to power
7) No wifi or bluetooth to power

Almost like having a motorcycle battery to start a HEMI.

Reply Score: 1

v Comment by Kroc
by Kroc on Tue 12th Aug 2008 17:56 UTC
RE: Comment by Kroc
by StephenBeDoper on Tue 12th Aug 2008 19:17 UTC in reply to "Comment by Kroc"
StephenBeDoper Member since:
2005-07-06

If there was anyone at Palm/Access with an ounce of sense or vision, they would get their excrement together by resurrecting / updating the Foleo - and while they're at it, *finally* making use of that BeOS IP they've wasted for nearly a decade now.

A man can dream...

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by Kroc
by Kroc on Wed 13th Aug 2008 07:34 UTC in reply to "Comment by Kroc"
Kroc Member since:
2005-11-10

Modded down for truth I see. All the Linux distros on these netbooks so far fall short of Windows. That's just plain fact. There's zero built in UI way to install software on the eee. How is that better than the Windows version, eh?

Reply Score: 0

RE[2]: Comment by Kroc
by lemur2 on Wed 13th Aug 2008 10:35 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Kroc"
lemur2 Member since:
2007-02-17

Modded down for truth I see. All the Linux distros on these netbooks so far fall short of Windows. That's just plain fact. There's zero built in UI way to install software on the eee. How is that better than the Windows version, eh?


The EEEPC is indeed handicapped by a very poor choice of Linux distribution and an extremely limited additional repository.

The Acer Aspire One however uses Linpus Linux Lite, which is basically Fedora 8 with an Xfce desktop manager. It is fairly simple to get access to "Add/Remove Software" from scratch.

http://www.aspireoneuser.com/2008/07/09/aspire-one-advance-linpus-m...

One command in a terminal, in fact, and a few clicks in the GUI settings manager. This gives you access to the full menus, which includes "Add/Remove Software" which is the Red Hat/Fedora Packet Manager.

Once you have enabled the right-click menu, you can then use additional Fedora repositories:

http://www.aspireoneuser.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=734&sid=bc6...

There is at least one way to get a similar full-featured Linux going on the EEEPC:

http://eeepc.net/mandriva-20081-works-with-eee-pcs/
http://wiki.mandriva.com/en/Docs/Installing_Mandriva_Linux

PS: The HP and the MSI Wind use SuSe ... although I wouldn't use SuSe myself, I can't see how anyone would claim that SuSe is limited.

http://www.liliputing.com/hp-mini-note

Edited 2008-08-13 10:45 UTC

Reply Score: 2

Good review
by ameasures on Tue 12th Aug 2008 18:09 UTC
ameasures
Member since:
2006-01-09

A good review - thank you - an interesting read.

If comparisons have to be made with Apple products (which I doubt); then an iPodTouch with (say) a 9" screen (and Bluetooth ... please - pretty please) would get a few folks salivating.

I note Tom that your PowerBook is in the photos - did you swap out that hard drive or is the review machine your replacement?

Reply Score: 2

RE: Good review
by Thom_Holwerda on Tue 12th Aug 2008 18:18 UTC in reply to "Good review"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

I note Tom


It's Thom. With the 'h' ;) .

that your PowerBook is in the photos - did you swap out that hard drive or is the review machine your replacement?


I replaced the hard drive in the PowerBook. And threw every cussword I knew in Dutch, English, and German towards Cupertino. What a bitch to service, the PowerBook G4.

Edited 2008-08-12 18:18 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Good review
by fretinator on Tue 12th Aug 2008 18:42 UTC in reply to "RE: Good review"
fretinator Member since:
2005-07-06

It's Thom. With the 'h' ;) .


Thom thinks thankful thoughts, though they thoroughly threaten the thoughtless throng.

Reply Score: 9

RE[2]: Good review
by ameasures on Tue 12th Aug 2008 20:01 UTC in reply to "RE: Good review"
ameasures Member since:
2006-01-09

Sorry Thom - I stand corrected.

As for the Powerbook, yep I remember the swearing and that first drink after it all worked was a precious moment!

Reply Score: 2

Got one - pretty kicking
by vaette on Tue 12th Aug 2008 19:41 UTC
vaette
Member since:
2008-08-09

Got one of these about three weeks back (when they first became available). Very nice experience, still, a few points to consider:

* I have the three cell battery, landing me at a practical battery life of 2.5-3 hours. For me this seems like a good weight/batter life tradeoff, as I don't use it for that long stretches, but plan to carry it around a lot.
* The SSD is indeed quite terribly slow in writing. For Linux installs make sure to add the noatime flags for the FS, and probably opt for ext2 (with such a small disk fsck is quick anyway, and the journaling is pretty significant on the slow disk). If you install XP, you must disable the "Acer disk mirroring"-thing (used for recovery partitions I think?) in the BIOS (with this on the disk performance is completely unusable, with it off the disk behaves much like in Linux). Also, turn off atime for NTFS, or go with FAT32.
* Installing a Linux distribution other than the bundled lands you in the usual set of problems for many new laptops: Wifi works badly (ndiswrapper or glitchy madwifi svn branch), software suspend panics/crashes/hangs a third of the time or so, some hardware (webcam for instance) appears tricky to get to work. So while the situation may no doubt improve, don't buy it counting on loading up Ubuntu without hassles.
* Note that the only video out is a VGA. The deal for the Intel Atom does not allow digital out (HDMI/DVI), but the lack of S-video is a touch dissapointing to me personally.

With those points said: It is a great little laptop. Cheap, great keyboard, beautiful screen, performs just fine (other than SSD). The HD versions may be a better deal all said, as they cost only a little bit more, and the bluetooth addition is pretty nice.

Reply Score: 3

I own one....
by truckweb on Tue 12th Aug 2008 20:16 UTC
truckweb
Member since:
2005-07-06

It's been with me for a week now. It's a nice netbook, much better than the EeePC 701 I had before (sold, ebay!). Acer was stupid enough to NOT include a back door to add RAM. So I voided my warranty in order to add 512Mb for a total of 1Gb RAM. It feels smoother now.

I'm using it with a 8Gb SDHC for additional storage space and I had a 8Gb USB Key also. Enough for the road!

But the real pain is the SSD. It's terribly slow, near unusable with WinXP. I wanted to run WinXP because I found the Linux install to be limited. And I'm no expert on Linux....

All in all, it's a nice netbook with a crap SSD drive.

Reply Score: 2

RE: I own one....
by vaette on Tue 12th Aug 2008 21:12 UTC in reply to "I own one...."
vaette Member since:
2008-08-09

Have you disabled the Acer D2D recovery option in the BIOS? This is more or less required to make it work acceptably in XP. Heres some extra tips also:

* If you are making a new install, use FAT32 (journaling is expensive on the slow SSD).
* If you already have NTFS, disable "last access time stamps", see: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms940846.aspx
* For browsing, I noted that IE and Firefox both have some bad write behaviour (Firefox 3 being especially bad, with huge sqlite sync()'s every time you hit enter in the location bar). Try Opera with disk cache disabled (it is in advanced options, history).
* Disable system restore.
* You may want to disable the page file. This has some rather performance reprecussions, but really gives you a more predictable behaviour (especially as you have a gig of ram anyway).

That's about it, I find mine to be quite useable in XP after disabling D2D and tweaking a bit.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: I own one....
by truckweb on Thu 14th Aug 2008 11:24 UTC in reply to "RE: I own one...."
truckweb Member since:
2005-07-06

I did everything you said, it's still unusable. Would you believe that it took almost 10 mins to install WinAMP? The SSD seems to be working all the time and I have nothing running, no anti-virus, no auto-update.

The SSD is pure crap for WinXP.

The SSD inside the first Asus EeePC was faster than this. I guess you get what you pay for.

Reply Score: 1

Waiting to get a netbook
by asupcb on Tue 12th Aug 2008 22:24 UTC
asupcb
Member since:
2005-11-10

I like this new laptop form factor but I I think I'm going to old off getting one they get the kinks worked out, especially software wise.

What I'm waiting for is better file-system support for SSD behavior, the next-gen Atom platform from Intel, and the screens that Pixel Qi is developing for mass commercialization (the screens used on the OLPC and being further developed by Mary Lou Jespen). Further on my wishlist would be Displayport support, especially if they use it to reduce the amount of circuitry needed to drive the laptop screen, Wireless USB, and mesh networking support (802.11s).

All this combined should add up to the desired 8-12 hour battery life.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Waiting to get a netbook
by lemur2 on Wed 13th Aug 2008 10:18 UTC in reply to "Waiting to get a netbook"
lemur2 Member since:
2007-02-17

What I'm waiting for is better file-system support for SSD behavior


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JFFS2
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LogFS
http://www.logfs.org/logfs/

It is already available.

Reply Score: 2

Waste of money
by Chezz on Tue 12th Aug 2008 23:14 UTC
Chezz
Member since:
2005-07-11

I think netbooks are a waste of money. You can't see anything on that tiny screen. You can't store anything on that tiny drive. You cannot do anything with it except showing off to your friend how small it is. It cannot replace a desktop nor a laptop for heavy daily use.

I don't understand why people buy them. I have multiple desktops and laptops, I can't image my self using a netbook. It doesn't fit anywhere in my own needs.

Reply Score: 0

RE: Waste of money
by Thom_Holwerda on Tue 12th Aug 2008 23:34 UTC in reply to "Waste of money"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

I don't understand why people buy them. I have multiple desktops and laptops, I can't image my self using a netbook. It doesn't fit anywhere in my own needs.


I have a notebook as well, as you can see in the pictures (in fact, I have two). A 15" PowerBook. The problem is that if you actually go places, even a 15" PowerBook is going to show. As in, you can't hide the fact you're carrying around a computer. And in Amsterdam, or any other major city, that's not something you want unhidden in some neighbourhoods.

My One? No one's going to know I'm carrying that around. It weighs nothing, and even if I put this in my bag, the bag seems utterly empty - in fact, you barely feel the weight difference.

Couple this with 3G and a data-only subscription, and I can work on OSNews, my blog, and university stuff from wherever I am, and seeing I spend quite some time away from either home or university, this can be a real timesaver.

This has nothing to do with showing off, as you seem to imply. It has to do with being practical. A portable computer should be portable for freck's sake, not something that looks like it's portable but in fact is about as portable as a bag of sand.

Netbooks are the real notebooks, the way all notebooks should be. I'm happy they exist, and I'm happy this niche of the market has finally shown up.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Waste of money
by lemur2 on Wed 13th Aug 2008 10:57 UTC in reply to "RE: Waste of money"
lemur2 Member since:
2007-02-17

A portable computer should be portable for freck's sake, not something that looks like it's portable but in fact is about as portable as a bag of sand.

Netbooks are the real notebooks, the way all notebooks should be. I'm happy they exist, and I'm happy this niche of the market has finally shown up.


Precisely. exactly. Spot on.

The primary exciting thing about these netbook machines is their small size and low weight ... ultraportability. The fact that they are cheap is also a huge enabler.

Having a pre-installed Linux giving an open system with access to a full repository (heaps of additional software at zero extra cost) rounds out a VERY impressive feature set. Excellent value for money.

Getting one with a 6-cell battery should yield 6 or 7 hours battery life.

Ultraportability. Convenience. Security. Stability. Power. Flexibility. Control of your own machine. Access to a vast array of software ... extensibility. Connectivity. Affordability. Compatibility.

These machines (with a proper Linux installed) are a game breaker.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Waste of money
by 3rdalbum on Wed 13th Aug 2008 14:45 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Waste of money"
3rdalbum Member since:
2008-05-26

I love it when people say "What can you do with a 900MHz processor, a mere 8 gigabytes of storage and 512 megabytes of RAM?". They can't remember when they happily did everything they do today on computers with similar specifications. I've done 3D rendering and video editing on computers with worse specs than that!

What can you do on such a limited computer? Anything! :-)

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Waste of money
by lemur2 on Thu 14th Aug 2008 04:39 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Waste of money"
lemur2 Member since:
2007-02-17

I love it when people say "What can you do with a 900MHz processor, a mere 8 gigabytes of storage and 512 megabytes of RAM?". They can't remember when they happily did everything they do today on computers with similar specifications. I've done 3D rendering and video editing on computers with worse specs than that! What can you do on such a limited computer? Anything! :-)


Almost anything.

It is very tough, for example, to run Vista on such a machine.

To get processor grunt, you need power. To get enough power for long enough in a portable machine, you need battery capacity. To get enough battery capacity, you need both weight and volume (the other possible tradeoff is to sacrifice battery time). To get weight and volume, you need to sacrifice portability.

The "netbook" class of machines make a different set of compromises in these trade-offs than conventional laptops and notebook machines do. Netbooks make less compromise on portability, about the same compromise on battery time, and they heavily compromise processor power as a consequence ... compared to laptops and notebook machines.

Hence ... not enough CPU & video-card grunt to run Vista. Not even a good idea to bog it down with XP plus antivirus & antimalware scanners.

What can you do on such a CPU/GPU-grunt limited computer?

Anything that deosn't require Windows!

Reply Score: 2

I'm sold
by lopisaur on Wed 13th Aug 2008 00:36 UTC
lopisaur
Member since:
2006-02-27

I was trying to make up my mind between the Acer and the Asus variants, and this review pretty much convinced me.
Thanks.

Reply Score: 1

I got a Advent 4211
by Adurbe on Wed 13th Aug 2008 10:22 UTC
Adurbe
Member since:
2005-07-06

far cheaper than a wind, EXACTLY the same hardware

http://www.pcworld.co.uk/martprd/product/seo/219404

Edited 2008-08-13 10:23 UTC

Reply Score: 2

The word sucks
by h3rman on Wed 13th Aug 2008 21:22 UTC
h3rman
Member since:
2006-08-09

The word "netbook" sucks really bad.
It's just a freakin little laptop.
What's wrong with that?
Don't buy into the marketing crap and let the language be raped even further by some person behind a desk in a PR firm.

Reply Score: 3