Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 12th Sep 2008 23:20 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems As some of you may have noticed, I'm slightly obsessed with my Aspire One netbook, and actually, with netbooks in general. They are great little devices, more powerful than you'd give them credit for upon first encounter. And, but that might just be me, netbooks are what laptops should have been from day one: truly portable. El Reg has put together a buyer's guide for today's netbooks, and while the guide is generally spot-on with its assessments, it does present some odd choices here and there. Read on for some of my own thoughts grown out of experience.
Order by: Score:
atom platform drinks power
by _txf_ on Sat 13th Sep 2008 00:00 UTC
_txf_
Member since:
2008-03-17

"Intel's new Atom architecture. It provides you with a modern processor with hyperthreading that draws a lot less power than other platforms."

It is true that atom itself is a real power sipper, but you have to consider the platform as a whole and unfortunately the chipset intel bundles atom with consumes far more power by itself than the atom cpu.

Until the next atom platform revision this will be the case, and as a result power draw between different chips will be not as significant.

EDIT: urgh, maybe my title isn't quite so accurate... but my comment remains true

Edited 2008-09-13 00:01 UTC

Reply Score: 5

RE: atom platform drinks power
by miscz on Sat 13th Sep 2008 00:35 UTC in reply to "atom platform drinks power"
miscz Member since:
2005-07-17

It's still a mystery to me why all netbook manufacturers except Asus put 3-4 cell batteries in those when there's so much potential for those netbooks to be true on-the-go computers. Are they waiting for Intel to release less power hungry chipsets so that they can have a battery life of a current generation Eee?

This is driving me crazy because I'm looking into finally changing my 15" brickbook for something lightweight and have little choice but to buy Eee 901 even though everybody seems to hate the keyboard.

I've only had hands-on experience with 10" MSI Wind and it seemed nice. How does Eee 901 keyboard differ from the one in Wind? Except the size of course.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: atom platform drinks power
by Eugenia on Sat 13th Sep 2008 00:46 UTC in reply to "RE: atom platform drinks power"
Eugenia Member since:
2005-06-28

Don't talk much about how good Asus is, because it's not. Their 701 and 900 series have only 24 hours standby. While battery life can range from 2 to 4 hours, depending how you use it, their standby time is ridiculously low. Even when you completely turn off the Eee PC your battery will be drained within 8 days.

The point is that all these manufacturers try to go cheap on them, using cheaper chips that create such problems or smaller batteries, not because they are idiots, but because people expect these devices to be cheap. Sometimes, as a manufacturer, you only have so many options to put something like this together.

Reply Score: 6

RE[3]: atom platform drinks power
by miscz on Sat 13th Sep 2008 11:07 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: atom platform drinks power"
miscz Member since:
2005-07-17

This is an issue with Celeron M based Eees. 901s have 4-7 hours of battery life and do not suffer from battery drain when turned off.

Reply Score: 7

RE[2]: atom platform drinks power
by renox on Sat 13th Sep 2008 11:38 UTC in reply to "RE: atom platform drinks power"
renox Member since:
2005-07-06

Because the manufacturers are lazy and risk adverse?

Remember that not so long ago, they made the users pay a premium for small laptop even though the smaller screen ought to make it cheaper..

If you look at the OLPC XO-1, it's full of inovation reducing significantly the power usage and allowing the screen to be readable even on sunny days, these could be done easily in regular laptops also, but don't hold your breath: remember manufacturers are lazy and risk adverse :-(

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: atom platform drinks power
by zima on Sat 13th Sep 2008 12:39 UTC in reply to "RE: atom platform drinks power"
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

Since, from what I see in your profile, there's a big chance you live in PL - you know perfectly well that it can be worse ;P

Like...virtually impossible to find 6-cell versions of netbooks that do have them; instead retailers prefer to sell only 3-cell versions, with a premium that brings them up in price to where 6-cell should be...

I guess consumers are just used to the idea that laptop works 2 - 3h max on battery... (and to carrying a mouse with you, like so many do; not knowing about the existence of Trackpoints, which would be perfect in netbook form factor...)

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: atom platform drinks power
by toogreen on Sun 14th Sep 2008 04:18 UTC in reply to "RE: atom platform drinks power"
toogreen Member since:
2006-06-03

I don't get it why everyone bitches about the small keyboard so much. I think most people who do are the ones who have actually never tried it. I own an EeePC 701 myself since February and although yes at first encounter the little keyboard may "seem" awkward, It takes less than an hour of using it to really get used to it. And when you are actually used to it and use it ofen, as funny as this may sound, It's when you go back to regular-sized keyboards that it feels awkward as they are big!! This might be slightly exagerated, but anyway, you get the idea. ;)

So I say don't listen to those who bitch about the small keyboard. Unless you've got giant fingers and hands, the Asus keyboard is just fine! I even bet that if Asus-sized keyboards become largely used, then we may even see the regular desktop keyboards shrink slightly in the future!! I, for one, could live with smaller keyboards and save some office space!

On a OS related note, I don't get it why Windows is so popular on these devices, especially when it comes to Asus' offerings... I've tried other OSes just for fun on mine, but I always end up going back to original Xandros, as it boots much faster (a little over 10 seconds!) and does everything I need from a netbook. I use my EeePC for both work and leisure when I'm on the road, and even tho Xandros is basic and limited, It just does everything I need! When I'm in a hurry I just don't have the time to wait for Windows or Ubuntu to boot up...

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: atom platform drinks power
by bnolsen on Mon 15th Sep 2008 00:06 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: atom platform drinks power"
bnolsen Member since:
2006-01-06

I brought a 701 with me to a trade show in May. They keyboard is cheap, it does suck and it is annoying, especially the unbalanced space bar and the really bad placement of the shift/up arrow keys.

After test driving the Acer Aspire One which is very cost competitive to me there really is no comparison between the two. I had to do zero adjustment to touch type the Aspire One and they keyboard feels quality.

If I ever had disposable income I'd go with the aspire. I really really would like one with a dual core atom and a non stupid north bridge. Hopefully those show up cheap in the next round of netbooks.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: atom platform drinks power
by Nalle on Mon 15th Sep 2008 06:31 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: atom platform drinks power"
Nalle Member since:
2005-07-06

While I do agree, that most things you might need a netbook for is well handled by the original Xandros, I felt that it was a bit limited. There wasn't much one could install, really.

I have a eee 900, that I use as my only PC. Did it just to see if I could and continue doing it because I actually can. I am not a gamer.

I lacked some programs I need and I wanted PHP-cli, MySQL and Stellarium on the machine.

Other than those limitations, the original Xandros is OK, I guess. My two daughters have their own eees and they simply love the Xandros. They do not want me to change to Ubuntu for them.

I however, ended up with Ubuntu-eee (http://ubuntu-eee.com/index.php5?title=Main_Page). It's a good OS and I can install all the programs I want.

Nalle Berg
./nalle.

Reply Score: 1

RE: atom platform drinks power
by zima on Sat 13th Sep 2008 12:50 UTC in reply to "atom platform drinks power"
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

Thing is Intel does have a low power chipset for Atom, Intel Poulsbo, which from the specs looks perfectly fine for netbook use.

But...it is used only in MIDs, or how those 7" touchscreen only decvices are called at the moment. Nevermind the name, what's important is that they're sold at much higher prices than netbooks...

Reply Score: 3

my experience
by Eugenia on Sat 13th Sep 2008 00:07 UTC
Eugenia
Member since:
2005-06-28

I got an Eee PC 701 G4 yesterday, will write a review here at osnews soon. It's ok, and XP is fast on it, but Trillian is not. For some weird reason, opening/closing Trillian or even a chat window, takes forever. Not sure what's up with that. Everything else proved ok so far in terms of speed.

Reply Score: 1

RE: my experience
by siimo on Sat 13th Sep 2008 03:34 UTC in reply to "my experience"
siimo Member since:
2006-06-22

Could be an issue with the graphics driver? Last time I saw trillion used some custom themeable UI.

Pidgin would be a good alternative.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: my experience
by Eugenia on Sat 13th Sep 2008 04:06 UTC in reply to "RE: my experience"
Eugenia Member since:
2005-06-28

i need video support, only trillian does what i need in a single app, as i use all major im protocols

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: my experience
by 1c3d0g on Sat 13th Sep 2008 05:33 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: my experience"
1c3d0g Member since:
2005-07-06

No, it's a problem with the SSD (specifically, random writes). Disable logging of messages in your favorite IM client and performance should be somewhat snappier.

Reply Score: 4

Netbooks should have SSDs...
by rklrkl on Sat 13th Sep 2008 00:29 UTC
rklrkl
Member since:
2005-07-06

I think El Reg got the SSD issue right here, but what they failed to mention is that netbooks generally shouldn't be your primary machine (they are "smaller"/"slower" in all respects to a normal desktop or laptop). Once you accept that netbooks aren't the central place you'll store all your data, then SSDs do come into play, IMHO.

I've already got a normal desktop and laptop at home, so have been holding back waiting for the first "perfectly spec'ed and priced" netbook - I think 250 pounds ($450) should be the maximum anyone should spend on a netbook. Above that price and it becomes a worrisome item to carry outside the house regularly and also too close in cost to a fully-blown laptop.

I want Linux (or no OS - I've yet to see any netbook anywhere in the world ship with no OS yet! Why is no-one even discussing this as an option?), 8GB SSD, 1GB RAM (or 512MB RAM with an easy RAM access hatch - Acer wrecked the Aspire One in this area), 8.9" screen, 3.5 hours min battery life and 1.25kg or less (anticpating the need for a 6-cell battery here). Absolutely *zero* netbooks in the El Reg summary meet these not unreasonable requirements for 250 pounds or less, which is hugely disappointing. I'm not buying a netbook until they do and neither should you!

Edited 2008-09-13 00:34 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE: Netbooks should have SSDs...
by onthefence on Mon 15th Sep 2008 12:57 UTC in reply to "Netbooks should have SSDs..."
onthefence Member since:
2008-09-15

I agree with all your points here, most of us want a netbook to be cheap, light, have adequate speed, good connectivity, good battery life - nothing out there ticks all the boxes. They are too expensive; I brought back a dual core Inspiron 1525 from the USA last month for £270, so there is no way I'm paying £250 for a netbook. Some models are just about fast enough or offer enough battery life, but not both. I find the temptation is to be drawn down the path of more and more features (HD, XP, bigger screen...) until what you are buying is a tiny laptop, not a netbook, they are for different niches and a netbook is never going to suit most of us for day to day use.

Reply Score: 1

I would never buy one
by Chezz on Sat 13th Sep 2008 02:13 UTC
Chezz
Member since:
2005-07-11

As a personal preference, I would never buy a netbook. You can barely type, see, or store anything on these tiny machines. You are already carrying a small laptop so why not increase it 2 inches more? The current storage is pathetic! The CPU power is laffable!

When they get netbooks or whatever they call them these days to have decent SSD storage and good CPU/GPU power. I might consider them.

Finally, with these specs why should I pay $300+? I wouldnt pay 100 for such devices.

Reply Score: 1

RE: I would never buy one
by earlycj5 on Sat 13th Sep 2008 14:07 UTC in reply to "I would never buy one"
earlycj5 Member since:
2007-04-12

What do you define as "laughable"? My Mini-note has a 7400RPM 120 gb HD. That's a far cry from my first NEC laptop's HD capacity.

I don't want something 2" larger, this fits in my backpack that way I don't have to carry two carry-ons on the plane thank you.

Just because it doen't fit your needs doesn't mean it won't fit other peoples needs.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: I would never buy one
by sbergman27 on Sat 13th Sep 2008 15:04 UTC in reply to "RE: I would never buy one"
sbergman27 Member since:
2005-07-24

He seems to want SSD. My EEE came with 4GB, but I added 16GB for a total of 20GB. I can't imagine needing more than that on my ultra mobile! I mean, how much porn does one actually need on the go?

Reply Score: 5

RE[3]: I would never buy one
by raver31 on Mon 15th Sep 2008 17:44 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: I would never buy one"
raver31 Member since:
2005-07-06

You sir, are an amateur. I would go through 20GB of porn in a few hours hehehehe

Reply Score: 2

RE: I would never buy one
by big_gie on Sat 13th Sep 2008 20:35 UTC in reply to "I would never buy one"
big_gie Member since:
2006-01-04

Of course you'll never buy one. Theese small machines are not meant to replace a real laptop/desktop! Nobody wants to play high demanding games on these machine.

They offer a small, robust, lightweight and cheap way of getting your email/browsing/video/etc. on the go.

I do research in physics where I develop and implement models which runs on big clusters. You could argue that the cluster is way too heavy to cary home, but then that's not it was designed for!

And I could laught at the CPU in your machine and ask you why you bought your laptop with such a ridiculous cpu... But I wont ;) Each product is meant to fulfil a specific need. I remeber hearing similar critics over the XO. What people did not got was that the XO was there to fulfil other needs than run photoshop. I don't need a 3GHz processor on any of my laptop. Can you really make the difference between 1.6GHz and 2.0GHz? Also, don't forget that 98% of the time the CPU is idle...

I have a big laptop, more a desktop replacement, which I carry each weekend coming back to my home town. My back is begining to hurt after a couple of month of this. I want to watch movies in the bus, but the 15" beast is a pain to get out of the bag when I'm in the bus. So I'm eagerly waiting to buy an Eee 901.

I know I wont run my big simulations on it: I have my cluster for that. For big code developpment, I have my main desktop on even my laptop. But for the go, these are the perfect machines. Again, specific products for specific needs.

I do have critics on "SCC"s to. I'd love to see touchscreen on them (I saw some kit on ebay for the eee), but maybe more interesting, beeing able to flip completly the screen. It would reduce the size it occupies when watching movies for example (like in a bus...) and with a touchscreen it would be great. But then I'm dreaming ;)

Anyone heard if the new Intel SSD is faster then the one in these and if some models are expecting to have it?

Reply Score: 1

RE: I would never buy one
by -pekr- on Sat 13th Sep 2008 20:42 UTC in reply to "I would never buy one"
-pekr- Member since:
2006-03-28

So that is your option, and you might be alone with your opinion. I use 15.4", 12", and will surely buy netbook. Why? Because I want to have all-around-PC with me, and no, SmartPhone or PDA does not do the job.

It is like with my photogear. I have DSLR, then compact, but also ultra slim Ixus, which I always carry with me. So - netbook is different device for different purposes, and imo many ppl will buy one ...

Reply Score: 2

mwah
by superstoned on Sat 13th Sep 2008 07:19 UTC
superstoned
Member since:
2005-07-07

SSD's might become faster, so that idea isn't so bad if you think about the future. Besides, thom, you have the aspire one - like me, and it's *exceptionally* slow.

About the 6 cell battery - I bought the Aspire specifically because it's under 1 kilogram. I WANT it to be below 1 kilogram, so a 6-cell is out of the question - for now. The battery life is exactly long enough for what I use the Aspire One for: giving presentations. BTW Thom, you should come to the Software Freedom Day meetings in the NL ;-)
(I'm going to the pre-party today, Baarn, and I'll be in Utrecht next week.)

Reply Score: 3

unclefester
Member since:
2007-01-13

What I want is a high-powered transportable PC. Basically a 10Kg briefcase-sized desktop replacement for home or office use. Give it a folding handle, 22" widescreen, a detacheable full size keyboard and mouse. Use a standard socket upgradeable desktop CPU and fast 3.5" SATA hard drive(s). Something that can be moved around easily if needed and just plugged into a wall socket without an external power adapter. The (optional) battery life only needs to be an hour or so for emergency use. It would be far cheaper than a high end laptop and have none of the hassles of moving and setting up a regular desktop PC.

Reply Score: 3

joekiser Member since:
2005-06-30

What I want is a high-powered transportable PC. Basically a 10Kg briefcase-sized desktop replacement for home or office use. Give it a folding handle, 22" widescreen, a detacheable full size keyboard and mouse. Use a standard socket upgradeable desktop CPU and fast 3.5" SATA hard drive(s). Something that can be moved around easily if needed and just plugged into a wall socket without an external power adapter. The (optional) battery life only needs to be an hour or so for emergency use. It would be far cheaper than a high end laptop and have none of the hassles of moving and setting up a regular desktop PC.


Perhaps you should try here?

http://www.apple.com/imac/features/

Reply Score: 3

Temcat Member since:
2005-10-18

Hmmmm... They look funny. Do you have any idea about the prices? They don't list them on the site.

Reply Score: 2

The Elonex
by fithisux on Sat 13th Sep 2008 17:36 UTC
fithisux
Member since:
2006-01-22

T+ seems sexy in the form of an alternative CPU computer. I wonder if it is easy to hack the desktop environment and if it is possible to develop on it with KDevelop/Anjuta or something else. Does it include a terminal? With 256MB RAM and (if possible a VGA out) it seems a deal. If possible I would like to try 5DWM on it.

Reply Score: 2

VIA Nano?
by -pekr- on Sat 13th Sep 2008 20:49 UTC
-pekr-
Member since:
2006-03-28

Is there anyone putting VIA Nano into netbook? I am curious how it will perform compared to Atom. Nano is some 20-30% faster, but also more resource hungry. OTOH so far Intel's accompanying chipset is resource hungry too. Just curious if HP's netbook will be updated with Nano instead of C7.

Well, there will not be much VIA fans out there, so ... :-) But using mini-itx for all those years, I hope VIA does good ....

Reply Score: 1

RE: VIA Nano?
by flywheel on Mon 15th Sep 2008 03:42 UTC in reply to "VIA Nano?"
flywheel Member since:
2005-12-28

There allready are laptops and small laptops out there, that are Centaur driven. By that I mean driven by one or more C7 processors - which mean that there might some something on the way.

Also the Nano/Isiah/CH might be more powerhungry (I'm sure that problem will be taken care of) - but the chipsets are quite low energy (Not as low energy as the latest AMD chipsets) but they even the score quite well.

Reply Score: 1

Comment by Lumbergh
by Lumbergh on Sat 13th Sep 2008 22:50 UTC
Lumbergh
Member since:
2005-06-29

netbooks are what laptops should have been from day one: truly portable.

No, some people want desktop replacements

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by Lumbergh
by zima on Sun 14th Sep 2008 10:35 UTC in reply to "Comment by Lumbergh"
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

Good for them, especially since such "laptops" were the only reasonably priced ones for several past years.

But now, finally, people who want something portable also have a choice...

Reply Score: 1

Versatile little devices
by Dave_K on Sat 13th Sep 2008 23:17 UTC
Dave_K
Member since:
2005-11-16

Considering that I was an early adopter with the Psion Netbook nearly a decade ago, it's surprising how long it's taken me to have a look at these mini laptops.

I agree 100% that these are what laptops should be. Something that's actually practical to carry around and use on the move, rather than a bulky desktop replacement.

I got my Psion Netbook expecting to use it as a glorified diary, yet it ended up replacing my Windows laptop almost completely. Even the small keyboard was easy to adapt to, I quickly got close to my normal typing speed. These new mini-laptops offer far more power, vastly better screens, and the ability to run mainstream software. Fantastic stuff, especially considering the price.

People criticise these devices for their low powered hardware, yet with the right software these should provide plenty of power for office tasks and communications.

After all, my old Psion had a 190Mhz ARM CPU, 32Mb RAM, and used a 128Mb compact flash card for storage, yet always felt fast and responsive in use. It also managed a good 8 hours of battery life, a really great device in its day. Looking at older systems like that really shows what can potentially be done with very limited hardware. Of course things have changed, but the tasks I used my Psion for: internet access, word processing, spreadsheets, viewing PDFs and images, etc. are more or less the same.

If they're sometimes sluggish then that's an OS/software issue, rather than a fault with the hardware. Considering their popularity, and the growth of the SSD market, I'm sure that more software will be tuned for their requirements in the future. That includes application user interfaces that aren't designed with a large desktop TFT in mind...

Reply Score: 3

ThinkPad X40 a nice alternative
by fuzzyping on Sun 14th Sep 2008 04:42 UTC
fuzzyping
Member since:
2006-11-01

I picked up a used X40 this year for travel to conferences. It quickly became my primary laptop, displacing my trusted MacBook Pro. The 12" screen exceeds netbooks but the size is still highly portable. The battery life is also excellent. These are still readily available on eBay.

I went with the X40 because of the good OpenBSD support, but I've stayed with it because it's a quality piece of engineering. My only complaint will be when the 1.8" one-off Hitachi hdd fails. There are no aftermarket alternatives and the OEM replacements are very expensive. I will probably go with a dual-CF adapter and a couple of 32GB cards. From what I've read, these are just as fast as the OEM drive and will increase the battery life and decrease the heat.

Reply Score: 1

What I wanted...
by Dryhte on Sun 14th Sep 2008 09:05 UTC
Dryhte
Member since:
2008-02-05

What I wanted was an ultra portable Deus Ex playing machine ;) and I got it! EEE 900 + Ubuntu + Wine + Deus Ex FTW!

;)

Reply Score: 0

OS-less Netbooks
by 3rdalbum on Sun 14th Sep 2008 09:33 UTC
3rdalbum
Member since:
2008-05-26

To the person earlier in the thread who asked about this: The other day I saw my local computer store selling an Astone 7 inch netbook (basically a VIA Nanobook) without operating system for $499 Australian. Too expensive for what it is, but at least there is a netbook without operating system.

If people want a "desktop replacement" laptop, then they are being a bit silly. There has not been a laptop yet invented that comes anywhere near the processing power of my desktop. My desktop cost me less than $1400 AUD to build. To me, netbooks are just what laptops should be; ultra-portable, good enough to get serious tasks done while away from home or the office, and cheap enough to not be a constant worry. They just need to get battery life sorted out, but that's an industry-wide problem.

Reply Score: 1

wrong SSD = wrong conclusion
by MamiyaOtaru on Sun 14th Sep 2008 13:45 UTC
MamiyaOtaru
Member since:
2005-11-11

Your bad experience with SSDs stems mainly from your purchase of an Aspire one. The SSD in it is particularly dismal. A netbook like the eee 900/901 does much better in that area, with a fast(er) 4 GB drive for the OS and the slower 16GB drive for data. I don't notice any undue slowdowns with my 900.

Compare 901/1000 results http://jkkmobile.blogspot.com/2008/08/asus-eee-pc-ssd-read-and-writ...

to aspire one results http://jkkmobile.blogspot.com/2008/07/how-to-update-acer-aspire-one...

particularly the write speeds. Look at the results for the smaller OS drive for the eee, though even the larger data drive does better than the Aspire's one drive.

If one does a modicum of research before making a purchase, one is far less likely to be stuck with substandard performance in an important area.

Reply Score: 2

Any slates?
by Angel Blue01 on Mon 15th Sep 2008 00:24 UTC
Angel Blue01
Member since:
2006-11-01

Are any of these slates/tablets?

I'd like to buy one I can out in my bag and use to read documents or set my calender while on the way to work.

Reply Score: 1

About slow SSDs
by moltonel on Mon 15th Sep 2008 11:49 UTC
moltonel
Member since:
2006-02-24

For a very detailed view about the slowness of current SSDs, read

http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/intel/showdoc.aspx?i=3403

I'm a happy MSI Wind (classic HD) owner, but I'll probably replace the HD with an SSD once this becomes a no-compromise operation (and it looks like an Intel SSD will be the winer).

Reply Score: 1

puppy linux
by agrouf on Mon 15th Sep 2008 17:07 UTC
agrouf
Member since:
2006-11-17

Install puppy linux on your netbook and be gone with your SSD write speed problem. 512 Gb of RAM is more than enough.

Reply Score: 2

RE: puppy linux
by sbergman27 on Mon 15th Sep 2008 17:10 UTC in reply to "puppy linux"
sbergman27 Member since:
2005-07-24

512 Gb of RAM is more than enough.

I should hope so!

Reply Score: 2