Tech Review: My New Netbook

So a week or so ago, I accidentally spilled a beverage on my Mac laptop — and the Mac was down for the count. The cost to attempt to fix it, according to my Genius Bar tech guy, was $400. Considering the age of the Mac (2007) and the fact that I didn’t have to worry about saving data from it (I store everything of import on my desktop Dell), I decided that $400 was better spent towards a new computer. (Pictured: my new Asus Eee, sitting on top of my old dead Mac, sitting in front of my desktop computer screen and keyboard.  Pardon the mess!)

My needs: Ability to surf the web. Ability to write extensively (e-mails, posts, articles, etc.) using web-based software like WordPress and Google Docs, as well as on Microsoft Word, Excel, and Power Point. I really wanted a lightweight computer, as I take it with me whenever I travel (particularly since starting this blog). As a bonus feature, I wanted to be able to watch streaming Netflix or Hulu on it, or perhaps watch a DVD.

The hunt: My view narrowed to netbooks pretty quickly, considering that they could do everything I needed (except watch a DVD — most models don’t have a CD-ROM drive), and generally had a price range of $250-$500. The iPad just didn’t seem like it would be a great device for someone who writes a lot (plus it was much more expensive), and while I did momentarily consider just getting a new full laptop, when I went to the store they looked *so heavy* and big that the thought of traveling with one made me groan. A friend pointed me to a recent Consumer Reports review of netbooks, and after reading online reviews, I decided to go to a computer store to check out the Asus 1015 or, if they had it, the highly rated but slightly older Asus 1005-PEB.

My concerns: The small screen size worried me, as did the small keyboard. A lot of online reviews mentioned slowness, which also concerned me. At the local Best Buy, I went from netbook to netbook, attempting to stream Netflix on them — all worked fine. I really did not like the mouse button on one model (the 1018), but the Asus Eee 1015 — which had been the top Consumer Reports pick as well — seemed like a great little computer. I decided to buy it and take it home with me to test it further, particularly to see whether the computer felt slow using the wifi in my apartment — all of the test models on the floor had been wired through LAN.  The Best Buy guys assured me that I could either return it in 14 days or exchange it for something else (and avoid the 15% restocking fee if I exchanged it).

Asus Eee PC Netbook / Intel Atom Processor / 101The stats: $349 price tag. 250 GB storage. It comes with 1 GB memory, but you have the ability to upgrade to 2 GB for about $80. (I decided to wait to see how it functioned otherwise to do that.) The promise of 8-10 hours of battery life. It weighs just under 3 lbs. Asus Eee PC Netbook / Intel Atom Processor / 101″ Display / 1GB Memory – Deep Red

The verdict: I LOVE MY NETBOOK!! I’ve had textbooks that were heavier than this thing, and notebooks that were larger.  (Seriously, see the picture above of it compared to my old Mac and my desktop.)  Yes, the keyboard is a wee bit cramped, and I doubt I’d want to write 10,000 words on it in one sitting — but it suits me perfectly for my current needs.  Oh, and my old Mac laptop booted up faster; this one takes a few minutes.  (But maybe that’s a PC thing?)   The battery life is really no joke — I used it off and on all day Sunday before it died. I still have to find a sleeve for it, and to install Microsoft Office, but otherwise — a fabulous purchase for the price, and exactly what I wanted and needed.

Now I just have to keep beverages away from this one…

Readers, have you gotten any new tech toys? Care to share any reviews?

(L-6)

Comments

  1. oh nooo you’re a PC!

  2. yayy PC.

  3. Why bother with Microsoft Office? Just use the Open Office suite. It’s free, and it unless you’re using some of the more obscure MS templates and whatnot, it can do anything that MS Office products can do.

    • haven’t tried that yet, but been meaning to. i think i have a multi-user license for my old Microsoft Office from 2008 or so, so I think I can just install that — just haven’t gotten around to doing it yet.

      • FYI I got the same Asus at Best Buy and my Microsoft Office trial that comes with the computer still opens and works fine, I just hit the button to cancel registration every time. I’ve had the computer over 1/2 a year too, so the trial period has long expired. Not sure why this works, but I’m glad I haven’t had to pay for Word yet.

      • rapid butterfly :

        Kat, thanks for the review. Also, thanks for admitting to spilling a beverage (in my case, all kinds of coffee) on a laptop, thereby, er, substantially reducing the functionality, shall we say, of said laptop. :-( I was able to fix it so it runs and is okay at home as a spare but had to get a replacement for real work. Hearing your story makes me feel a LITTLE bit less like the only woman in the world who has done this.

        as to Open Office – works in a pinch and again, this may be an idiosyncratic problem, but I never could get previous versions to print an envelope worth a darn – a significant problem. There were also minor formatting anomalies between it and MS Word. The last time I seriously tried it was in 2008; maybe it’s improved since then.

    • Agree with the Open Office. I’ve always been a Microsoft Office user, but decided to forgo it on my recent laptop purchase, and it has been fabulous. No regrets and less money spent!

      • SF Bay Associate :

        OpenOffice documents are the bane of my document production existence. Which is not to discourage the Corporettes from using Open Office, but litigators beware – if your clients are heavy Open Office users (like my tech clients), then expect the TIFFing process to take at least twice as long, if not three times. So, start running production a lot earlier than you normally would in order to meet your production deadlines. July was a nightmare for me in part because of this.

        • Yeah – Open Office is great if all you’re going to do is produce a document and distribute a PDF. It still have some compatibility issues with MS Office – but it’s come a LOOOONG way since I first tried it out in 2004 :)

          SF Bay Associate, I have no idea how legal work goes, but if there is a possibility of you sending PDFs to your non-MS-Office clients instead of .doc and similar files, it might make your life easier. If they have to edit your work, then that’s not an option.

  4. That picture of all your computers is hysterical.

  5. I have the HP Mini 110 and adore it — the 92% keyboard size is fine for small hands like mine, it weighs under 3 pounds and has a fast-start option to just access the internet and a few other fucntions w/out waiting for windows to boot… great for checking something quickly on the go :-) Amazon has the rest of its specs here: http://amzn.to/bQH9PU for the more tech-nificient amongst you :-)

  6. Glad you love your netbook! For my two cents, and for anyone whose in the market, I LOVE my Sony Vaio notebook, which is powerful enough to run multiple programs and host my huge I-tunes library, but small and light enough to fit into my bigger handbags. Dell’s products are way too big!

  7. Aww, it’s adorable!
    My mac is also an ’07 and my AppleCare warranty has run out, sadly. I was considering that when my mac finally bit the dust I would go for a notebook, but you lost me at “most models don’t have a CD-ROM drive”. I survived quite happily for 2 years without a TV because of free online streaming of my favourite shows (I couldn’t dream of missing Gossip Girl) and because I could still watch DVDs on my laptop. Although I guess with a netbook you don’t exactly want to watch a DVD on that puny screen.
    Good info though, although I’ve heard never to listen to what Best Buy employees tell you. I still love that store, it is such an enticing shade of blue… Everywhere.

    • You can always use an external CD-ROM drive if you wanted to. I might consider packing one if I were traveling out of the country — last time I was away neither Netflix and Hulu would let us watch stuff.

    • Anonymous Today :

      Are you looking for a notebook or a netbook? Most notebooks have CD-ROM drives, most netbooks don’t. It’s one of the major differences. (Of course, most notebooks, while still portable, are also bigger and slightly less portable, so it’s a trade-off.)

  8. I just bought a netbook and it was great to read this! I am an avid Mac user, but needed something inexpensive and lightweight to take to class with me.

  9. Aww, it’s to tiny and cute! You have no idea how happy it makes me to hear of people avoiding the Apple price tag these days.

  10. Love, love, love my HP Mini 311. Fast, lightweight, and completely portable. I still stream plenty of video on it, and it still has 8-10 hours battery. Miss the DVD drive occasionally, but have an external for when I need it in a pinch! Great sleeves can be found on etsy if you’re so inclined!

  11. Kat, is there a built-in wireless card?

    • Ummmmm… hmmn. I’m not sure. When I took it out of the box and charged it, I didn’t have to add anything to connect to the internet — it found my wifi signal and connected straight-away. I think years ago I had a laptop that had a wireless card that stuck out of the laptop, and I think I’ve used that kind of thing for my TiVo and maybe my Xbox also — but this one didn’t need anything else.

  12. Thanks so much for this review! I have wanted an Asus Eee but wanted to hear someone I trusted recommend it :) my primary laptop is an Asus inherited from my husband, the tech guy, and I like it but it is a beast – it has a 17-inch screen and weighs over 10 lbs, so not very portable. I will definitely be shopping for an Eee soon! Thanks again, Kat!

  13. Oh, and can you buy a broadband package with it? I can’t stand not having wireless access on demand, whenever, wherever. My biggest beef: Driving to a coffee shop or bookstore to work only to learn that their wireless is down :-/

    • I think some of the others offered that, like the HP — not sure if the Asus did or not. I was never able to get into the hang-out-at-coffee-shops-and-study mode, so it wasn’t an issue — my main concern was airports.

    • If you have a smartphone (I have a myTouch which is an android smartphone, so that’s what I’m going on), you can install a tethering app on your phone and laptop/netbook and use that to access the internet. I went out to the Poconos and the hotel’s wifi existed in the lobby only. My industrious brother downloaded the app and we were able to surf the web anywhere using my smartphone, netbook and a USB cable – I would highly recommend it to anyone. What’s interesting is surfing the internet on the laptop via smartphone had noticeably higher speeds than just surfing on the smartphone itself. Bonus: your phone is charging while this is happening.

      • My husband is a big fan of tethering and uses it all the time. Especially since a lot of wifi spots are now charging for access, and a lot of coffee shops/bookstores are turning off their wifi during certain periods, he uses tethering more and more. The only caveat is that tethering is not for people on a limited data plan.

      • Anonymous Today :

        I didn’t know about this! Sounds like a great option. Ru, I have a myTouch as well. Do you have any recommendations for a specific tethering app? And is using it pretty self-explanatory?

        • The app on my phone is called “EasyTether”. They explain what to do once you download it – it’s pretty straightforward. Basically, you download the app and then connect it to your computer to install it on your computer as well and change a few settings and voila! – access to internet you’re already paying for.

          Also, my brother installed swype on my phone. Took some getting used to but it’s seriously AWESOME.

          • Anonymous Today :

            Thanks for the recommendation!

            I think I have Swype already (I actually have the myTouch Slide and not the regular myTouch and it came pre-installed). I’m not really sure how to use it, but I have heard great feedback. I’ll have to teach myself how to use it!

        • i use PdaNet – it was a lifesaver when our modem died at the house and the stupid internet people took days to get there and fix it. the thing i liked about PdaNet was that it worked on both my mac and my family’s pc – not sure if they all do that. it had a great set of install instructions as well.

          • Anonymous Today :

            Thanks for the recommendation. If Ru’s suggestion doesn’t work for me, I’ll keep this one in mind, as well.

      • Tethering is available in different ways for android phones. On some phones, it’s completely legal and is just a matter of downloading PDAnet or EasyTether from the marketplace. On others, however, you might run into problems. Since some carriers sell data packages/tethering, getting tethering for free can be against their rules. Example: I have a rooted original Droid on Verizon. I can tether, sure, since I’ve rooted my phone (and even before I rooted, I had PDAnet), BUT if Verizon notices that I’m using too much data, then I could get in trouble. You mainly need to avoid downloading.

        And Swype is a pretty awesome keyboard. I used it back when it was in Beta or Alpha testing and it was AMAZING. Back to stock now that I’m fooling around with different froyo roms all the time, but man do I miss Swype…

  14. My Acer netbook is one of my favorite possessions. It is sooo super portable. I was breaking my back carrying my textbooks and full-sized laptop, so when I got this netbook it changed my life for the better. Now, when I use the full-size it takes me a minute or two to adjust to the bigger keyboard.

  15. Can anyone comment on the new Office 2010? I have the option to download it for free via work — and I do love new software/tech usuallly — but am naturally apprehensive. Thanks!

  16. Anon for this :

    I have a technology-related question:

    I started at my current job as a contract attorney (with the understanding that if the work quality, personality fit, etc. were all there, it would eventually become permanent). All went well and I converted to a permanent position several months ago. I’m an attorney, in-house.

    Here’s the question: we aren’t required to have smartphones with email capabilities, and I don’t currently have one. Although the attorneys all seem to check theirs when out to lunch, I know they don’t really check them once they leave the office (and if they do, they aren’t responding unless something is on fire). Travel is very, very rare. Do i need to be proactive and get myself a smartphone so that i’m not the only attorney without one, or am I good with my current system (of checking my mail from home once an evening to make sure there isn’t an emergency)?

    • Get a smartphone. Required or not, everyone *will* notice if you miss a fire. The cost really isn’t that huge.

    • Anon for this :

      Apologies for failure to proofread – didn’t mean to point out TWICE that I’m an attorney. Good grief. I’m also, apparently, in need of fresh air and some tea :)

    • Anon for this :

      One more thing – due to the nature of my work, there has yet to be a off-hours emergency since I’ve started here (very very unlikely to occur).

    • I don’t have a smartphone. I’m certain that if there was an emergency my boss would call me on the phone, you know, those things that we used to communicate before email. It’s not like I’m completely unreachable in a shack in the woods when I’m outside the office. As far as I’m concerned, if my employer wants me to have a smartphone, they need to pay for it.

      • Anon for this :

        Thanks, Eponine. My employer hasn’t said anything to me so I think that I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing as it seems to work just fine.

    • A few thoughts…
      (1) It sounds like you might not WANT to purchase a smartphone.

      (2) I’ve converted several members of my family to smart phone users, and once they get used to navigating the specific features of a given phone and operating system, they have all wondered how they lived without a smart phone…which leads me to…

      (3) Even if the smart phone proves to be useless for your work, it might just be a fun and useful gadget for you personally.

      • Anon for this :

        Anon L, you are absolutely right – I don’t WANT to purchase a smartphone. It isn’t a cost issue (I can pay cash for the smartphone and the plan would cost the same b/c I know employer would pick up the data portion). Rather, I hate the idea of having my work constantly linked to my personal communication device. It stressed me out at my previous jobs because I always felt obligated to check it if I saw the little light flashing (and 99.9 times out of 100 it was not urgent). Also – I like unplugging. I know that I will waste time on the internet given half a chance and so I try not to tether myself whenever possible.

        • It’s possible to unplug even when you have smartphone; maybe it just depends on your personality and how you use the phone? My smartphone doesn’t have a reminder light, and you can turn off the volume so it doesn’t beep when you get an e-mail. Heck, sometimes I just leave it downstairs while I watch TV upstairs!

    • I probably don’t *need* a smartphone since I have remote access to my work e-mail and voicemail through a computer, and I really didn’t want one, but I ended up getting one anyway. I’m surprised at how much it reduces my stress level when I’m out of the office, especially if I’m on vacation or have to leave early on a weekday. Instead of worrying whether I was missing an important question from a client, I can take a quick look at my e-mail and know that nothing has blown up. I find that very freeing.

      Plus, my phone has games, which are great for unexpected waits at the doctor’s office or hair stylist when I haven’t brought suitable reading material! And my phone has Pandora (free streaming music of the genre of my choosing) on it, which comes in handy when I have to work an unexpectedly late night or weekend. AND it has the the statutes relevant to my practice on it, which has made me a superstar a couple times in meetings.

      Yup, I really dreaded having an electronic “office tether,” but now that I’ve got it, I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

      • Blonde Lawyer :

        ditto. I am less stressed out and don’t feel the need to constantly check my computer now that I have my smart phone.

        • I think it just depends on your job. I don’t generally check my computer outside of work hours unless I’m specifically expecting something from someone in another time zone. A smart phone would add stress, not reduce it.

    • My aunt is an in-house H.R. lawyer, and due to the nature of the company she works for she has gadgets galore supplied to her. Laptop, printer, and smartphone. But she has a separate phone for personal use (I’m not sure if that is policy that company phone can only be used for company stuff) Maybe that is what would work for you? It is pricier for sure, but at least for me wouldn’t feel so invasive because I wouldn’t get that blinking email reminder every time I go to text or call a friend.

    • Anonymous Today :

      It doesn’t sound to me like you need a smartphone. As long as you have the ability to access your work e-mail remotely, you sound good to me! I actually have a work smartphone and a non-work smartphone. I very rarely use the work one; I’m like you, I work hard, but I want to be unplugged (as much as possible) when I’m away from the office.

    • I’d get the smartphone. Reasons:
      – It’s not that much money, esp. if your employer will pick up the data plan.
      – If you turn off email notifications, it becomes a lot less annoying. You can just check it once an evening to make sure that nothing blew up. Or – just don’t check it at all and check on your laptop instead :) But you’ll have the option to check work email wherever you are, which will give you some peace of mind when you’re not at home.
      – It’s very useful for personal stuff: it’s great to be able to look up the nearest coffee shop, the store hours of your favorite clothing store so you know whether you can make it there before they close, the directions to the new client’s office, etc.
      – Finally, it’s an image issue. If all the other attorneys have smartphones and you don’t, that makes you look like you’re less important than the others. I upgraded to a smartphone for this reason alone: I want to project a tech-savvy and “important person” image, and it’s hard to do that these days while you’re answering calls on a “dumbphone”.

      So, I vote for smartphone. (With email notifications turned off – I can’t stand those either.)

  17. My phone died and I had to go to verizon, wait in line for 15 minutes and then have them tell me that it was dead (duh) and they didn’t have any in stock, so I would need to wait for them to mail one to me and then come back to the store to get my info transferred.

    Ugggghhhhh. When this one runs out I think I am going to break down and get a droid. I hardly ever use my phone, but I am always borrowing DH’s droid to find something on a map or something.

    • Chicago K :

      This happened to me and I asked them to call other stores and see if they had them – I lucked out and the store in my office building had it (I was already home for the night, but got it the next day). Perhaps you could do the same and luck out?

      FWIW, I did move to a droid after that as the new phone also died. :(

  18. Makes total sense. I still recommend checking one out, but I am a complete tech person, and I would be permanently tethered to the Internet if I could be. =)

  19. Boost it to 2G, RAM is cheap and it is easy to do. You will appreciate it if you ever have multiple programs open.

    Love my Toshiba mini. Have used it out of the country 4 weeks this year and can even do video skype. I do gravitate to my larger laptop when at home, for the larger screen and keyboard. I don’t have a data package on it, have chosen locatins with wireless. I do have unlimited international data on myblackberry (grandfathered) so that can pinch hit.

  20. EdgecombLaw :

    I just got the new Droid X, to the extreme envy of my husband (who promptly ordered one). It is amazing. I had a blackberry storm, but the droid is faster, lighter, has a bigger and brighter screen, and has many many useful applications. I just scanned in all my special customer keychain things onto an app that stores them all and produces a screen shot of the barcode for scanning at the store. My husband (who coaches a fencing team) downloaded a fencing scoring application and took my phone to practice yesterday.

    I must have email on my phone as I run my own practice and essentially need to be available all the time. My office routes everything through Google because of the free-ness and the availability of calendaring, nearly limitless storage and a myriad of other things. The Droid X is designed for google and once you log-in to your google account EVERYTHING is on your phone at the touch of a button. My calendar syncs automatically and my phone buzzes alerts for conference calls and deadlines. It pretty much rocks my socks.

    Also, the ability to get GPS directions on the fly saved me from getting lost on the way to a meeting, and found me a yummy lunch location, though I know these are capabilities many phones have.

    I love new gadgets, but this one is definitely my favorite!

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