Given that I just bought myself a brand new gaming rig that would last me years to come, many people would find it hard pressed to believe or let alone understand how is it I am already looking for the next new toy to play around with. I must be the geeky equivalent of a womaniser. Always finding some new hardware to ogle, caress and ultimately ride hard and put away wet. Seriously though, that brings me to the reason I’m writing this, with any hope, I can get some perspective in the matter.
I’m looking for a new netbook to replace my long obsolete EeePC 701 netbook. It has served me well over the past 3 years. It has seen me through a post-grad thesis, NaNoWriMo and countless hours of free wireless surfing. Sadly though, it’s time to retire it for a better machine, which is where the problem comes in.
I have a feeling that netbooks while numerous in number, are still a very niche gadget. Due to its limited hardware and therefore use, you either get it or you don’t. As a result, there aren’t many sites out there that will give a critical but balanced review of netbooks. For the most part, a lot of them seem to be comparing it to their larger, heftier cousins that sport an optical drive and better multimedia capabilities. That’s the part where most people don’t get. Stuff like that aren’t really needed for a netbook. You don’t really need HD video playback on a 10 inch screen because it makes no difference to the quality. You don’t really need an optical drive on a machine that isn’t meant to be your primary rig.
Netbooks have always been designed to be a second system to complement your primary rig. They are meant for people who are always on the go between home and work, where they will have a more powerful rig waiting for them at their workspaces. It’s designed to be a more cost effective alternative to the more extreme ultraportables. While naysayer can argue that they can do the same things on their cutting edge smartphones, the fact of the matter is, your smartphone won’t be your tool of choice if you’re going to work on a novel or a research paper. Taking that all into consideration, there are two important things I look for in a netbook.
- Battery life
- System smoothness
Taking everything I’ve learned while using the EeePC 701, I figure that the most important bit is of course having to use the little thing for hours on end without recharging. There is little point for using a netbook if it can die on you after a couple of hours. You can get bigger laptops that would last that long on battery life with more power. Being that I’m well aware of market speak, I know that when a product is advertised to have 10 hours of battery life, realistically it’s more likely to have a little more than half of that with practical use. Not that 5 hours isn’t a short time either, but I could squeeze about 3 hours on my first gen netbook; given a choice, I would want a whole lot more time on the system without constantly keeping track of how many minutes are left.
Then comes how well the system performs, especially while on the battery. The 701 given its pathetic hardware (it had a Celeron-M which was underclocked to 600mhz), whenever it was using the batteries, the best it could do was just to surf the net, slowly. I didn’t dare open more than one program at a time not just because I wanted to save what little charge it had, but because the system would underclock the processor further thus making it run a little faster than molasses. It was a tolerable pain, but I never want to go through that again for obvious reasons. Now like I said before, I’m not looking for things like HD video playback while on a plane or train here. All I want is to be able to surf the net and run a word processor simultaneously on battery without having hair grow on my face.
Given those two criterias, I can make do with the tactile comfort of the keyboard that most reviews seem to also place emphasis on. I say this with good reason too, after all, if I could work for long hours on the EeePC with its 7 inch screen and really cramped keyboard, I’m pretty sure I can live without other so-called luxuries such as 1,366×768 resolution or a weirdly spaced keyboard. Doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it though, it just means I can sacrifice those comforts if I have to. And I really may have to as well, because the price I’m looking for is the deal breaker. I bought my EeePC for $500 AUD. Nowadays, some netbooks actually cost more than that in Australian dollars. That’s exactly what I don’t want. I still see the netbook as the cheaper lightweight alternative to primary laptops, I don’t want to spend more than $500 AUD if I can afford it.
So there we have it, my dilemma. What exactly do I buy? Right now, I have my eyes set on the EeePC 1005PE which many reviews say will go to about 8 hours of battery life (14 hours manufacturer claim). If I can get my hands on the matte version rather than the glossy version, it would be even better. However, a lot of sites claim that the hardware is too old, which presents me with the question, what other netbooks out there make a worthy alternate choice?
If anyone reading this could give me some pointers, I would appreciate it a lot.