Can someone help me pick out a netbook?


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  1. Ni Dieu Ni Maitre

    Ni Dieu Ni Maitre Well-Known Member This Topic's Starter

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    I'm looking to maybe get a netbook for taking notes and working on assignments when I leave my dorm. I have a laptop, but it's a bit on the larger side and it's a drag riding uphill to my classes on my bike with my laptop and a bunch of books in my backpack, only to get to class with the back of my shirt all sweaty >_>

    So I kind of want a netbook to make this easier on me and because I simply like the idea of having one for portability purposes.

    All I really need to run on it is Chrome, AIM, some sort of word processor (maybe a couple other office applications, but mostly a word processor), and Eclipse for my programming classes. I'd like to install linux too, if possible. Actually if there are any netbooks that come with linux already installed, that would be wonderful.

    Oh, and cheap is always a good thing for a college student as well.

    I've never really shopped for a computer online, so I don't know where to begin my search. Well, other than google ;)
     

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  2. Isthmus

    Isthmus Well-Known Member

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    I had a similar issue and did some research on netbooks. Here is what I can recommend you try first:

    1. Battery life. get something with a 6-cell battery or larger. There is no sense in getting a netbook if you're going to have compromised battery time. a 6cell will get you between 6 and 11 hours of battery time depending on the computer and your use and settings.

    2. screen size and resolution. Most of the latest netbooks come with 600x800 10.1" screens these days. The days of smaller screens have largely been phased out. a 10.1" screen is pretty good, but not with 600x800 resolution. that resolution tends to be good only for larger icons and font sizes. the problem is that if you use full size rendering on a 10.1" screen, screen real estate becomes a problem (stuff gets crowded or falls off the edge of the screen). If you scale things down in order to get better space, everything becomes fuzzy and somewhat piexelated. I highly recommend that you look for something with a higher resolution screen, such as Dell's mini 1012 which offers a 1366x768 HD screen option. The higher resolution will allow you to scalle the screen more to your liking without pixelation. The internet will also render much better.

    3. USB ports. Most current netbooks are using some form of INtel's Atom processors with motherboards with 2 or 3 USB ports. Go for 3 USB ports.

    4. Processor: Try going for the highest spec machine processor wise. most netbook processors are single core and currently clock at 1.6 GHZ. I keep hearing buzz about faster or dual core processors, but have yet to see a product hit the market. I believe Intell's latest N455 processor supports DDR3 ram.

    5. GPU: This is a bit of a mixed bag, and you'll really have to do your homework on the different graphics card that come with netbooks. As a general rule, you won't get a lot of processing power in netbook graphics cards, but some are definitely better than others. If you're into tinkering, keep in mind that some offerings solder their GPU's to the board, while others have connectors. It's up to you to decide which will work best for you. some companies, but not all do have optional cards with higher specs. Fro example, Dell bundles such a card together with the higher resolution screen in their 1012.

    6. RAM: Because of microsofts licensing requirements for Windows 7 starter, most manufacturers are not allowed to sell netbooks with more than 1GB of ram installed, even though most of them support 2GB. Count on having to upgrade the RAM (single 2GB chip). Find a netbook whose RAM access you are comfortable with (some have readily accessible Doors, while others require pulling the keyboard to gain access).

    7. Hard Drive: Some will try and sell you on a solid state drive. I find that they are expensive, and don't have nearly as much memory as I like. They also generate heat, and since most netbooks do not support internal fans to dissipate heat, this can make them annoyingly warm (consider investing in a chill pad if this is a problem for you). You can find some very large SATA hard drives in the after market, but most netbook makers tend to top their offerings somewhere between 300 and 500 GB, which should be more than adequate for most folks.

    8. Bluetooth. Not necessary, but I enjoy having it to run a wireless bluetooth mouse, thus keeping my usb ports free.

    9. Touch pad: they come in a very wide variety. I would advice you against getting one in which the buttons are just an extension of the same surface of the touchpad (as opposed to a raised surface or separate pieces). Got to computer stores and play with different netbooks and try different touchpads. You're bound to find one that you like.

    10. Wireless card. There has been a recent shift in netbooks from using Wirless G cards to Wireless N. many makers have switched without advertising the switch. wireless N is much faster and can handle much larger files. I highly advice you to make sure you get Wireless N.

    11. Price. You can do very well by shopping in the refurbished section of most large manufacturers. Just make sure that the specs match the advice above. You can easily come in below $300 if you do. If you prefer new, the advice above should put you in somewhere in the high $300's to $450. You really don't want to spend more than $450 on a netbook. for that money, you are better off buying a proper laptop.

    12. Operating system. Most folks will not consider moving away from microsoft. personally I find Windows 7 to be a solid OS, but I find it to be too big and bloated for netbboks. It simply demands too much of the hardware. The cut down version (windows 7 starter), I find to be OK, but is too limited and still slow. on top of that you still have security and virus concerns. Personally I would either wipe out windows and run your preferred linux distro or do a dual boot set up with your preferred linux distro as an option. By running linux you will generally get a noticeably faster system, a safer system, and most importantly, a full featured OS (as opposed to a cut down one). For your needs, several free office systems, such as Open office and others are freely available, as are several instant messaging programs that will run AIM. Also Eclipse is available for Linux, so you won't loose any functionality in that regard. Here is a post regarding Distros for beginners that you might find helpful:

    http://androidforums.com/computers/177768-linux.html#post1595995

    Lastly, I would look long and hard at the biggest makers of netbooks, and shy away from the smaller makers of fancier machines (such as Sony or toshiba), as they tend to have higher prices without offering much beyond style. Look at the offerings from Dell, HP, Asus, and Acer, especially Asus and Dell since they have the biggest numbers of offerings and have large communities of enthusiasts who can help you with any number of issues you might have. I generally find Asus netbooks to be easier for beginers to work with and are a little smaller, while Dells tend to be a little bigger, require more skill to work with, but are more solidly constructed.

    Good luck with your search. I hope this helps a little (at least until technology advances again and makes this post useless - maybe in 6 months to a year ;)).
     
  3. Ni Dieu Ni Maitre

    Ni Dieu Ni Maitre Well-Known Member This Topic's Starter

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    Oh, wow. Quite an informative post. I'll certainly keep all of this in mind. We use linux for some of our classes (Fedora), but I'm still pretty new to it. I like it though, so I wouldn't mind having nothing but linux on my netbook. That being said, what is Windows 7 "Starter"? How does it compare to Windows 7 Home Premium, which I have on my laptop?
     
  4. Isthmus

    Isthmus Well-Known Member

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  5. smacky

    smacky Banned

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  6. Isthmus

    Isthmus Well-Known Member

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    Chrome is ok, but there is a big caveat. Chrome is one of a new crop of super fast loading operating systems, such as Ubuntu Light and MeeGo. everything is integrated into the browser and almost all the applications run in the cloud. This means that in order for the OS to be fully usable you must have a live internet connection at all times. This is no problem for folks who have WWAN cards installed; or who mostly use their computers in environments with WLAN connections all the time (like their homes or in a university campus). Another thing worth mentioning about Chrome OS, Is that IIRC, while you can download a beta version and test it, I'm pretty sure (and please correct me if I'm wrong) that google has said that the stable release will not be available for download, but rather that it will come preinstalled in hardware from it's partners.

    Other than that, I would strongly discourage anyone from using this kind of operating system, and instead opt for any of a number of super fast light weight operating systems that default to running native applications, as well as cloud based one. a really good one, for example is Peppermint, which is ubuntu based and uses an LXDE desktop environment running a mix of local and cloud based applications, and includes a program which allows you to run cloud based apps independently of a browser (so for example, you could create a local app that runs g-mail in it's own window independently of the browser). the advantage in this is that you have full local control an are not dependent on a web connection to use the full functionality of the OS, but can still access cloud based apps, should you want to.

    The only noticeable downside is that boot times are not instantaneous, as with the 3 operating systems mentioned above.

    Still, if anyone is interested in Chromium (which I don't think has seen it's final stable release yet), I would strongly advise you to try out ubuntu light, which is out now, is extremely similar, and is available for free download.
     
  7. Jimmykimchi

    Jimmykimchi Well-Known Member

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    You should get the hp mini 311-1037nr . Imho, its a really really good netbook . I'm running Ubuntu(A linux distributor) It's really really fast, has a good battery life, and its light weight !

    [​IMG]
     
  8. Eugene

    Eugene Well-Known Member

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    My preference is the older 9" or smaller netbooks. It seems when everyone went to the 10" they went to a full size keyboard which makes the whole netbook as big as a smaller laptop loosing the smaller side advantage.
     
  9. Noxious

    Noxious New Member

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    I got myself an HP Mini 311 and I have been very happy with it. However, I will point out that I bought the very base model with just the processor upgrade.

    From there I unlocked my ION LE to full ION. There is no difference in the hardware, just a manufacturer's setting. They did this with early ION netbooks that had Windows XP so that they could charge more for the unlocked version that came with Windows 7.

    Next I upgraded Windows XP to Windows 7 Professional using my student discount. There are many guides to help you with the installation from a bootable USB drive.

    Finally, I ordered a 2gb stick of ram from Newegg and installed it myself. This was relatively quick and painless.

    This machine handles Windows 7 very well, and gets a good 4-5 hours of battery depending on what I am doing. I also like the larger resolution of the screen in addition to the almost full size keyboard. This was important due to the large size of my hands. Be warned though, this was probably more netbook than I need but I really like the machine and I don't regret the purchase.

    Other Thought: I had no problem getting Mint Linux installed on the Mini 311. I haven't spent as much time playing with Mint as I'd like, but it has been hassle-free so far.
     
  10. N30wolf

    N30wolf Member

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    If you want power you could go for the asus 1215n.
     
  11. Ni Dieu Ni Maitre

    Ni Dieu Ni Maitre Well-Known Member This Topic's Starter

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    So, I'm thinking of installing #!Crunchbang (or the more netbook-oriented #!Crunchee) if/when I get my netbook.

    I was thinking I could probably save some money if I buy a netbook with no OS pre-installed. What are the odds of me finding such a thing? So far I've only seen a couple, which were thoroughly unimpressive.
     
  12. Hangdog42

    Hangdog42 Well-Known Member

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    I know Isthmus covered the RAM issue, but one thing you want to do is research whether or not the RAM is user upgradeable. One of the most evil outcomes of Microsoft's misguided restrictions is that some manufacturers have taken to soldering the RAM in place, which means that even if the system is technically capable of running 2GB, you can't actually put in a larger stick. And speaking as someone who has used a netbook extensively for a few years now, that extra GB of RAM is really, really nice.
     
  13. GringoMonkee

    GringoMonkee Member

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    +1 here

    Ubuntu vanilla or Netbook Remix (NBR) works a charm
     
  14. mikedt

    mikedt 你好 Guide

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    Another vote for Linux rather than Windows here. :)

    My netbook is a first generation Acer One, with 512k RAM. Very sturdy and well made, will probably go on for years. I use Ubuntu 10.04 LTS on it, works great, does everything I need. Windows 7 is not an option on this laptop, and I consider XP to be too old and insecure these days, especially given that I'm going back to work in China in November. I want something I can trust.
     

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