Courtesy of a huge pile of Amazon vouchers and a dodgy-looking hinge on my trusty old Acer TravelMate, I decided to splash out on one of those new-fangled “netbook” things. As well as a chance to reduce the size and weigh tof my luggage, it was also an excuse to see what the amount of cash I paid for the laptop 3Â½ years ago would get me now.
I went for this one – a little more expensive than I’d originally planned for a few reasons. First up, almost Â£100-worth of the aforementioned vouchers. They offset the increase in price. Also, the unit has had great reviews online and came with Windows XP rather than Vista *spit*. 1Gb of RAM should be enough for my needs and 160Gb of hard drive space gives me the same as my current laptop.
A huge selling point is the staggering 9Â½ hours of battery life using the “Super Hybrid Engine”. This means you can only expect this under Windows as it uses proprietary software to manage the CPU usage. Various reviews have confirmed this figure as perfectly achievable, with one managing over 10 hours of light use. Hammering it with videos still gives over 5 hours.
The only thing missing is an optical drive. I used my laptop CD burner to back up all my photos when I was travelling (and charged a beer to do it for other people, too) but this isn’t an option with a netbook. None of them have an internal CD-R which is understandable. Given the prevelance of cybercafes charging a couple of dollars to burn CDs, this isn’t as much of an issue as it was when I was travelling long term so it’s something I can manage without.
One thing to note for people who like to upgrade is that the memory is a single stick, and there is only one slot for it. Hence upgrading RAM will involve ditching the existing DIMM.
I’ve not had a huge play with it so far, mainly downloading Firefox, the new Skype and so on. Oh, and using it to watch the live feed from the Download Festival web site while I do other things on my laptop.
However, so far it seems fine. The keyboard’s good to type on and the screen’s nice and bright. It’s only 10″ but it’s perfectly usable. It’s easy to change the resolution on the fly so if you have any windows that don’t fit on the screen in the default 1024×600 you can flip to a scrolling 1024×768.
I tested Skype which showed that the condenser microphones are pretty good and the webcam picture is crisp and updates quickly. The speakers – very well tested by the likes of Down, DevilDriver and Hatebreed, aren’t bad either. A little rattly if the volume’s too high, but acceptable on a small box like this.
Connectivity is good with three USB2.0 ports. There’s also a VGA output socket, and separate holes for external microphone and speakers/headphones. As an added bonus there is also a slot for an SD card – ideal if your digital camera used these.
The wi-fi is 802.11b/g/n which is as good as it gets these days. I’ve not been able to test the “n” as my router is only “g” but I’m sure I’ll reap the benefits in Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.
Once I’ve got all the XP setup complete, I’ll be repartitioning the hard drive and installing Ubuntu alongside it. By all accounts this will work well, though I don’t expect the battery life to be as good for the reasons mentioned above.
Well, dinner now calls me so I’m off for something from the chippie. More updates on the Eee as I do more with it. But so far I’m impressed.