Friday, September 11, 2009

Mortal Netbook Sins (or, why is it impossible for vendors to get it right?)

So I'm typing this on my (well, actually my wife's) Lenovo S-10, who I admit that I covet. She inherited it after her Powerbook G4 12" (actually my favorite laptop of all time) suffered at the hands (or paws) that typically does in laptops in our household.

Even though my two main laptops (a T-61 and a Dell E6400) are both 14.1" and smallish, I still miss the two pound form-factor and the small screen/keyboard, so I've been agonizing for a while whether or not and which one should be my 2nd Netbook purchase. It should be easy, since there are literally around 50 different models on the market. But it isn't.

The Ideapad S-10 is by no means perfect (the keyboard is too small, it only has 2 USB ports and I don't use the express card slot) but compared to what is available at Best Buy, it is hard to beat. But as I've been comtemplating getting another Netbook that I want but really don't need, here is the dogma:

By far the most damning flaw, the one that cannot be reconciled ever, is an unusable touchpad and buttons. This basically removes any of Dell's offerings because they cut corners and implemented a single, rocker-style button, and the touchpad itself is awful, jumpy, and could. I actually. The Asus 1005HA is not terrible but not great either.

The second abomination is the battery bulge. As Netbooks have added 6 and 9 cell battries they have added a rear bulge that sticks straight out to the rear of the laptop. The S12 and S10-2 with the larger capacities succumb to this temptation. As well as many others.

The third sin is the appearance of cheapness. All of these systems are cheap but they should appear so. The Gateway 3103 falls prey to this. It also runs Vista and is not Linux friendly, taking it out of consideration.

A last fatal flaw is price. It should be below $350. Period. A $400 netbook makes no sense given their underpowered components, especially since I can get a T400 for right around $750, as my total credit card bill reaches $500 it makes no sense to considor an Atom processor when I can get the real thing for a few hundred dollars more. this rules out the Sony and Toshiba models

Not a showstopper, but definitely a flaw, is the inability to customize and lack of a two year warranty. Basically this means you are left with Lenovo or HP, since to the vast majority of vendors do not allow you to build custom systems with only the size of the battery.

Notice what I left out: sound, keyboard, screen, ports, ease of upgrade. None of these really matter if the essentials are met.

So right now I'm not sure, but the two choices I'm considering is a 3-Cell, Lenovo S-10-2 and an HP Mini XP with the higher resolutions 1366x768 display. Both meet all these criteria, so we'll see if I give in to temptation and place an order this weekend.