Packing for a week-and-a-half road trip to Silicon Valley and back triggered a moment of introspection over the impending end of netbook production. I had some devices to choose from for my journey. I could have taken my Alienware MX18, my first-generation Samsung Galaxy Tab, my Asus Transformer, my Samsung NF210 Netbook, my …
I occasionally miss my Mini-9...
Seems the drive controller on mine went bonkers to the point where it will eat whatever SSD gets installed on it. it won't boot from the SD card (hardware design limitation) and booting from USB was... painful.
So I lug around my dilapidated and ancient D600, which despite it's age and the fact that just about everything except the processor and the wireless card have been replaced on it still manages to chug along without a complaint.
Might look seriously at a chromebook though, if I can squeeze the turnip hard enough.
Lenovo ThinkPad X220/X230 and Chromebooks
1. Lenovo ThinkPad X220/X230 powerhouses run for up to 13 hours on the extended battery (over 8 hours of typical use), much more with the add-on battery slice.
2. Chomebooks can be used without an Internet connection:
Unity Works for Very Small Screens on Underpowered Netbooks
When I mostly only run a handful of apps (stick those in the dock)
When I mostly run one thing at a time (underpowered will do that).
When I have very few pixels and turn on dock hiding.
Unity works well for me.
On anything >=12" screen and > 1GB RAM Unity drives me insane but it does seem to have a place.
APUs are much better than Atom and Bobcat netbooks
I don't miss the Netbook, because we have much better laptops now. Sure, they may not go all the way down to 9 inch screens, but the 11-15 inch range A6 systems can be had for less money than your average tablet and perform much better than any Atom based netbook ever could. I paid less for my Acer A6 15" system than I did for my EEE901 9" back in the day.
Netbooks were never given a chance to succeed.
Netbooks needed 2GB RAM with Windows Home and a 120GB SSD. I can live with a 600px high screen. But with 1GB Ram, a slow HD, and a crippled OS the user experience was pretty poor.
I'm using a old Gateway LT2016u (aka Acer Aspire One D250) in which I installed the above upgrade and I now find myself without an upgrade path. It's hard to find anything with similar specs at a reasonable price.
Had the user experience been better I'm sure Netbooks would have been much more popular.
I have an answer for you - laptop with battery life of 16 hours (!) for $700
Few month ago I bought Acer w510 - 10in tablet on Intel Clover Trail processor, and I also bought keyboard-dock it plugs into. When plugged into keyboard-dock it becomes essentially a mini-laptop with 10" screen.
Tablet itself has 9 hours (realistically-8) of battery life on typical office apps, keyboard dock has second battery and doubles the battery life to 16 hours. Because it is a standard x86, all applications work fine.
This is the first time I have a laptop with this kind of battery life, and it is amazing - when you use it whole day and at the end of the day you find 50-60% battery left - this is unheard of. And it is not expensive - just $700 or so.
Perf is pretty decent - not as fast as Core CPUs, but more than adequate for office apps, web browser (easily open dozens of tabs), video, games.
Honestly - this is the best portable device I ever had (and I have iPad and many other devices).
Re: I have an answer for you - laptop with battery life of 16 hours (!) for $700
That and it's bigger 700-series brother looked nice - until I realized the <string of swear-words and hints at genetic ancestry of the developers/decision makers> only used a capacitive digitizer. Knowing that Windows has some excellen scratchbook software on board (MS-Journal) or available as part of office (One Note) that accept handwritting just fine makes a inductive digitizer a "must have" for me. Only with that the tablet pc can really shine, replacing handwritten notes, A4 pads and even a smartphone.
Too bad the designers went for cheap instead of low price
"I had some devices to choose from for my journey. I could have taken my Alienware MX18, my first-generation Samsung Galaxy Tab, my Asus Transformer, my Samsung NF210 Netbook, my Acer Aspire 5110 or my ageing 2006 silver Macbook Pro. Which to choose?"
Any, who cares? How did journalists cope 5-10 years ago? Write stuff on dead trees. Netbooks were great, but marketing told people to go out and buy tablets, zero productivity but lots of (limited) fun.
Hourses for courses. As a comms device with much better wifi and sim reception than the average phone, a 16gig SSD and a useable keyboard, I still take my eee901 on the road with me in preference to a 15" laptop.. A de-bloated version of XP runs fast enough for comms, entertainment, and a couple of corporate web extensions, and gives me a reliable link to the webslaves at the hollowed out volcano via email, text or Skype, without filling my manbag. My banana fingers are allergic to fiddly multipress phone keys, but can somehow type perfectly on a netbook. Four years on, it's still giving me five hours of video when I can't find a power socket.
I have a dumb phone just for shouting at people who phone me out of working hours, but for the mobile data side, the humble sim-equipped netbook craps from a great height on any smartphone, especially in terms of power, cost and versatility. And it doesn't give me eyestrain or distract me when I'm crossing the road. Utility trumps shiny every time.
"have a spare USB port to charge my phones" - problem is, the power taken to charge a phone is less power for you to use. Could you not plug 'em in overnight?
"Office packages for Android are embarrassingly terrible." - it is hard enough to find a text editor worth a damn. I think it speaks volumes that an ancient Psion 3a outperforms Android in nearly every office-like application. Useful word processor, useful spreadsheet, workable (if a bit crappy) database....why is something like this not available for Android out of the box? I need a rudimentary word processor that understands basic formatting a hell of a lot more than I need a Facebook "share my music" app. I guess I'm just not the usual target demographic.
"Bad for us because it cripples the OS in order to achieve this goal." - which is one of the reasons I will never touch it. Living out in the country, you get used to eccentric broadband. Plus travelling etc. A good OS will use connectivity to supplement itself, not be reliant on it in order to do anything. Before anybody replies to this point - contemplate using an EDGE network running at ~12Kb/sec flat out. Wait, ADSL you say? Well that kills portability then doesn't it? Not everywhere has 3G/4G...
"I hope that by the time this netbook of mine is ready to give up the ghost, the answer is yes." - I also do not understand why the netbook is hated. I'm writing this on an eeePC. It is my "main" computer. On my lap in bed, on a table, in the living room, out in the garden on a sunny day, even in the car - it is there and ready and does what I ask. I don't need a 21" monitor, I just hold the ~9" one a little closer (being short-sighted helps blur the picture so you can consider it to be biological anti-aliasing). For its age it is quite a capable machine. If I was in the looking for a replacement, I would want something similar but more modern. Running Windows would be preferable (most of my software...) however I could be tempted. I also don't want something big, or a dopey tablet. I write stuff, I code, I "play" with a MIDI sequencer, I watch videos, I do internety stuff. I want a small friendly device with good battery life, respectable connectivity (one lame USB port doesn't cut it, even a Raspberry Pi offers better), a usable keyboard, and most of all something I can take with me and just put it down and start using it. My eeePC fits the bill. I will cry buckets when it is time to retire it and replace it with something that isn't a netbook 'cos they won't exist by then...
Battery life isn't a selling point in the consumer market
Once battery life isn't a design consideration, why would the ordinary consumer choose a low power cpu instead of a faster one for just a few bucks more? When you can get an Asus notebook with an i3 processor and 4GB of RAM for $400, it's a lot harder to sell an Atom based system for $300. (The netbook that you got 3 years ago for $300 never dropped much below $300, somehow).
Road warriors have specialist requirements, but want to pay mass market prices. Sorry, they only way to pay mass market prices is to buy what the mass market is buying, and that's not a $3-400 machine with a 9 hour battery.
Atom N2600, 1G RAM, 1024x600 for $244, or i3-2377M, 4GB RAM, 1366x768 for $400?
They both weigh about 3 lbs. Do you want 8 hours of battery badly enough to give up the usable screen and faster process?
Acer Aspire V5-171-6675 Notebook Intel Core i3 2377M(1.50GHz) 11.6" 4GB Memory 500GB HDD
1366 x 768
11.22" x 7.95" x 0.82"-1.09"
1 x USB 3.0
2 x USB 2.0
4-cell Li-ion Battery (2500 mAh)
Up to 5 hours
Acer Aspire One AOD270-26Dkk Intel Atom N2600(1.60GHz) 10.1" WSVGA 1GB
1024 x 600
10.1" x 7.2" x 0.9"
3 x USB 2.0
6-cell Li-Ion (4400 mAh)
Re: Battery life isn't a selling point in the consumer market
I want 6+ hours of working time out of a mobile device (WLAN/BT on, no videos but Office, Handwriting and speech input) desperatly enough to either go Atom (< 800€) OR high end (> 1200€, 1+kg) to get it. Not having to lug around the charger for a typical work day is the difference of "just the tablet in the book-case" vs. "the notebook bag with the hole pile of stuff". Tested a Note 10.1 last year and while ultimately it "always tried hard to perform the task" and got sold off the low weight/high portability and long running times where nice.
I was event (and still am for some reasons) considering the 2kg/2000€ "Terminator" (Fujitsu T902 with dock, 8GB, 128GB SSD, second battery) as a main maschine replacing the whole zoo (Desktop, Tower, Smartphone). A tad heavier than I like but I could still carry the maschine only. Currently waiting for Q3 and the Haswell and Baytrail CPUs and what that brings us (Vaio Duo Gen 2, maybe the Helix)
If I go mobile I want to do so for a long time and without looking at the charge indicator or thinking about "how to conserve battery". This is the main "dislike" I have with my current tablet pc - power lasts 3-4 hours so long meetings get tricky.
You do know that unity/gnome are not the only option you have with ubuntu right? Just grab the kubuntu version.. it's linux, you _do_ have a choice ;)
Battery and Inverter...
This reminds me of 10 years ago when I wanted to keep the Compaq Armada 1500c (400MHz Celeron) going for a day. A 7Ah UPS battery and inverter in a backpack sure helped! Just weighted a lot :( Now you can buy 2Ah USB charging batteries on eBay so for many tablets, phones, and digital cameras; there is a cheap portable solution.
Lamenting the eventual death of my netbook...
I'm lamenting the eventual death of my Asus Eee PC 1000HE netbook because there is simply no substitute in the same price range nowadays. I purchased it in spring 2009 and expected to use it just for traveling, but I instantly got hooked. It quickly became my primarily machine both at home and work, and it sees between 12-16 hours of use every day. It is still running stunningly well to this day on WinXP--what a nice and lean OS! At both spots, I just plug it in to a 24" monitor, and use wireless, full-size keyboard+mouse combos, and voila, a perfectly capable computing environment. For certain, it is slowish, but for 98% of my activity it is perfectly sufficient. I am a scientist, and do work with large data sets and images occasionally, so when I need to do really heavy number crunching I do it offboard. But to be honest, this is very infrequent--I usually prefer to just do everything onboard even if that means seeing the hour glass icon a little more frequently. Sure, I could do the same thing with an ultrabook, but at 3-4x the price!!!
"Is there a manufacturer brave enough? Is there a hardware maker brave enough?"
It's not a matter of bravery. It's a matter of profit. These are businesses.
The problem is that we're now locked in a circle: the companies provide sub-optimal devices designed fully for their own, and not the user's, advantage. And since they're all there is, and they're usually nice and shiny, we lap them up as they are.
And while I'm sure most people reading El Reg could quite easily manufacture their own ideal device using a two matchboxes and a spring, and then create the ideal efficient, compact, capable and secure OS, the vast majority of users wouldn't know where to start. So they'll keep buying the overpriced, under-functional, privacy-threatening, just-about-passable tat; which means the companies have no motivation to venture into the expensive and risky territories you're talking about. After all, what if another company has a better idea than yours? You might lose customers. Far better to lock the buggers in and keep them distracted with pretty.
(Written awkwardly and very slowly with lots of deleting on my overpriced, locked-in piece of shiny tat.)
don't forget "high performance"/"always on" power scheme..
..and having the power lead plugged in get you a bit more juice for yer netbook, if you've got to do some heavy-ish work, always helps ;)
You didn't really say what you are trying to achieve, but an ipad with a bluetooth keyboard case, sounds like it fits the bill. I realise it may not, but like I said, you didn't really tell us why it might not.
Because a iPad with a keyboard case doesn't have a mouse. It doesn't support proper keyboard + mouse full-bore multitasking interface. In fact, it doesn't have any sort of multitasking capabilities that aren't complete ass. I don't work on "one document at a time, then take 5 seconds to switch to some other, then 5 seconds to switch back only ever seeing one screen at a time."
Even if you could overcome that - and it would require not only an office package that wasn't a piece of shit, but a damned-near complete redesign of the OS's input systems - an iPad with a bluetooth anything doesn't last 12 hours of continuous usage.
You see, there's this small problem where actually creating documents requires things like a precision pointer so that you can select text, images, cells and other things that quickly, easily, and efficiently. Believe it or not, I might even require other things. Like both backspace and delete, which also render Chromebooks – and their broke-ass "offline mode" with their crippled hobo-office – completely useless.
It's a complete shock to a certain category of techno-hipster, but there are some of us old farts who have jobs. I know, shocking; maybe if the younger generation pulls their pants up and starts learning to put effort into shit instead of thinking that hating on everything all the time is cool, they can have some one day, too. Part of this "having a job" thing is the requirement to actually work for a living, which means using the fastest, most efficient way to get something done.
That isn't stabbing at some screen with my fingers, "pressing and holding" to highlight or dragging my digits around while cursing as the damned software moves my carefully selected text – NO, I WAN'T THE TEXT, NOT THE GODDAMNED ADDITIONAL SPACE YOU PIECE OF SHIT – to the line above. It means taking a precision instrument - like the fucking mouse, holy lordy look at that - and clicking right where I wanted the fucking selection to begin then dragging the pointer to exactly where I wanted it to stop. Then quickly cutting, pasting, moving, deleting, bolding, indenting or whatever operating I can imagine.
For twelve solid hours.
When your iPad, your Chromebook, or even my Asus Transformer can do these things, ping me. I'll give some fucks right about then. Until that time, I will stick with Windows, OSX or Linux to get the job done. Whichever one can run on hardware that gives me the requisite 12 hours of battery life.
Problems is, I outgrew the netbook pretty quick
Tried to live with one for a year and ended up chucking it for a more able laptop. Can't stand the fact that the darn thing can't even run anything that uses 3D like A Kingdom of Keflings. Even 2D activity like Youtube had issues like frame skipping.
And then there were idiotic issues with Linux, like the WiFi radio not toggling properly...
The netbook was too good
My wife has a Dell Mini 9, 9" Atom-powered Windows XP Netbook. We bought it for her uni studies and it was was excellent, allowing her to carry all her studies to work, Uni and home. She used OpenOffice, Chrome and Dropbox, which the Atom processor, 1Gb RAM and 32Gb SSD coped with easily.
She could rely on the battery to last a few hours which meant she could leave the charger at home when going to work or Uni and thus is could fit in her handbag. The clamshell design meant no need for cases, stands, keyboards or other faffy paraphernalia.
At home she'd plug it into a full-size keyboard, monitor and mouse using USB and VGA cables: no need for extra investment in connectors.
When it dies, she'll want another cheap 9" Windows laptop to replace it. She's tried by 10" Asus Transformer Prime, but doesn't like the limitations of the Android (or iOS) operating system and finds the 10" form factor just too big to fit into her handbag.
The current generation of 10" Windows tablets are pretty pricey too as people chase the premium end of the market and try to compete with the iPad.
All-in-all, I suspect that somebody out there makes something that will fit the bill, but in short I agree with the sentiments of the article's author and find that I too lament the fall of the netbook.
Re: The netbook was too good
When she graduates from uni, I would recommend an 11" MacBook air. The expense can be justified for the many people who become more productive due to the no worries operating system and extra performance compared to the Atom. I hackingtoshed my Dell mini 9 before taking the plunge. Windows and hackingtoshed machines owe me way too much in tinkering time. Glad thats behind me.
So... you want a Surface RT with a Type Keyboard then?
No, because the surface doesn't allow for multitasking. It doesn't allow you to install any real applications besides the Office app - Metro apps don't count, without something like RetroUI I can't break them out into multi-tasking capable items - oh, and the Surface RT doesn't give me 12 hours of usable anything.
What I want is a 13" Thinkpad with both nipple and an old-school trackpad (with real fucking buttons). Instead of running off of Intel's latest every-so-slightly-rebadged combustible lemons, they could power the whole damned thing off of something wiht as much oomph as my HTC Desire. Run Windows 7 on it, give it an mSATA SSD. Give it a decent screen res - 1440x900 minimum, gov! - and then pack every remaining millimetre with battery.
Actually, ideal ideal wouldn't have Windows 7, it would have Android, modified wiht the Wind River windowing system. It would be a hybrid (battery in both the keyboard section and the tablet section) and it would work as well with touch, mouse, keyboard or stylus. It would not treat ANY of these inputs as second class. It would support them all as separate events. It would support context menus as well as fondling, keyboard shortcuts as well as WACOM multi-pressure levels.
What it wouldn't do is lock me down, limit me or otherwise force me into bullshit compromises like "33/66" or "fondle, stab and poke". It would let me work how I want to work, but give me the option to work in newer workflows when and where appropriate.
It would be a Fujitsu P1510D, but made out of silicon that was nearly a decade newer. It would be larger, with more batter space. And it would be fucking excellent.
"Fucking excellent" in no way describes the Surface tablets, and for the love of merciful monkey gods, it in no way describes the horrid abomination that is Windows RT. It does, however, describe that venerable old Fujitsu P1510d; an idea before it's time...and simply lacking the battery life to have made it truly game changing.
Today, however, we could build it. We have the technology. We don't, however, have the will. A shame.
I'm feeling your pain - trying to spec out a work laptop that I want to be basically a netbook but with a decent screen and battery life, and ability to run the one x86-only Linux app that I use all day. The trouble with Clover Trial machines is they're only 32 bit (hello, we've had x86-64 for, what, almost 10 years now?) and thus only take 2GB RAM (the same limit as back in 2008).
Currently looking at the Samsung Ativ PC Pro 700 - it's 11" 1920x1080, Core i5, same digitiser as the Galaxy Note 10.1 (ie decent for handwriting), with detachable keyboard (inc extra battery), 64 or 128GB SSD. It has 3G/maybe LTE (essential to get work done on the move - none of this 'please enter your inside leg measurement for wifi access' or 'welcome to 12 minutes free wifi, $15/hour thereafter, please buy in the airport business centre on the arrivals level' - bit tricky when I'm sitting at the gate and my plane is delayed *again*)
Downsides: it's only got 4GB and that's non-expandable (maybe virtual memory will suffice for my app that regularly takes 8GB just to sit there idle). Battery life is unclear ('up to' 8 hours).
Biggest downside is it runs Windows 8. Looks like Ubuntu will run OK, but I haven't found a touch WM that plays nicely when it's in tablet mode (KDE's Plasma Active looks interesting but seems just wierd).
And it's £1000 (but I'm not paying).
Did they finally manage to produce a WACOM driver for Linux that works more stable than sweating dynamite on a truck? Otherwise the Ativ 700 is "PAL" since you can get the same stuff without paying for the WACOM by buying one of the Acer units (touch only) for less money, slightly better runtime (Wacom eats battery power) and touch works more stable last time I looked.
I have an old Sammy NC10 which has been getting slower and slower on Win XP and as a result getting used less and less. Now that I have a smartphone I can get my emails and twit-tubes etc just by putting on my reading glasses. However some websites arent very smartphone friendly and after someone here mentioned LinuxMint I thought I'd have a look at that. The NC10 had already had Ubuntu 10.10 installed alongside WinXP but I found Unity less than helpful after years of occasional RedHat/CentOS use. Also it used to lock up for no apparent reason. I got LinixMint13 XFCE downloaded, burnt to DVD, installed (even recognised the Ubuntu install and overwrote it) in a few hours and not long after that had my wireless network setup and email configured. Now it boots in about a minute and shuts down in seconds, which is what I was after, so I can put the tablet purchase on hold for a little while yet. I still have my desktop system for serious work, but for everything else I can sit in my living room and pull out my old netbook.
Thanks commentards for saving my old netbook from an early retirement of sitting on a shelf gathering dust! :-)
All that hardware and no backup power devices? I have a couple of Tecnet 4000mAH batteries that keep me going while I am out an about for about 5 days. Galaxy tab 2 turned on for a couple of hours a day and HTC smartphone on all the time.
Not saying that there are other criteria for what you take but power doesn't have to be one of them.
Personally I'd like to see a version of the galaxy tab three times as thick and heavy that would keep going for a few days between charges. I think the slimness thing has got a bit silly.
Is a bloody good device I love mine but you're right about the Apps available for android. It seems that android is Phone only as far as development goes which is a real shame.
You do have more options than just thin client, Google Docs is reasonable for most needs, but Android really needs a better offline G-Docs to work really well.
Fix that and it would be superb.
My guess is that Atom-based Tablet-PC will kill the Android tablets giving us the "next gen netbook". Unlike Android the devices have a lot of "tablet enabled" applications (All the legacy Windows applications) and the Modern UI apps are also "tablet enabled". Similar duration, equal or better processing power to the current-model ARMs (and the new BayTrail promises more on both) and a company with a well proven update/patch record (3 years after the next gen OS at least unlike many 1st gen Android tablets that are already out of support). And since the Android tablets lack the "Hippster" factor of the iThingy they can't even sell that way, at least not in the 500+ Euro price range.
Add in that many corporate admins loves them (they ARE Windows so they can be easily integrated in the Windows-based network) and they have the "same software as my desktop" benefit and they have a lot going for them compared to Android. Offline Word processing - just add MS-Office or whatever you prefer
Yes, Gnome3 is awful
Thankfully (unlike win8) there are alternatives
Take a look at http://www.mintlinux.com - ubuntu with a fairly lightweight cinnamon interface that's perfectly functional on netbooks and old hardware.
My wife loves it.
Re: Yes, Gnome3 is awful
also a good link
Think I'll stick with my Psion 5mx.... too many choices!
I miss mine, a rare machine in the US, I never managed to get a second one when the first one fell to bits.
On THIS Planet...
Dear editorial person posing as a news-writer,
The entire premise of your article is invalid. I'm not sure about your planet, but here on Terra, one is allowed to purchase a spare battery. Problem solved, take whichever crappy Chinese electronics you wish to - assuming that it has not been designed by and for halfwits and therefore has a user-replaceable battery - and just pick up an extra battery.
Have a nice day.
Re: On THIS Planet...
Dear derpy retard, on THIS planet, most of the damned ultrabooks, notebooks and so forth being produced today are unibody designs with no user-replacable batteries. On the other hand, if you want to haul around some notebook chiselled out a fucking rock by a hivemind of barbarians eleventy tech advances ago, you go right ahead. Me, I don't consider a 6 pound notebook with a knapsack full of an additional 40 pounds of batteries (required to get to 12 hours of usable battery life) to be "portable."
Oh, and since you have added an inability to read to your list of personal failures; it wasn't a news article. It was a sysadmin blog; thus editorial. Don't trip on the imaginary carpet edge on the way out!
Paris, because I'd rather let her into the server room than you.
Acer Aspire One still going strong
Typing this on my trusty Aspire One which has been going strong for over 3 years now. Paid £150 for it on Amazon, upgraded the battery to the nine-hour version, and it's just about perfect. Agree with the author about Unity, but that was an easily rectified mistake. This brilliant little machine (8.9" version) has served as temporary desktop replacement for my parents, home browsing device for my kids, emergency machine for work colleagues whose laptops died, long battery life video viewer on flights and almost-daily-use email and browsing machine on 3G when I'm locked in on a corporate network. I have considered upgrading for a larger keyboard and screen but just not worth it. I'm sure an upgraded spec is possible for sub-£100 now, if the manufacturers wanted to do it.