back to article Ten netbooks

Tablets may have taken the wind out of the netbook's sales, and prompted some manufacturers, Dell and Sony among them, to stop selling them, but if you're looking for a small and, crucially, cheap personal computer for the kids, for offspring heading off to college, or just for emailing while travelling, a netbook is well worth …

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  1. Martin
    Unhappy

    Still too expensive...

    When netbooks first came out three or four years ago, they were £229 or thereabouts. And they are STILL that sort of price. They've got slightly better specs - but that's all.

    They seem to be the only form of computer life which doesn't go down in price. I cannot see any good reason why they shouldn't be sub-£150 these days.

    It would be interesting to see what would happen if Asus or Acer were to produce a fairly minimal spec box for £149. I reckon it would fly off the shelves.

    1. Richard 81

      Re: Still too expensive...

      Besides greed, the screen is probably the biggest factor that keeps the price up.

    2. Mark .

      Re: Still too expensive...

      "They seem to be the only form of computer life which doesn't go down in price."

      I'm not sure that's true - typically prices stay the same whilst specs improve, there's no general downward trend in price. Where are the £150 laptops or desktop PCs? Don't get me wrong, it's a shame we don't see anyone trying for an ultra-cheap one, but this could be said of other computing products too.

      My main pet hate is that so many netbooks are stuck at 1GB RAM and 1024x600. Maybe Windows 8, with the introduction of "tablet hybrids" will give things a kick - though I suspect that the Windows x86 hybrids will be more expensive than non-touch netbooks.

      1. kb
        Thumb Up

        Ram is because of Intel...

        The reason why that is is that Intel purposely gimps their Atoms so they support a MAX of 2Gb of RAM, to try to force you to go for a more expensive chip. That is why I'd suggest just ignoring the Atoms and looking at the AMD units, not only are they not gimped but many units can hold as much RAM as a full size.

        I paid a grand total of $350 USD for my EEE 1215B last year and while it only came with 2Gb it also came with Win 7 HP X64 and support for 8Gb! of RAM. Since the difference at the time between buying 1 4Gb stick (thus giving me 6Gb) and 2 was only $14 I went ahead and upgraded mine to the max 8Gb and I have to say the little baby flies, all my programs are cached into memory on start so everything launches instantly, plays videos smooth as butter at 1080P through the HDMI and I get around 5 and a half hours after a year playing movies or around an hour more surfing, nice little unit.Now that SSDs are going down so cheap I'm seriously thinking about upgrading it, those AMD chips paired with an SSD makes for a nice yet cheap ultraportable.

        So check 'em out, several of my family ended up going with the AMD units after playing with mine and they are all happy as clams, in fact good luck getting my dad's GF off her little Acer C60 netbook, she has that thing practically glued to her lap!

  2. Code Monkey

    Good stuff

    As the article says, tablets have stolen the netbook's thunder. That said they're still a viable PC. A friend still uses his first generation Acer Aspire One.

    If my needs hadn't changed (I now need a full fat Windows laptop) I'd still be using mine. I still love the dinky wee thing with its lack of a Windows key (I guess modern netbooks do have these, more's the pity).

  3. James 51 Silver badge

    How much of that price is the Windows tax?

    Netbooks really shine when you put something like Linux on them. Just a pity you can't buy any without paying Windows tax.

    1. keithpeter
      Linux

      Re: How much of that price is the Windows tax?

      Yup - An ancient Samsung NC10 with Ubuntustudio 12.04 (xfce and a tonne of audio generation software) and a cheap usb audio interface. It works and makes a lot of noise. Lovely.

      Could do with more notes on the keyboards of these machines. Asus's earlier ones were very bendy.

    2. Gordon Fecyk
      Thumb Down

      How much is the Chrome tax?

      That Chromebook isn't cheap either.

  4. Jerry
    FAIL

    D270 Sucks

    I have an existing Toshiba NB550D and it is a little pearler!

    A few days ago my wife needed a nettop and since the 550 was discontinued she bought the Acer D270.

    What a heap of shit!

    Upgrading the memory is like doing a hemorrhoids operation via the mouth. You have to take the incredibly finickity keyboard off to loosen the screws so that finally the back panel can be removed!

    When installing 4GB Ram only 2GB is available using the supplied version of Windows 7. Upgrading that to Windows 7 professional only gets you 3GB.

    Then you discover the hard way that the D270 has no connectivity whatsoever - asides from a plugged in DVD drive. All the important drivers are not supported by standard Windows 7. You have to use a different machine to download them all and install via the DVD. Even then that's not easy as the drivers go fromo O.K. to really suck! requiring numerous retries.

    Finally, even with a fully tricked up OS it's slow as a wet-week! Keyboard entry mysteriously freezes for periods of time. Even doing basic things takes forever. My 119 Windows 7 essential upgrades took nearly two hours to install! Way way longer than it took to download them.

    1. xenny

      Re: D270 Sucks

      No connectivity whatsoever? Surely a USB thumb drive would work? You'd only need to get a working network driver anyway, and then it's easier.

    2. Miek
      Coat

      Re: D270 Sucks

      "When installing 4GB Ram only 2GB is available using the supplied version of Windows 7. Upgrading that to Windows 7 professional only gets you 3GB." -- Try a 64-bit Operating System instead of a 2-bit ... no, I am going to stop right there.

    3. Jason Hall

      Re: D270 Sucks

      I have a slightly older Acer D255(? Can't remember right now?).

      It came with a completely useless Android and Windows(cutdown-dumbass-version) setup.

      Installing a 'proper' version of 7 was quick and simple. It only took about 20 minutes or so from USB stick, and hasn't needed any drivers except the ones it downloaded itself from Microsoft.

      Strange that they would change it so much in only a year or so?

    4. Jerry

      Re: D270 Sucks

      I'm presently trying to shut the damned thing down - 30 minutes so far to install 14 updates and I'm only at #3

      There is someting seriously wrong with the drivers for this device.

      I see plenty of thumbs down on my original post however naff all comments (those supplied are appreciated). I'm assuming the thumbs are mostly industry shills.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Stop

        Not quite...

        "I'm assuming the thumbs are mostly industry shills."

        Everyone who disagrees with you must be an industry shill - couldn't possibly be because your writings are somewhat of the n00b could it.

        Win7 Starter is limited to 2GB, Wikipedia would have told you that if you'd bothered to research before upgrade, it would also have revealed Starter is 32bit so if you did an in-place upgrade then the resultant Home/Pro will also be 32bit and thus not fully utilise your 4GB as "any fule no".

        Try installing from a USB stick (very very easy to do, Google it) a 64bit version, you can pop the 64bit ethernet or wifi driver on the same USB stick and install it afterwards and then you can just visit Windows update or download whatever drivers you need direct. Simples?

      2. kb
        Unhappy

        Re: D270 Sucks

        Well I've had more than my fair share of Acer headaches so you get my sympathy, they used to be great units but lately they've been pretty brain dead when it comes to design.

        If you can I'd send it back and look at the Asus EEE 1225B, now that they've quit making the 1215B that is what I've been recommending to all my friends and family and so far the 3 they've bought have all been top notch. Easy to change out the RAM (screw is on bottom, no need to yank keyboard) comes with 4Gb and will go to 8Gb and comes with win 7 HP X64 so it'll give you every bit of that. You can even bump up the amount of RAM supplied for the GPU and paired with an SDHC (slot fits flush so you can just leave it in) for Readyboost those little units fly and unlike my 1215B they have turbocore for the GPU so they can kick it up a notch when you need it.

        Its a shame you got burned and I feel for ya, the old AMD Aspire One units were nice and easy but these new units? Not so good. Maybe they are using some kind of Intel reference design?

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

          Re: D270 Sucks

          I could have used this review last year when I invested in one of these, although I'm not sure the choice I made would be different (an Acer One 725 iirc, or similar spec anyway). I got mine cheaper than listed here (£240 or so), although it was with the smallest (and most useless) battery and only 2GB of RAM. But nothing that a couple of purchases on t'net didn't easily fix and brings the price to about that listed (with the original 1-2 hour 2-cell battery as a back-up).

          Now also has the 4GB ram (easily fitted via removing a single screw on the bottom and sliding off the lower cover, via helpful guidance vid on youTube) plus a 2GB SD for ReadyBoost and a rather chunky 6-cell battery which whilst making the thing notably heavier and thicker, gives all-day operation and a rather nice angle to the keyboard (and occasionally an impromptu handle to hold the thing).

          Chugs along nicely on its Win7 full, with a dual-boot to Ubuntu when the mood takes me. Works a treat as a second laptop for business travel (work's Dell monster is locked up tight), and with HDMI out is fine as a streaming box to the hotel flatscreens.

  5. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Asus Eee PC 1015BX: "at up to 26mm thick, it's one of the chunkiest netbooks here"

    Asus Eee PC X101CH: "just under an inch at its thickest point making it one of the thinnest machines here'

    Seriously? 0.6mm between thinnest and chunkiest?

    There's a reason for El Reg units, you know.

    and while we're at it, where's the EEE girl?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      and while we're at it, where's the EEE girl?

      She's too curvy for the new, flat look of Windows Metrosexual....

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lin Line Lin Line Ux

    I got my AAO for under £150 a few years ago.

    Great wee machine, still gets a lot of use.

    It's Linux distro allowed it to come in at such a low price, and with a fairly low spec still run very well. Boot up into Linpus is seconds, and you have your browser, office suite and documents in front of you.

    (Of course I later upgraded the RAM and Wireless card and triple boot with XP and a certain OS that rhymes with Oh Ess Ex)

    Windows 7 killed the Netbook through Windows tax, the need for notebook/desktop specs to run, and when they finally relented and released the Starter edition - it is so cut down that you can't even easily change the wallpaper! (there are tricks to get around this)

    Sceptical about ChromeOS, I want my data on my machine, not in someone else's fog-- I mean, cloud.

  7. David Gosnell

    Shame most of these don't have SSD

    SSD is the winning feature on any netbook, making it nigh on indestructible short of intentional abuse. OK, so I had to replace the one in my £120 AAO because it was just a bit too cheap, but it's totally convinced me for on-the-go usage, and I'd be very wary of anything spinning anything more than a cooling fan now. Besides, who on earth needs 500GB on a netbook? Between the SSD and the semi-permanent SDHC expansion on mine, I've got 24GB, and really struggle to make even a blip on that with my usage pattern. I'm sure others may use more with media etc, but really the huge storage should be on an opt-in basis rather than the default.

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Shame most of these don't have SSD

      Quite agree - I still use my trusty AAO after, what, four years now? Linpus is fine, SSD + SDHC gives more than enough storage (I don't want to store loads of movies or music on it), and with a battery upgrade I got 7+ hours out of it, so could work on writing the great 21st century novel on it all day (real keyboard too - don't easily get those on tablets), and then relax in bed to check my e-mails. Cheap, and with no moving parts, have no problems just chucking it in the bag when going away. Conceptually that Chromebook is getting closest to the original netbook idea - apart from problems working offline? Screen is a bit big, and price is a bit high too, particularly as it's exempt from W.A.T. Gimme a 10.1" for under £200 and I might be interested when the AAO finally pops its clogs.

    2. dajames Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Shame most of these don't have SSD

      Shame most of these don't have SSD

      They're netbooks. Half the posts here are complaining that these things cost too much, and you want to add an expensive SSD? I think you've missed the point.

      If you want an SSD in a small laptop get an ultrabook, and expect to pay 2-8 times as much as any of the machines listed here!

      1. David Gosnell

        Re: Shame most of these don't have SSD

        If you want an SSD in a small laptop get an ultrabook, and expect to pay 2-8 times as much as any of the machines listed here!

        The proposal was for a small SSD, not some hulking great multi-hundred pound jobbie. It doesn't even need to be a top performing one. The 16GB Super Talent unit I upgraded mine with a couple of years ago cost £50 and has dropped a lot since then. You may remember that the original Eee PC had an SSD, and that technology was "de facto" for all its immediate competitors. Same goes for even the sub-£100 tablets nowadays...

        1. kb
          Happy

          Re: Shame most of these don't have SSD

          Because, and I'm sure I'll get hate for saying this but I can back it up with links, the Linux units didn't sell well and got returned more often (probably by people mad they couldn't run their Windows software) so they all come with Windows now which thanks to "anytime upgrade" takes up some space.

          While I may upgrade my 1215B when the 128Gb SSDs drop to around $60 USD (currently around $90 USD here) I have to say with a class 10 SDHC for Readyboost and 8Gb of RAM that 320Gb HDD? Works alright. Sure its not the fastest boot but having my entire music collection with me and being able to pop a half a dozen movies at a time on the netbook makes up for that and with its good GPU I can pop a cable from the HDMI out into dad's TV when I visit and we can kick back and enjoy some movie time, its nice.

          SO I'd say the problem is guys like you that wanted cheap above all just didn't buy enough units. What I'm seeing here is less of the 10 inchers and more of the 12s, and more people opting for the ones with bigger, not smaller, HDDs. Like I said maybe when the 128Gb SSDs drop enough in price we'll see it, but with Windows you're just not gonna fit Win 7 Starter, much less HP, on a 16Gb SSD.

  8. Trevor 3

    Still using my £120 AAO first series

    Got rid of the SSD and put a spinny disk in it. Ubuntu 12.04, upgraded to 1.5gb ram

    Works like a charm.

    Why is a similar specced Netbook still over £200? It's rediculous!

    Incidentally, can anyone help? I'm looking to go back to SSD with it. I don't have it on me, but IIRC its an AAO 110L. Does anyone have any suggestion on what would fit in the case and has a ZIF connector?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Richard Ball

      Re: Still using my £120 AAO first series

      I have an AAO 110 Aw; it came with an 8GB SSD and Linpus.

      The casing of the 110 doesn't really accommodate a 2.5" hard drive, whereas the 150 does. So I'm guessing you added a CF-card-sized spinning disc on a little ribbon cable?

      What I did, some time ago, was to solder on a SATA cable, and put in a proper 2.5" SSD, minus its outer casing. It was a Corsair Nova 2 60GB. The SSD PCB mounts in the machine with sticky pads and is slim enough to go under the main board in the same position that a HDD would in a -150 machine.

      I wouldn't recommend this particular SSD because it's a basket-case with the miserable Corsair firmware. However you can substitute other, later firmware to make it work better - and shame on Corsair for not providing this fix themselves. The next SSD I buy will come from someone else.

      If you can find the right kind of surface-mount SATA connector you can put this onto the main board and it will accept the SSD as intended by the designers. What I did though was to cut a SATA cable in half and solder it straight to the board, plus a cap and an inductor to supply power. (or just a solder bridge will make it work if you can't be arsed doing it properly)

      So I now run windows 7 on it. It has 1.5GB of RAM, and it runs OK. Obviously more RAM would be better but hey.

      I very nearly threw it against the wall a few weeks ago before I found the SSD firmware fix, and at that point I did actually buy another machine to replace it. However, having made this one work properly again I'll get rid of the replacement because this AAO seems like an old friend and will serve for the foreseeable future.

      If you want to see pics I could probably arrange.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Still using my £120 AAO first series

        "If you want to see pics I could probably arrange"

        Careful there...

      2. Trevor 3

        Re: Still using my £120 AAO first series

        Thanks.

        From memory, its a 2.5" 10mm? drive. something like that.

        I used the zif connector from the original SSD. No mods. Because the 110 wasnt designed to take the drive I filed a little bit off the mounting posts for the motherboard. The keyboard isnt exactly level any more but it works.

        The 8GB SSD that came with it was rubbish. The spinny disk has overheated, been dropped off the sofa/bed/hotel table/etc... numerous times and barely works.

        I'm looking to get one of these:

        http://www.eeepcssd.com/product_info.php?currency=GBP&products_id=121

        Not entirely sure if itll fit.

        Or one of these:

        http://www.memoryc.com/storage/solidstatedisk/32gbsupertalent13idepatassd.html

        We shall see I guess.

        1. Richard Ball

          Re: Still using my £120 AAO first series

          They would probably fit in and work, especially if you spend £2 on a longer ribbon from ebay.

          A year or so ago I considered exactly what you're considering, and I then chose the path described because:

          I preferred to spend my pennies on something that was generic and would fit in other machines if desired...

          Wanted to buy something that was itself in a competitive market and therefore - hopefully - would be good value for money and good performance (ahem Corsair I'm looking at you)....

          Wanted to get something that was twice the capacity for the same £60 or £70.....

          Didn't want to risk getting a small and wierd bespoke device that maybe worked poorly and was useless for other applications.

          I had decided that the machine as it was had zero monetary value (It was sitting gathering dust with dead SSD and I needed Windows) and I was confident that the SATA port was going to work for me and my soldering.

          BTW I had to use a SATA power connector too - that came from a PSU. And some hot glue to hold the wires in place. And some tape. And I had to chisel away some internal plastic lumps and bumps.

          If doing it again I'd consider soldering wires direct to the SSD rather than struggling to adapt and fit in the SATA plugs and shielded cables. Obviously contributes to the whole warranty issue.

    2. sueme2
      Linux

      Re: Still using my £120 AAO first series

      My original AAO SSD died, I replaced it with a CF card and adapter. I bought a set of flip cables, and away weee go. Do not forget the magic ferrite sleeve. Packets of flip cables are almost priceless on ebay. The adapter just fits between the MB and the case, I wrapped the tin bits in kapton. Speed is about the same as the SSD. A dual adapter and twin CF cards with software raid would work well too, but you might have to do a bit of plastic surgery. Some people use refurbed 1.78" disks, think ebay. I looked at that and decided the CF card was better for me. Similar cost. Just remember fake flash is rife on ebay.

    3. kb

      Re: Still using my £120 AAO first series

      I don't know if links are allowed here or not but memoryc has what you want, its a little pricey at $80USD but its a 32Gb SSD designed to drop into that unit, HTH.

      http://www.memoryc.com/storage/solidstatedisk/32gbsupertalent13idepatassd.html

  9. jason 7 Silver badge

    ..or a 64GB BB Playbook for £129!

    Does most of what these will be doing.

    Might be sold out by now.

  10. Richard Lloyd
    Linux

    Still using my Dell Mini 9

    I still use my Dell Mini 9 - 149 quid, Linux (Fedora 14, not the original Ubuntu), SSD (replaced with a larger/faster one admittedly), 3 USB ports, 2GB RAM, wired and wireless - much of that is beyond the spec of most tablets out there. One of the best portable machines Dell ever made, so they promptly discontinued it and brought out more expensive, bigger and heavier versions (with Windows and a hard disk - big no no on both counts) that didn't float my boat at all.

    Yes, I've now got cheap tablets in addition to the Mini 9, but the Dell machine is the only one I do anything "serious" on.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Still using my Dell Mini 9

      Agree - and my Dell Mini-9 has accessible and replaceable parts unlike the newer "slim" replacements - and for that reason in particular it's probably irreplaceable. It sits on the arm of my recliner chair as valued friend.

      For utilities sake mine is used with XP-SP3, upgraded to 2Gb RAM, a 32GB SSD, a permanently used 32GB SDHC as a storage drive unit, and semi-permanently 32GB mini-USB used as further storage.

      The SIM-free HSDPA 3G (Vodafone - spec) and WIFI may not be the latest and fastest, but under my normal circumstances they still serve well enough, whilst occasionally plugging in an Ethernet connection ensures best possible speeds for downloads and BBC iPlayer.

      It's also silent and fan-less - not without consideration, compared to using a tablet. Battery life may not be the best, but these days when actually being used out of range of a mains PSU I find I use my smartphone for some functions which in the past I needed a laptop/netbook for.

      It's a pity that Dell never made a dual-core CPU version with a better, less-power hungry graphics chip set. But the Dell-910 was discontinued back when Intel were still 'paying' manufacturers to not use AMD CPUs and chipsets, and Microsoft was bent on constricting the netbook format with a 2GB memory limitation.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Screen size Fail

    Only 2 netbooks in that list had decent screens, I own a Samsung NC10 it is a great little device but the screen resolution is appaling (1024*768). I have been quietly waiting for a netbook with a 720p or 1080p screen. My little sister did have a Sony Viao which had a fantastic screen but the fact you can't change the hard drive or the ram put me off.

    Any suggestions? Something comparable to a Intel Atom N270, accepts 2GB of ram, replacable hard drive (I have a spare SSD I would use) and a 720/1080p screen.

    I'm ignoring ultrabooks due to price and the fact they are overkill for what I need.

    1. Haku

      Re: Screen size Fail

      I got given a Samsung NC10 which has a 10" matt screen and uses 1.6 GHz Intel Atom N270 and a 2.5" SATA inside, nice little machine but the trackpad is quite annoying to use, it's smaller than an Asus 900's and they made it so flush into the plastic I keep 'missing it' by sliding my finger too far because I can't tell where the edge is, it should've been recessed like most laptops.

      I still really like my Asus EEE 900's though due to their smaller size, despite their slow 900mhz CPUs. I have a Barnes & Noble Nook arriving soon, size & price was nice and I thought it's time I looked into the tablet/Android world everyone keeps raving about, and you can't complaing about battery runtimes of up to 11 hours :)

    2. kb
      Happy

      Re: Screen size Fail

      The closest thing I've seen to what you are asking is the Asus EEE 12 series, they have 1366x768 screens and hold 8Gb of RAM. Like most notebooks you gotta pop the keyboard off to swap the HDD but there are plenty of tutorial vids so its not hard to do.

      As a bonus I know there are those out there selling touch screen replacements so if you don't mind breaking out the screwdriver you can probably find an HD replacement out there as well. But the only ones I've seen with full 1600x900 in that size are ultrabooks which are ultraexpensive.

      That said I'm quite happy with 1366x768 on my 1215B, the text is nice and clear, movies all play beautifully, and it doesn't get hot even after hours of usage. As a bonus I even play Portal and L4d and GTA:VC (the others may play, I just don't have 'em) on mine and they play just fine. I have to say these 12 inch EEEs are nice little units, only complaint I have is the glossy screen isn't fun in bright sunlight but other than that I'm happy.

  12. Crisp Silver badge

    You owe me a new monitor, keyboard and co-worker after that.

    You know what I'm talking about El Reg. That little pic of a laptop getting shot.

  13. TheTick
    Thumb Up

    Asus X101CH

    Bought one of those X101CH models recently and it's perfect if, like me, you have to delve into messy networking cabinets on a regular basis to connect up to Cisco kit. It's so light I can hold it in one hand while typing on the other and totally fanless so won't suck in any dust.

    With all the pre-installed crud stripped out and a spare ssd installed it's a perfectly acceptable web browser too.

  14. Lallabalalla
    Stop

    For those prices...

    they're a bit unuseable, seems to me. Though I've never actually tried using such a tiny screen! Unless you actually *want* something so tiny, and for doing homework/documents/powerpoints etc, for my kids I'll probably be getting a nice new Dell 15"-er for just £300.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sigh

    I like seeing these occasional netbook roundups, but it seems I'm always disappointed by the machines on offer. My expectations might be a little unrealistic, considering that I bought two Acer Aspire 1's a couple of years ago for the princely sum of €170 each. I think that I got such a good deal on them cos the shop where I bought them wanted to get rid of them thanks to the customers and sales staff not being able to get their heads around the fact that they ran Linux. For that price I got a dual core (ish) 1.6GHz cpu, 1024x600 display and ~100Gb hard drive. That's depressingly similar to many of the netbooks covered here, even though all of them cost a good bit more than the €170 I shelled out.

    At least there does seem to be some bright side to reading this review. It's nice to see that some of the machines are getting more decent display resolution, and the availability of AMD CPUs is interesting even if the actual CPUs aren't any better (the competition should hopefully spur some improvements from both sides). Still no choice but to pay the Windows tax though, so I guess I'll stick with my Aspire Ones for another year or so at least...

  16. captain veg

    hardware virtualisation support?

    Still using my ancient AA1, somewhat upgraded (SSD, more RAM) since purchase. Two things I would change: screen resolution deeper than 600px and hardware virtualisation support, which seems to be missing from pretty much all the Atoms. Anyone any experience of running VMs on the AMD chips?

    -A.

    1. sueme2
      Linux

      Re: hardware virtualisation support?

      linux vserver piece of cake. With limitations.. it will only run Linux and only run the host kernel, but I have 11 VMs doing different things. It is good for overcoming library conflicts, like when you want to use XX, which needs libxyz, and you have to use libxxyz to run your day job. Just make another vm, and install libxyz along with XX. It also allows you to run Fedora, Debian, Slackware .... simultaneously in the palm of your hand. I run vncserver and dummy network module and hashify to save drive space. Almost native performance on the old AAO.

      1. captain veg

        Re: hardware virtualisation support?

        Thanks for the tip. Alas, I need to run Windows (XP). I'd like to run it inside VirtualBox on Linux, but the performance is just not there for any non-trivial task. I was wondering whether the absence of VT-x on the Atoms is the killer, and if the AMD equivalents having AMD-V makes a big difference,

        -A.

  17. 4.1.3_U1

    Size / price / screen res

    Just looking at a few old machines I've got around here:

    1) Original eePC (7", 800x480)

    2) Acer Aspire One (10.1", 1024x600)

    3) Some 11.6" notebooks (1366x768)

    4) Some oldish Android phones 3.5-3.8" (800x480)

    The old eePC from (2007?) is a good size physically; there's too much unused space around the screen, and the resolution is too low to view many websites. Please supply link to original eePC girl on beach below this post if you've got one better than this:

    http://regmedia.co.uk/2007/06/06/asus_eeepc_2.jpg

    She still looks like the perfect netbook user; I just can't imagine her with a tablet or whatever.

    Why can't I get a netbook the size of 1) with a resolution like 3) nowadays? OK, I can get a tablet ... but I want a keyboard. Most high end phones offer a better screen resolution than netbooks. WTF?

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  20. Graeme 5

    aspire one ssd drive

    super talent make/made a drop in replacement ssd in 16gb and 32gb versions, got the 16gb last year it works fine

    you can also get an adapter to use a compact flash card instead

  21. Tim Walker
    Linux

    Eee 701SD...

    Yup - remember that little fella? 7" screen, small keys, no Win-logo on the "home" key, SSD, etc.?

    I do... in fact, three years after I bagged a refurbished 701SD, it's still going strong. I maxed out the RAM to 2GB, and it's running Arch Linux with the Fluxbox window manager (and "cairo-compmgr" for eye-candy). You'd be surprised how nippy the machine runs with that setup - I sometimes wish I could upgrade the SSD to 64GB or something with a bit more headroom, but even if I found a suitable drive, it would cost more than the machine is likely worth :-(

    One day, the Eee will dump its last core, and I have no idea what I'd replace it with... so hopefully my 701 has plenty of life in it yet. I suppose any of the machines under review would "do" - on the other hand, I'm holding out for a new generation of ARM-based netbooks. Probably in vain...

    1. Cupboard

      Re: Eee 701SD...

      We've got a 7" EEE PC at work, and it was being very useful until the charger decided it didn't really like life.

      They are very handy for programming things out and about and with the SSD you don't really need to worry about killing them so much.

      The charger would increase the battery charge by about 20% then overheat and need hitting against something to reset it (a common fault apparently). So I replaced it with a different power supply of the same specs, 9V iirc, only it lied and was putting out nearer 15V. Now the EEE has no idea what the battery's doing which is rather sad :(

  22. Leona A
    Linux

    Linux Offerings.

    When the SCC (Small Cheap Computers) first came out they were Linux offerings, now I see M$ have invaded the market and now they're all bloated expensive computers, such a shame.

    Some of those machines which just tip the £200 mark, how much cheaper would they be without the M$ Virus, worm and trojan invested bloatware.

    I would like to get a Netbook, but I'm not happy to pay for something I'm not going to use, I would rather buy it OS free and install what I want, if I wanted Windows I'd buy it, I don't want it forced on me.

    I have been thinking about what I should get, should I buy a Netbook or a Nexus 7 with a bluetooth keyboard?

    1. Cupboard

      Re: Linux Offerings.

      for personal use for me, a Linux netbook would work except I've got a 12" laptop that wasn't substantially more expensive (£400 ish for a 9 month old Thinkpad X201 last year).

      For use at work where we use a lot of software that only works on Windows, a Linux based one would be completely useless. For most of its life, our EEE PC sat in our milking parlour connected to the parlour processor and sending data from it to the computer in the office using Windows only software. When the relevant part of the parlour processor died, I got it so I didn't have to carry my 15" luggable around to programme things, again using software that only runs on Windows and struggles with Windows 7.

      Microsoft does have a part to play in this area whether you like it or not.

  23. Paratrooping Parrot
    WTF?

    I got a £300 laptop with 15 inch screen and full keyboard with number pad. It had 2 GB RAM and 160GB Hard disk. However, it is an i3 and runs for 5 hours without Wifi and 3 and half with Wifi. How come many of those netbooks cost a lot and only run for about 4 hours?

  24. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Windows is the enemy of netbooks

    First, I want to say (despite the excessive Windows) that these are good reviews, it's good to know there's still some netbooks on the market instead of just those stupid Ultrabooks.

    @Jerry, sounds like Windows failed to me, not the computer! Windows 7 is bloated. And your driver experience is typical; people tend to have this mythical belief (based on pre-installed copies of Windows) that it supports all sorts of hardware without drama, when the reality is as you've found that the out-of-the-box driver support is quite lacking. I bet if you ran a LiveUSB (yes, Ubuntu will install off USB stick) you could boot and find everything works out of the box.

    "When netbooks first came out three or four years ago, they were £229 or thereabouts. And they are STILL that sort of price. They've got slightly better specs - but that's all. They seem to be the only form of computer life which doesn't go down in price. I cannot see any good reason why they shouldn't be sub-£150 these days."

    Blame it on Windows. I have a Dell mini 10 with a Atom Z520 @ 1.33ghz on it. It had 512MB of RAM. I upgraded to 1GB solely so I could run the occasional copy of VirtualBox (yes I'm serious.) Ubuntu runs great on it. So this was like $300-400 new (I bought it used) and would probably be well under $200 by now if it were on the market. The original netbooks like this, people would either put XP or Windows crippled edition on it, then bitch incessently on how underpowered they are (phrases like "barely adequate for basic tasks" were bandied about back then) and of course about how crippled the crippled version of Windows is. They are not underpowered, Windows is just too bloated for it! (Well the CPU *is* weak, but I don't have to wait for it even if I have a video playing as well as everything else.) They started phasing out the Linux models, then the specs started going up and up and up... dual core processors, higher clock speeds, more RAM, more storage, faster chipsets, and so on, instead of more modest increases but a decrease in price.

    "It would be interesting to see what would happen if Asus or Acer were to produce a fairly minimal spec box for £149. I reckon it would fly off the shelves."

    People would bitch at how bad 7 runs on it, instead of running ones with Ubuntu or something that would run great on it. I'd love this too. My ma just got a Asus with a single-core 1.6ghz Atom, 512MB (I think?) for $120 at the pawn shop. It was less than 6 months old, they ditched it because the copy of 7 crippled edition ran like absolute shit on it. I immediately wiped it for Ubuntu and it ran fast and supported all the hardware right out of the box. I do wish that Penguin Systems or someone did just this, sell some nice cheap netbooks with a nice cheap Linux distro on it.

    1. Cupboard

      Re: Windows is the enemy of netbooks

      I actually disagree with the notion that XP runs like crap on them. Sure, it probably does if you're trying to do lots of things at once but that would be the same with any OS. The fact is though on the lowly 7" EEE that I've used, with 512MB ram and a 900MHz Intel Celery, XP was no problem at all. It just worked.

  25. PaulVD
    Go

    Windows is not the enemy of netbooks

    I don't understand the complaint about netbooks being underpowered. My old Samsung N140 (Atom N280 at 1.6GHz, 2GB RAM) runs Win7 Ultimate 32-bit just fine. The original Win7 starter + crapware quickly got annoying, and I eventually replaced the 250GB(?) disk with an 80GB SSD, of which I use less than half - this improves battery life a lot and improves performance a little. I run Office including Access, statistical analysis with Mathematica and R, VBA programming, and basically all the same stuff that I run on my desktops. Yes, some operations that take 10msec on a fast desktop take 30msec on the netbook, but you usually need a timer to notice the difference.

    Of course, I could have bought a full laptop for the money I spent upgrading, except for two points: (1) Every manufacturer seems to supply Windows + crapware preinstalled, and there is no way to thoroughly remove the crapware and get decent performance from Windows except to install a clean copy direct from Redmond. So that upgrade is necessary on a laptop anyway. (2) Laptops are too big to fit properly in front of the next seat on a train/plane/bus, where I do much of my work.

    Modern machines, even netbooks, seem easily powerful enough for the things I do. I wouldn't try video editing on one, of course, and I don't play games. My complaints are the crippled screen resolution and the fact that opening a Sammy case to upgrade is difficult and dangerous. But this line-up shows that there are netbooks out there now with reasonable screens, so maybe it's time to upgrade. (I'd still transfer across my SSD and my proper Windows, though.)

    1. PaulVD

      Re: Windows is not the enemy of netbooks

      An afterthought: in case of theft, my netbook's hard drive is completely encrypted using TrueCrypt. So everything, including the operating system files, has to be decrypted on the fly, which is a tax that I don't impose on my desktop machines. Even with that overhead, the netbook's performance is perfectly adequate.

  26. Bsquared

    Netbooks are awesome. I keep looking at tablets, doing the research and then thinking "Nope. But I wish my netbook performed better"

    Since there are lots of netbook gurus in this thread, maybe someone can advise:

    I've got an Asus 1005PE with 2Gb RAM and Win7 starter. It's a beautiful piece of engineering, quick to boot and awake from sleep, 10hrs+ battery life, nice screen+keyboard. Really liked the little Splashtop OS with the alternative power button, back when it actually bloody worked, that is.

    BUT....... in Windows it is very unresponsive at times. When opening apps, or new web pages, especially ones with lots of ads and trackers (yeah, that's right, Grauniad, I'm looking at you) it will just hang for 5-10s. No mouse or keyboard response, nothing. It's got to the point where I was ready to spend $$$ and get an ultrabook.

    I assumed this unresponsiveness was because the netbook runs an Atom, but is it possible that this is entirely the fault of Windows 7 Starter? I don't have a problem with Starter, it does everything I need for this netbook, and I assumed that it was cut-down enough to run OK on this hardware (with my 2Gb RAM upgrade, note). Upgrading to a full-fat version of Win7 sounded like it would be playing Buckaroo with my limited hardware platform.

    It's well out of warranty, so I'm happy to reformat and throw on Linux. Except I do use this machine to play Powerpoint presentations when I give talks. How does LibreOffice handle Powerpoint 2010? I don't need to edit them, just play them.

    1. kb
      Thumb Up

      I'm sure this will sound like a plug..

      But this is just coming from someone that loves this bit of software and seen what it can do. download the trial of "TuneUp Utilities" and run it and see if that don't give it a nice kick in the pants. Well worth the $30 IMHO and I've tried the free stuff and nothing seems to come close.

      See it has not only tools that will auto clean the reg of crud (WinRot caused by bad programs leaving garbage reg entries) and other niceties but it has this little app built in called "Turbo Mode" that will monitor and if one app starts just pounding the CPU it'll drop its prioity level and give you back control of the machine.

      But I've had customers with similar units to yours, with similar complaints, and they are happy little campers with TuneUp onboard. Even with my E350 which has more kick than an Atom TuneUp helps when you run into a nasty web page or program that tries to slam the CPU.

      My other bit of advice would be to switch browsers to something a little more netbook friendly, I use Comodo Dragon with Adblock Plus installed and its positively zippy on a netbook. as a plus it lets you use Comodo Secure DNS just in the browser, which shuts down malware sites and infected ad servers to keep you safe.

      TuneUp and Comodo, nice to have on netbooks.

    2. dajames Silver badge
      Angel

      @Bsquared

      Since there are lots of netbook gurus in this thread, maybe someone can advise:

      It's a little off-topic, but ...

      I've got an Asus 1005PE with 2Gb RAM and Win7 starter.

      [snip]

      I don't have a problem with Starter, it does everything I need for this netbook, and I assumed that it was cut-down enough to run OK on this hardware (with my 2Gb RAM upgrade, note). Upgrading to a full-fat version of Win7 sounded like it would be playing Buckaroo with my limited hardware platform.

      The main point about the "starter" edition is that in order to sell it cheaply enough for low-end systems like netbooks MS have limited it to handling 2GB of RAM. It doesn't have Aero or a few other things that Home Premium does ... but the main 'feature' is that artificially imposed 2GB limit. Note that the video hardware in a netbook may not be able to run Aero anyway.

      2GB is plenty to run "full fat" Win7 and at least one application -- but do you need it? I doubt that it will fix your latency problem.

      How does LibreOffice handle Powerpoint 2010? I don't need to edit them, just play them.

      LibreOffice has a presentation program called "Impress". It can read (and edit) PowerPoint files, and I've not had any problems with it ... but I don't do any very fancy presentation work. The best thing is to try it -- download the Windows version of LibreOffice and see how well it handles your PowerPoint files.

  27. Archimedes_Circle
    Thumb Up

    I find it a drop in replacement, ymmv. Better choice would be dualboot and just mount the ntfs partition and run everything. Worse case you have to delete the partition afterwards.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    "Lenovo's entry into the 11.6in netbook segment "

    Erm, that's the NOTEBOOK segment, not netbook. Duh.

  29. Prof Denzil Dexter
    Thumb Up

    Thumbs up for the Acer AO 725

    Bought one a few weeks ago and been pleasantly surprised. You can shop around and get this for around £250 which I was pretty happy with. Worth noting my 725 came with 2gig of RAM not the 4 gig quoted, but little over tenner for the upgrade and very easy to swap out the module as the panel on the back reveals memory, CPU and HDD.

    Was tempted by the new nexus tab instead but I waited for my kid brother to buy one first. they're a very nice bit of kit, but just a wee bit to small to do regular work on for my liking. The 725 is light., compact, screen res is much better that most of the competition and the 11.6" suits me better than the 10.2" screen on a lot of netbooks.

    Battery life is reasonable, 4-5 hours pretty standard so far. This comes with a USB 3 port too which a lot of others don't. Not strictly necessary but a nice touch.

    My only gripe is the lack of bluetooth, which means i need to buy some new speakers. Not exactly a biggie

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      Re: Thumbs up for the Acer AO 725

      I got a cheap little bluetooth gongle (from the pound shop, of all places!) which dealt with that omission nicely on mine. YMMV but it might be worth a try with very little to loose. It's small enough to leave in permanently, and thus far has survived several business trips.

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