Until recently, I hadn’t considered purchasing a netbook, a smaller, lighter version of a laptop.
My partner, Clive, subscribes to two Australian computer magazines, and we’ve talked on and off for some time about netbooks as an option for travel. While Clive is a multi-media power user (I call him my IT guru), my computing demands are simple. I use the Internet extensively for personal business and pleasure, and only need basic word processing, spreadsheet, and photograph management functionality to be productive and happy.
After casually looking at netbooks in various computer stores, I always concluded that despite being lightweight and ultra-portable, they were just too small. That was until a few days ago, when an HP Mini 1001TU caught my eye.
“Look at this,” I said to Clive. The screen seemed much larger than others we’d seen. And the keys on the keyboard were full size, not the teensy ones I knew my long fingers wouldn’t like.
“I think that one is on the PC Authority A-list,” he said. I was suddenly very, very interested in this netbook, for upcoming trips to Europe and the U.S.
“Let’s do the research,” the IT guru said.
So Many Choices
Clive is able to absorb and synthesise all the different features and specifications of various computer models. Whether we’re talking desktops, laptops, netbooks, mobile phones, or music devices, I get overwhelmed with the number of choices available.
I wanted a model with the larger, 10” screen, full-size keys, and good price performance based on research and reviews. For travel and moving around, I also wanted the lightest weight possible and good battery life.
The search quickly narrowed down to two.
HP Mini 1001TU and Asus Eee PC 1000H
I saw the HP first, then the Asus, which comes in white or black. Here’s my comparison of features I care about:
· Both: 10-inch screen (HP actually 10.2”)
· Both: keyboard with full-size keys
· Both: memory 1GB
· Weight: HP 1.1kg, Asus 1.45kg – plus for the HP
· Battery life: HP 2+ hours, Asus 6+ hours – huge plus for Asus
· Hard disk drive: HP 60GB, Asus 160GB – a big difference, but either is adequate for me
· USB ports: HP-2, Asus-3. I don’t mind using a USB extender, but it’s one more thing to carry, so a plus for Asus. When travelling, I use mobile Internet (which I wrote about here) a digital camera cable, a memory stick for interim backups, and a mouse and printer in Paris.
· Look and feel: HP very sleek, Asus in white not as flash-looking to me but has a different, ‘cool’ look
· Price in AUD: HP $694 after $100 cashback, Asus $791. We shopped around and found prices for the same model varied by as much as $200.
I was leaning to the Asus, despite its higher cost and weight, because of its significant advantage in battery life. The third USB port was also a plus.
The Importance of Individual Keys
The PC Authority Asus review states ‘only one major gripe – the tiny and poorly placed right Shift key’. I’ve never used the right Shift key, so this didn’t worry me. But I thought I’d better look more closely at both the HP and Asus keyboards before buying.
To my surprise, I found that on the HP keyboard, the arrow keys are reduced to half-keys. The right Shift key, which I never use, is massive, but the up and down (and right and left) arrows, which I use a million times a day, are tiny.
When I did a hands-on in the store, I also realised the Asus keyboard has a slightly wider space below the keys, where I sometimes rest the base of my hands when typing. It felt more comfortable.
Back to the A-List
As it turned out, the Asus model was number one on the A-list mentioned by the IT guru. The review says about the Asus, “Six hours of battery life is impressive (and unmatched)”. The HP is number two, and the review says, “This is the netbook you’ll have to hide from your friends.”
I felt either model would be a winner, and decided to go with the Asus.
It’s a Girl Thing
Every desktop, laptop, and mobile phone I’ve ever had was/is basic black. I’ve felt they were good-looking, practical, and professional.
But I left my corporate life in 2008, so thought I would start 2009 by doing something daring (for me): buy a white netbook.
I’m so excited! I love it already, and can’t wait to put it into a shoulder bag and set off on our next trip.
Related post: A Passion for Travel, Part 5: Travel Technology