I'm considering buying one of those netbook mini-laptops for my daughter. Can they do everything that the larger laptops do? Can you recommend any specific mini laptop models?
Is a Netbook Right For You?
Recently several companies have been coming out with a new breed of laptop, the netbook, or mini-laptop. Weighing in usually at about 2 pounds and about the size of a trade paperback, the mini-laptop can be easier to carry around and can look pretty slick.
It seems to have started with the One Laptop Per Child project, where laptops were made smaller and cheaper, with a goal of selling for $100 per unit in third-world countries. Companies are now banking on the idea that they might be able to sell more if they strip down their laptops to the essentials, and offer these netbooks at lower prices. It does seem to be working. Some of Amazon's top selling laptops lately have been these mini-laptops.
But are they worth the price, and can a mini replace your standard laptop?
Mini-Laptops: What Features Do They Have?
Most of the appeal in mini-laptops seems to come from the smaller footprint and the smaller price tag. Netbook displays range in size from 7-10 inches, and typically include a built-in webcam. Generally, the minis weigh in at just 2-3 pounds, which is definitely lightweight. My Sony VAIO laptop weighs 11 pounds, for comparison. Most have wireless capability, a network jack and a couple USB ports, and an SD card reader for transferring photos.
Prices start at $299 for some of these bite size computers, but they're not going to do everything a standard laptop or desktop can do. So you can use them for basic tasks such as word processing and web browsing, but don't expect them to perform well as gaming machines or entertainment centers.
You should be aware that some of the low-end netbooks come with Linux instead of Windows XP. This does knock off about $100 from the price (Linux is a free operating system) but it rules out running any Windows-specific software on the machine. Of course Linux comes with a web browser, email program and word processing software, but there may be a bit of a learning curve since it's not what you're used to using.
Who Should Buy a Mini-Laptop?
Unfortunately, a netbook probably won't replace your standard laptop or computer, unless your needs are very basic. Mini-laptops are really stripped down when it comes to hard drive space. Usually the amount of space is about 8 to 20 Gigabytes, but some have as little as 2GB. So you won't be able to store a lot of photos, videos, or emails.
There usually isn't a CD or DVD Rom either, so you won't be able to use it to watch movies. In fact, you might not be able to use it for much else besides email, word processing and casual web browsing.
These little devices might be helpful, though, for the low-budget consumer who needs just the basics and wants a lower price. I can almost hear George Foreman saying "I'm NOT gonna pay a lot for this laptop!" A mini-laptop might also be a good idea for kids who don't actually need a full laptop.
One other group that might find the mini-laptop attractive is business travelers. I recently took my XO laptop on a trip and found that it was perfect for keeping up with my Gmail and visiting a few websites. For people who need high performance, through, you'll probably still need to stick with a standard laptop.
The Options: Mini-Laptop Mini-ReviewsSo there are several versions of the mini-laptops currently available. The first is the Asus Eee PC 4G system. The price started at about $399 and it had 512MB of RAM. It's noted to be about the size of a paperback book and lightweight. It might be a little too small for most adults, the keyboard is really small. The company released another version of the Eee, that runs Windows XP and they made it slightly larger, and then the price went up a little too, to about $549. It is still on the small side though to keep it in the mini-laptop category.
Micro-Star International also came out with the MSI Wind, which packed on more CPU, 2GB of RAM and stretching the screen out a little, and then they gave it a mega 80GB hard drive. It is still supposed to sell for cheap at $399. Acer also has their own version with the Aspire One, still as powerful as the MSI Wind, though a little trimmer and looks good. It comes with Linux preinstalled and priced at about $400.
You'll also find the HP 2133 Mini-Note PC which is sleek looking, and is now boasting 120 GB of hard drive space and comes with Bluetooth capability. Dell also came into the mini-laptop market with the Inspiron Mini. The Inspiron also comes with Linux preinstalled, only 4 Gigabytes of hard drive space, but promises that you will get free online hard drive space from Box.com.
There are plenty of options in the various types of mini-laptops. Are they worth the money? You do get what you pay for. The lower prices means you will sacrifice some functionality and you might be limited on storage and power. However, it seems to be working well when marketed for younger kids, or for those people who really don't need all the extra features that standard laptop computers have.
Do you own a mini-laptop? Tell us about yours by posting a comment below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 4 Nov 2008
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Most recent comments on "Mini Laptops"(See all 35 comments for this article.)
25 Nov 2008
I beg to inform you that I regularly watch film DVDs on my EeePC; it is just a matter of running DVDRip to transfer the film onto a SD card, and the films thus transfred are less fragile and less bulky to carry around than the original DVDs.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Clever solution! But if I may nitpic, you're not really watching a DVD, you're watching an SD card. :-)
25 Nov 2008
OK, so I'm not really a prude, but since I read this newsletter at work the cheesecake picture is a problem. Nice looking women, but the picture doesn't give me more information on the topic, but does make me wary of opening more newsletters from Bob. My mantra about graphics, particularly on the web, is "educate don't decorate!"
EDITOR'S NOTE: Of course the photo is educational, It shows the size of the laptop relative to other objects. :-) But to avoid the appearance of impropriety, I've replaced it with another photo.
27 Nov 2008
I bought an eeepc for my son. It as 16Gb of memory + an additional 8GB with a plug in SD card. Make sure you convert yours to run in Advanced mode (details can be found on the internet [Google: Advanced mode eeepc]). Absolutely perfect for hacking. Very robust as well since it does not have a hard disk.
28 Nov 2008
I have an Acer Aspire One with XP and a 160 GB hard disc. There is much talk about small keyboards, but for female hands I think they are OK. It is my third notebook but the first I really can carry with me. Next I will puchase the 6 cell battery!
30 Jan 2009
You did not comment of the battery life or power consumption issues on these so called palm top computers. Surely the readers would like to know more on this very important issue also.
25 Feb 2009
hey, what about the lenovo ideapad??? i got it on ebay for $320.00 and it is perfect for those long waits for appointments etc...
25 Feb 2009
Hi, Bob. My wife and I each have an Acer Aspire One. For $349, it came with a 160 gb hard drive, Windows XP Home and 1 gb of RAM. While Mrs. Flynn is still getting used to the keyboard on it, I've found it has nearly replaced my WM 5.0 PDA for work and home.
I'm currently dual booting Windows XP Professional and Linpus Linux Lite on it (the Linpus Linux is the distribution that comes with the Linux versions of the AA1). We use it for website editing, older games (Doom runs great on it), word processing, and I even do some light .NET programming. Solid little machine. =)
25 Feb 2009
I got one of the early eeePCs and it serves its purpose perfectly. We primarily use it while traveling and it was the lack of a hard drive that caught our attention. It was ideal during our recent trip to South Africa. I bought the extra travel chargers and in Kruger Park, my husband plugged it into the cigarette lighter and was able to do "on the scene" journaling. I am not a geek and have not tinkered with the original Linux installation but everything "just works" - even the $6.50 flexible keyboard.
25 Feb 2009
I have a MSI Wind Notebook which I really love. I have 2gb memory and an 80 gb hard disk, though the one I bought for my daughter has 160 gb hard disk. The 6 cell battery lasts over 4 hours.
The great advantage is the portability and isn't that the whole point of notebooks/laptops? - I'm a teacher and I take it with me to all my classes - in addition to books - so I really need something light. It comes with Windows XP and I although I ran it at first with Office 2003 - I recently upgraded to Office 2007. The advantage of 2007 is that I can hide all the tabs (with F1) and just have the quick access ribbon at the top - leaving more screen space for my documents.
However, it is a bit slow to open the Office 2007 programs initially. I've overcome that problem by keeping Word and Excel open all the time and hibernating the computer instead of turning it off.
The keypad takes a bit getting used to - at first I found my cursor jumping around a bit, especially when I pushed the shift key, but now I've gotten used to it and have no trouble.
I don't find not having a CD a problem. I bought the external CD to load on Office, but who needs to lug a CD around all day? Of course I used the same external CD to install Office for my daughter when I bought her a Wind.I imagine that there are plenty of ways to get these programs installed without purchasing the external CD - though the external CD is pretty cheap.
Personally, I wouldn't go for a screen smaller than 10 inches - which is what the MSI Wind has. I get along with the 10 inch screen by using the Zoom features of Office and my browser. I did come across 2 programs that were not able to run on the small screen without changing the screen resolution. (one program actually changes the resolution when it loads - with the other program, I had to change the resolution manually). They are both programs used by teachers. (Lesson Plan and Mashov). the only other time I had to change the resolution was to view a web page called COCA (a site for doing corpus searches of words).
When the desktop in my house is free, I still prefer to work there, but I often work all day on my notebook with no problem at all.
25 Feb 2009
I've had a Samsung NC10 for a few weeks. It's got a 10" screen, 94% size keyboard and a 160Gbyte hard disk. I upgraded the memory from 1 to 2 Gbyte. It comes with Windows XP but I partitioned the disk and am running Linux Ubuntu 8.10 in the other partition.
So far, I'm fairly happy. I just figured out how to use an external monitor at 1024x768 although it will require some tweaks to go above that for now. I plan to buy an external CD/DVD reader/writer for it. I back it up over my home network using Dirvish.
My plan is to use this as my main computing platform. I'm not a computer-game player so I think the performance will be adequate and I like the idea of being able to take all of my files and programs with me when I am away from home.
25 Feb 2009
When the Acer Aspire One first came to Newegg, I bought one as a $319 impulse gift for my wife. At that time they sold only the Linpus Linux version. After checking it out I decided she would never tolerate using Linpus and ordered her the $413 Windows XP Home version. I kept the Linux one as a toy for myself. I can live with it, but at least 9 out of 10 people would be better off with XP.
Both ours are 3-cell battery versions, one has 512MB RAM and an 8GB SSD with Linux, the other has 1GB RAM and a 120GB HDD with XP Home. Both run 2 to 2-1/2 hours on battery before abruptly shutting down.
I could live with the XP version as my only PC if I had to. I have average sized hands for a 6 ft 1 inch man and the keyboard size is OK as long as I'm careful. Mine fits perfectly into the smallest pocket of my backpack and I couldn't tolerate it being even slightly wider or higher.
If your vision is up to the challenge, the portability of the 8.9 inch PCs is a real advantage. Rumor is the Aspire One 10" is going to replace the smaller one, so if you want the a very compact netbook maybe you shouldn't wait too long. Both the 8.9 inch screen Aspire One XP and the somewhat porkier ASUS Eee XP have been available for $299-$339 recently.
27 Feb 2009
I have the Asus eee with 160 GB hard drive. It's not really net book it's an ultra portable do almost anything computer. I could never use it as my only computer. I lecture in a few universities and it is my portable office and entertainment system. I use it for powerpoint and video clips over a video projector. I just download whatever I want from my home network or via usb stick.
The keyboard is small but it beats a palm or pocket pc.
27 Feb 2009
As a birthday present, I gave my daughter an Acer Aspire One with XP and a 160 GB hard disc. She also has an HP Laptop and a ton of other "stuff" to lug around (worksheets, schedules, supplies for the kids and herself, etc). She's now had a chance to "make her choice" and I was pleased to hear the HP is gathering dust "back at the Ranch". I guess I did another thing "right".
As a wishlist, I would want to be sure to get the 6-cell, "Heavy Duty" battery and I would pay extra for a USB modem for those inexpensive Dial-Up accounts. I currently have Cable Broadband and it sure is "pretty"; but, as you well know, "Pretty is as Pretty does" and my ISP is in the TV business - they could care less about my internet Experience and Connectivity.
The Atom processor is a dream with its lack of heat buildup. Obviously, the lower level of heat is a hint of longer battery life. It makes it more pleasant to work with as well. I question whether it will be compatible with any newer version of Windows - it probably would need more RAM and possibly a different CPU. For use with linux it should be an excellent, very portable choice for some time to come.
28 Feb 2009
I have 2 Asus netbooks. I bought the 7" model on ebay - it came fully loaded with Office and a few games; the software runs from an SD card. It's tiny, but usable - in fact, I lent it to a friend who was hospitalized for 2 weeks and it saved her from being bored to tears.
I use the 10" model as my main PC for home - it has XP, 1 Gig of RAM, and 160 Gig hard drive. I bought an external CD drive for software installation. So far, it's worked as well as my old Sony Vaio laptop.
06 Mar 2009
I don't think you are giving Netbooks enough credit. With the "Cloud Computing" storm on the virtual horizon, the Netbooks seem to fill a much needed niche in size, cost, and performance.
My $400 MSI Wind gets me 7.5 hours battery life with XP Home. Remarkably fast with 2GB of RAM. The multicard reader, 160GB drive, and "N" connectivity provides much more flexibility and usability than I really expected.
Utilizing Google and Windows Live web services helps provide an early look at what the future holds for personal computing. I, for one, am incredibly pleased with my Netbook experience.
17 Apr 2009
When DSL finally came our way, it came with a Dell Inspirion 9 mini laptop, we only had to pay $45 for shipping. It has been a lifesaver for me as I am a transcriptionist who works at home, but with three of my kids in three different sports have lately found myself away from my desktop for extended periods.
The mini only has an 8GB hard disk, but I am able to have my transcription, word expansion, calandar, and syncronizing software all on it. I have a 160GB external portable hard drive, but have found that an 8GB SD card holds what I need for now and has the advantage of disappearing into the mini and not drawing power as the external drive does. I plug a regular keyboard into with an adapter that plugs into a USB port.
I did need to turn off automatic updates and am fanatic about cleaning the hard disk regularly and taking off my space guzzling audio files as soon as I am done with them. The only thing I need now is to get MS Word on it as using Works is a pain. I guess I need either an external CD or USB bridge cable in order to install it.
The wifi connection to the internet has been great. I can play music from it while washing dishes and stay available for work on yahoo messenger. I can also use to stay available for work while playing board games with my kids, rather than feeling like I need to be sitting in front of my desktop in case something comes up. My kids have also been able to use it play games or do papers for school while riding in the car. I'd love a bigger hard drive, but other than that, I can't complain, especially for it being a gimmee with my internet service.
25 Aug 2009
I am looking for a tiny laptop which is about the size of a piece of an A4 piece of paper and so light that I can carry in my work bag. All I want it do is word processing. Is there such an item on the market? If so where can I get it from?
EDITOR'S NOTE: There are plenty of 9-inch netbooks on the market. Asus, Dell, and HP make them. Want something smaller? See the UMID MBook, which is 6.2 x 3.7 inches.
19 Sep 2010
I love my mini netbook. I purchased a custom unit from Only Netbooks (http://onlynetbooks.com) and I use it for college. It is a very basic machine, but with WiFi and Office I'm all set for the $99 price. It is lightweight, with the smaller keyboard, but its small size makes it easy to carry around. I recommend it to everyone. Good luck.
03 Nov 2010
I have a fabulous Toshiba N400. Nice, cute, black and cute. There is a msculinity it carries. Do not underestimate the Toshiba.
25 Mar 2012
how can I download majic jack on to EPC minibook?? computer does not do it automatically when the majic jack device when it is plugged in..