Mini-Me, the Netbook Experience

January 31, 2010 at 12:23 am Leave a comment

LAS VEGAS — Before Las Vegas and CES I’d only heard of netbooks, and at this moment, I’m typing away on one: specifically the Samsung N210 Pearl, having picked one up at a local Las Vegas Best Buy at the close of CES. But getting one proved not only confusing, but frustrating. Remember that all netbooks are not the same. Let me save you that trouble.

If you’re not familiar with netbooks or not sure if this is for you, here’s the main concept:

For travellers, whether between continents, cities, sitting on a bus or train, in a restaurant (even with low lighting), at work or school and home, the netbook is the ultimate in convenience. It is very much a scaled down laptop (notebook) but identical in look and basic functions. Its weight is generally between 1.2 and 3lbs., so besides being very light, it slips into schoolbags, knapsacks, and even your purse (while in a sleeve). Its main advantages are portability and ease of use, even in cramped spaces. Furthermore, it’s affordable for students and as an additional tool for owners of laptops or desktops. I wish I’d had it at the conference – blogging on it would have been a real convenience.

The other great features on this unit and others include a battery life of up to 11 hrs or more, built in webcam, WiFI, Bluetooth, a VGA port and 3 USB 2.0 ports. As a student that battery life is critical when I’m stuck at school, often from 8:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., and then can still hang out a Second Cup with friends while doing homework. Travellers will appreciate that ability more so especially with heightened security at airports creating not only delays, cancelled flights and lengthy lines for a second security screening but when you inevitably end up missing your flight the wait can be made less painful. Some 70 people missed our connecting flight on the way to CES (we got in with 20 seconds to spare. The luggage was not so lucky). And I’ve heard my Mother mention more than once the “almost” fist fights over the rare electrical outlets in many airports.

A feature that I’ve seen only on my best friend’s Mac allows me to use my touch pad to increase my viewing size of a document with my two fingers. My notebook doesn’t do it and is helpful when editing in lower light.

Surprisingly, some netbooks I saw even have a slot for SD cards which means easy insertion of photos and video. And on that note….

The screen size didn’t present any issues. The video card provides very comfortable viewing for typing documents or checking messages on the net. While mine is 10.1”, some offer even slightly larger screen sizes (12”).

There is definitely a downside to netbooks. Among them is the memory (1GB) which limits applications that recommend 1GB or better with the” or better” a big hint. The Intel Atom processor, which is not your high-end premium chip, also means that between the two, using intensive applications, something like a multimedia development software, may be too time consuming between tweaking a page and seeing what the end product looks like. That would also tie into the issue of graphics, which while good for the basics, is limited.

Note to guys. No gaming allowed. This is not your World of Warcraft smack down device.

Bigger No No!

Well, if it’s tiny it has to have some limitations and this one does bother me: NO DVD drive. Ouch! That means using an external device to be able to watch movies or listening to music (not logical). Option: download (meaning paying to play, like ITunes or Netflix) or loading each movie onto the hard drive one by one (annoying).

But more confusion was yet to come.

At Best Buy they all came with Windows Starter, a product I hadn’t even heard of, as Microsoft’s web site explained it’s a U.S. version for netbooks only, and is supposed to speed up the Windows 7 experience. The sales person advised me that I had to upgrade the Starter version or risk not running Office 2007. That simply isn’t true. They practically scare you into believing that you can’t use the machine until you do so. Luckily I had a more experienced technical person with me and we left the store, but not after actually running the installation program so that we were sure it was in good working order. Smart move.

Back at the hotel it has been working for almost 24 hours and I love the keyboard design and look. Yes, girls go for looks too: just ask the fashion industry. And some vendors (see blog “Designer Tech”) even allow you to design and print your own sleeve cover. This is not unexpected and goes along with the concept of a coffee mug my friend Marley had done for me with our pictures on it for my birthday. Obviously technology has been behind a whole new industry of ‘personalized” items that even a college student can afford.

Netbooks also had another key target market, the web surfer. Case in point is my cousin who asked me during the holidays if a netbook would be a good idea. Michael really wanted to sit in front of the TV with his wife and surf sites but not even check e-mail (he isn’t even on Facebook). It also would travel with them to the cottage and to friends’ places where hooking up locally to a network would be extremely easy and, albeit clumsily, they could load their music and videos. In that case, the netbook was absolutely a great choice. Even when he did get more active this device was still going to be more than sufficient. That made me realize that for the older generation this was also a smart option. The weight of the machine alone would be a plus and surfing the web and catching up on family photos would be simple and the compact size and design would save on space for people in small apartments.

On a final note, so much of what we do is going into the cloud, having applications and data that sit on and are accessible from the internet rather than on your desktop or other device means that this little piece of hardware will probably continue its upward wave of popularity for some time to come.

And wait unil Lenovo’s Idea U1 hybrid becomes out in the early second half of 2010. It’s neither a laptop, netbook or notebook but it certainly is a whole lot more, very lightweight and may push the business user (not so fast on the consumer, in my opinion) to drop down the credit card for what will be even a far more exciting experience.

This blog was written by Genevieve L’Esperance, a 17-year-old visiting CES for the first time. Make sure to check out her blogs continuing next week.


Entry filed under: ToyBox.

3D… Coming to a Living Room near You Say Cheese! and be seen

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