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Old 12-12-08, 09:55 PM   #1
no1mad
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Laptop or Netbook?

Hiya, everybody! I need a little bit of advice, and I think this is the appropriate non-cycling specific forum to post in.

I find myself jonesing for a new computer. My old laptop (Acer, which I gave to my step-teen) is dead. My current laptop (also Acer) is having issues. The cooling fan seems to be on permanent vacation, and I'm starting to have software/memory conflicts as well. I had to set up a profile for the teen so that she could enter some literature contest. She also likes to download music, which she turns around and uploads the music after recording herself signing (as in sign language).

Any way, I need a new computer, 'cuz I don't know how long it will be before this one melts. I tried to make it all semester (first semester back in 12 years!) w/o lugging my laptop, just using the flashdrive between home and school. Unfortunately, next semesters class schedule dictates that I carry one with me.

Any suggestions on what I should keeping an eye out for? I don't really burn discs, but occasionally I do like to read a disc, so maybe a net book is not the way to go? I would like something that can take some abuse, and not take all of my financial aid.
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Old 12-12-08, 10:09 PM   #2
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Instead of buying a new computer (unless you want the latest and greatest hardware), just replace the fan and the RAM. You can get both for less than $50. What model Acer is it?
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Old 12-12-08, 10:41 PM   #3
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I agree with Hickeydog on this one, though if you don't have someone that will do it for you for cheap, then investing in a Netbook would actually be a wiser choice.
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Old 12-12-08, 10:46 PM   #4
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Add another vote.

Older laptops can be revived and streamlined to work very well, as well as a more hardware-limited netbook. I also see it as more friendly to the environment to get the most usage possible out of electronics.

If you want some coaching on how you can do this yourself, BF has no shortage of comp geeks.
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Old 12-12-08, 11:58 PM   #5
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I am going to respectfully cast a No.

If you're going to be lugging around some sort of computer on campus, chances are you're going to be mostly "cloud computing" -- relying on Internet services for most of your work outside editing and so on. I'm sure you can / could do this just fine with your current laptop (once fixed), but the real advantage to a new netbook is portability.

You might think that whining about 2 or 3 pounds and a slightly smaller footprint is rubbish. However, getting a feel for just how much better the ratio of portability to comfort is in a netbook vs a laptop is something you need to see to believe. These critters really are tiny, but if you shop carefully you can find one that has a very comfortable keyboard.

Anyhow, I still recommend fixing up the old laptop just because it's not very expensive. Learn to solder in a new fan if you feel semi-ambitious; throw in another GB of RAM and a fresh copy of your OS of choice and it will be back to new again. However there is a strong possibility you will appreciate the portability of a smaller, simpler machine in your bag.

My recommendation is the MSI Wind 100 (the 120 is coming out soon). You can find it with a 3-cell battery for $350, but you'll be much happier with a 6-cell battery (3.5 hours with constant WIFI).

I cannot recommend netbooks with SSD because they often use very low-quality drives, where the speed is terrible. The HP mini, my otherwise favorite, is doomed due to this.
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Old 12-13-08, 04:36 AM   #6
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Old 12-13-08, 05:28 AM   #7
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Not all netbooks are the same quality, it depends upon which brand/model laptop you buy. The MSI and Dell ones don't have anywhere near the quality of the Asus models. The SSD on the eeePC boots up Linux in less than 10-seconds or WinXP in about 25-sec.

My new Sony VGN-TT198U with 256gb SSD drive is wicked fast. Boots up WinXP in less than 20-seconds and Photoshop and Premiere zips along faster than all my desktops (except for the ones hooked up to the EVA5000). Weights about 3.5 lbs with 11.1" screen. It's about the size of a netbook with full laptop features like gigabit LAN, WiFi and 3g mobile broadband all built-in. Loaded with 4gb RAM, Firewire, BluRay player, HDMI outputs for HD-TVs. Although I prefer to stream videos to my TV through Wifi rather than hooking up cables.

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Old 12-13-08, 06:40 AM   #8
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Well, assuming the primary use for this device is note-taking and mobility/light weight is key, then I'd recommend a Palm-like device (Z22, ~$90) with an external, folding keyboard (Palm Universal, ~$30). The combo unit is very small, very lightweight, the batteries last for hours, and the hit on your wallet/pocketbook would be lighter.

If, on the other hand, you need to run office productivity apps (aka OpenOffice or MS Office) and surf the web and don't mind the additional size/weight, I'd recommend a six-cell based netbook. Most of the units out today (Dell Mini & Lenovo IdeaPad S10 are two examples) come with a 3-cell battery which I suspect you'd find disappointing. A 6-cell battery (as mentioned above) would be a better bet. The biggest caution about this devices (IMHO) is their size. Yes, they're small and lightweight. But that also means the manufacturers have to downsize the keyboards. Those with small hands and/or who type with two fingers don't tend to care. Folks with large hands and/or are touch typists (cough, cough), on the other hand, can find these diminutive input devices maddening. So...I highly recommend you visit a store and try typing out a few sentences before making a commitment.

Lastly, if you're looking to use the machine to be a desktop replacement (i.e., gaming, video editing, etc. thrown into the mix), then I'd have to recommend a slender full-featured laptop. Yes, they're more expensive, but they also come with much better performance and battery life.

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Old 12-13-08, 07:37 AM   #9
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I have four laptops and a MSI Wind netbook that I now use for business trips. I think netbooks are the bees knees. For what I use it for, I can live without an optical drive until I get back home.
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Old 12-13-08, 10:53 AM   #10
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Not all netbooks are the same quality, it depends upon which brand/model laptop you buy. The MSI and Dell ones don't have anywhere near the quality of the Asus models. The SSD on the eeePC boots up Linux in less than 10-seconds or WinXP in about 25-sec.

My new Sony VGN-TT198U with 256gb SSD drive is wicked fast. Boots up WinXP in less than 20-seconds and Photoshop and Premiere zips along faster than all my desktops (except for the ones hooked up to the EVA5000). Weights about 3.5 lbs with 11.1" screen. It's about the size of a netbook with full laptop features like gigabit LAN, WiFi and 3g mobile broadband all built-in. Loaded with 4gb RAM, Firewire, BluRay player, HDMI outputs for HD-TVs. Although I prefer to stream videos to my TV through Wifi rather than hooking up cables.
I respectfully disagree. I will agree that the SSD issue is hit or miss; Asus has done a good job using decent drives but most versions of the HP netbook, which has easily the highest build quality and largest keyboard, is a complete failure due to a crappy SSD.

Again, disagree on your quality comparison. To me, the Asus models come in at the end of the pack (perhaps above Acer?). They might have been the originators of the genre, but I hate the hinge system. The trackpad buttons are in every way inferior to most every other netbook I've tried. The housing looks cheap and when you pick it up you don't feel like it's built too strongly.

The MSI Wind has its own problems (****ty webcam and trackpad scrolling), but it is elsewise superior. The build housing is great and the LCD panel they use is extremely bright if you want it to be. For the $350 pricepoint it takes the cake.

If you can put out another $150-200 the HP mini is my absolute favorite. Again, you can pick it up at Best Buy with a SSD or hunt around online for a traditional drive.

The next wave of netbook models are going to mostly have 3G. Even Ubuntu supports it natively now, and some netbooks have open (but non-functioning) slots for a SIM card.

That is some serious power but you're missing the point. No one needs HDMI out or 4GB RAM on a note-taker. A netbook fits this niche much better, even if the Sony is a bit larger. When you're a commuter like me, more is less. A netbook lets me SSH or cloud compute and work elsewhere, I don't need serious power. Plus, if stolen, lost, or damaged I am out $350. That is about one-tenth the cost of your laptop.

Again, we all have different computing needs and work paradigms, but I think I and the other posters understand his needs much better than you do by recommending a $4000 laptop for note taking.

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Old 12-13-08, 11:20 AM   #11
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Old 12-13-08, 11:36 AM   #12
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What's the make and model on that laptop? I may have some parts laying around, and if you pay for shipping and any additional parts, I'll fix it.
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Old 12-13-08, 12:13 PM   #13
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Wow, more feedback than I expected! Let me answer some of your questions:

-I am 6' by 230 #'s, male. My keyboarding skills are marginally better than hunt and peck, so I'm a touch typist that is a little slow.
-My laptop replaced my desktop (an old e-machines that an old roommate used the optical drive tray as holder for his beer). I am not a hard core gamer or programmer.
-The current laptop model is: Acer Aspire 5050 3371 w/ AMD Turion 64 Mobile Technology Mk 36 (2.0 GHz, 512KB L2 cache), running Vista Home Basic with a 80 gig HD. At least I think that is an 80, I've got 33 on C: and 33 on D:
EDIT to add:
-I'm a person w/low vision, so I'm actually thinking that bigger is better, especially the screen size. My current laptop has a 14.1" WXGA. I'm not set in stone on screen size, though.
-I need something that would be as close to as bomb-proof as possible. I really don't want to carry two bags around, just one (I'm car light).

One other question that I thought of: is it better to the screen against the back during transport, or the other way around?
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Old 12-13-08, 05:03 PM   #14
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Again, we all have different computing needs and work paradigms, but I think I and the other posters understand his needs much better than you do by recommending a $4000 laptop for note taking.
The thing is that the market is always so cyclical. No one purposely has one device for note-taking, then uses another for office-productivity and yet another for graphics/videos. That's like having a PDA to store your phone# and contacts, then pulling out a phone to make a call after you've looked up the number on the PDA.

People would prefer to consolidate their tasks and make it as efficient as possible by eliminating the switching time between them and duplication of effort. Rather than dictate into a tape-recorder and then having an assistant transcribe it into a computer, you can just dictate directly into MS-Word. The problem with this last cycle of adding more and more functionality and features into laptops is that they became such heavy unwieldy behemoths that detracted away from the convenience and efficiency.

That's the need that created the whole netbook market, lightweight and convenience. What we'll see is another repeat of the same cycle. People will find that it's so inefficient to use a netbook for a certain task that then needs to be repeated or transferred somewhere else. Then they'll want netbooks with more and more capabilities. But this time around, you'll be able to get it without the monster weight and size due to advances in technology. The current simplistic netbook phase will be short-lived and temporary, don't limit yourself.
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Old 12-13-08, 05:12 PM   #15
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The current simplistic netbook phase will be short-lived and temporary, don't limit yourself.
I agree. At first I thought it was a neat concept, until I realize the application for most people, it doesn't cut it.
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Old 12-13-08, 05:30 PM   #16
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Yeah, I went through the entire group myself when they first came out. An Asus eeePC701, then a 901, then a 1000L. Also got myself the MSI Wind and a Dell Mini9. While terribly compact and convenient (my wife carries it around in her purse), their functionality was so limited, that I found myself wasting time and re-doing a lot of work twice. So I went and got a Dell Mini12 to see if it can be an all-in-one portable device, nope, still too limiting in functionality.

I finally settled on the Sony due to the combination of features and build-quality. Metal case was definitely a requirement by this point as all the previous plastic machines lacked the durability and toughness I required. That and the other list of features. Now I actually can really take off anywhere without having to worry about needing something I left at home or the office. VPN/RDP/VNC access is usually available anywhere with 3G, especially in Europe and Asia, so having a large enough screen and keyboard makes the remote experience feel a lot less confined.
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Old 12-13-08, 06:56 PM   #17
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Yeah, I went through the entire group myself when they first came out. An Asus eeePC701, then a 901, then a 1000L. Also got myself the MSI Wind and a Dell Mini9. While terribly compact and convenient (my wife carries it around in her purse), their functionality was so limited, that I found myself wasting time and re-doing a lot of work twice. So I went and got a Dell Mini12 to see if it can be an all-in-one portable device, nope, still too limiting in functionality.

I finally settled on the Sony due to the combination of features and build-quality. Metal case was definitely a requirement by this point as all the previous plastic machines lacked the durability and toughness I required. That and the other list of features. Now I actually can really take off anywhere without having to worry about needing something I left at home or the office. VPN/RDP/VNC access is usually available anywhere with 3G, especially in Europe and Asia, so having a large enough screen and keyboard makes the remote experience feel a lot less confined.
Just wondering, what do you do for work that makes a netbook limiting? I actually purposely only do real work based off of ssh-ing into different places and Google Docs/Calendar/GMail because if it gets stolen and somehow my account is accessible, there's no data to worry about.
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Old 12-13-08, 10:01 PM   #18
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After re-evaluating my requirements, I think that I will go with another laptop. A bigger screen, more normal sized keyboard, and I think that I will try to get the textbooks in digital media, which means an optical drive.

I will probably get one from Best Buy (they seem to have the best variety available locally) and have the one I'm currently using fixed so that my teen can use it. And if I have any $$ left, I'll look into getting the dead Acer back to life. Don't know if it's the power supply or a really nasty virus. It turns itself off before it finishes the POST, or before it even starts the POST 'cuz the damned screen is black, so I can't tell...
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Old 12-14-08, 05:28 PM   #19
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Bump.
And
I'm thinking of Toshiba, any cons against?
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Old 12-14-08, 06:06 PM   #20
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Not all netbooks are the same quality, it depends upon which brand/model laptop you buy. The MSI and Dell ones don't have anywhere near the quality of the Asus models. The SSD on the eeePC boots up Linux in less than 10-seconds or WinXP in about 25-sec.

My new Sony VGN-TT198U with 256gb SSD drive is wicked fast. Boots up WinXP in less than 20-seconds and Photoshop and Premiere zips along faster than all my desktops (except for the ones hooked up to the EVA5000). Weights about 3.5 lbs with 11.1" screen. It's about the size of a netbook with full laptop features like gigabit LAN, WiFi and 3g mobile broadband all built-in. Loaded with 4gb RAM, Firewire, BluRay player, HDMI outputs for HD-TVs. Although I prefer to stream videos to my TV through Wifi rather than hooking up cables.
We have one in the office... Very cool, but expensive...
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Old 12-14-08, 06:17 PM   #21
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Bump.
And
I'm thinking of Toshiba, any cons against?
Toshiba's okay
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Old 12-15-08, 06:08 PM   #22
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Just wondering, what do you do for work that makes a netbook limiting? I actually purposely only do real work based off of ssh-ing into different places and Google Docs/Calendar/GMail because if it gets stolen and somehow my account is accessible, there's no data to worry about.
I'm a commodities/options trader. There's too much latency and delays with remote-accessing an office machine for what I do. I have all my trading, charting and analysis software installed on the laptop so I need mininal connection speeds. Just a 3G connection is all I need for the data-feed and to send in trade-executions.

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After re-evaluating my requirements, I think that I will go with another laptop. A bigger screen, more normal sized keyboard, and I think that I will try to get the textbooks in digital media, which means an optical drive.

I will probably get one from Best Buy (they seem to have the best variety available locally) and have the one I'm currently using fixed so that my teen can use it. And if I have any $$ left, I'll look into getting the dead Acer back to life. Don't know if it's the power supply or a really nasty virus. It turns itself off before it finishes the POST, or before it even starts the POST 'cuz the damned screen is black, so I can't tell...
If you've got a CircuitCity near you, check out their going-out-of-business close-outs. Lots of nice HPs for 1/2-price or less (support sucks though). IBM makes several nice modes with pivoting screen that folds back over the keyboard and converts the laptop into a tablet for easy reading of downloaded textbooks.
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Old 12-20-08, 12:19 PM   #23
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I got a Dell. Didn't like it, so I gave it to my wife, to replace her problematic HP. Got another Acer, the Aspire 6930. For less than $590 w/taxes out the door, I got:

-3 GB DDR2
-320 GB HDD
-16" LCD
-Intel Centrino w/Core 2 Duo T5800 (2.0 GHz, 800 MHz FSB, 2 MB L2 cache)
-Up to 1244 MB Mobile Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD. What exactly does that mean?
-Dolby Home Theater w/Virtual Surround Sound and Tuba Subwoofer.

It ain't a lightweight at 7.5 lbs.+, but for the price/features, I (read wife) couldn't pass this one up. I just hope that it holds up. Now I've got to start the search for a new backpack (neither of my current bags are big enough).
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Old 12-20-08, 12:40 PM   #24
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What did you do withe laptop with the failed fan?
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Old 12-20-08, 01:24 PM   #25
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What did you do withe laptop with the failed fan?
Still have it. Wanting to get it (and the wife's old HP) fixed. But after buying 2 new laptops in 24 hrs from Best Buy, combined with the upcoming bag purchase and am seriously thinking about getting the ESP on the Acer (even though the wife thinks it would be a waste of money), funds are running low.

If I can find someone willing to fix one or both on the cheap, great. If not, I might see if there are any schools in the area with computer/electronics programs that would be willing to donate the labor if I paid for the parts. BTW, I've got yet another laptop (also an Acer) that started it all. An old 512 that has a memory parity problem. That one turns itself off before Windows has a chance to boot. If I thought that I could upgrade that one, it would make a nice learner for the 5 yr old Destruct-O-Matic that is my son.
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