Netbook owners speak up and share their experiences – selected excerpts below:
Why buy? One compelling market segment:
“My Fiancee has two daughters. The older one, at the ripe age of 12, has asked for a laptop. We have discussed it and found a 10″ netbook (MSI Wind) to be the answer. They are cheap (big concern for an object that will likely suffer from a high danger of destruction), small (high portability is a plus to a 12 year old…gotta’ take it to her friends place, you know), and yet big enough (the 8.9″ screen is just a tad too small). Now you need to take into account the wants and needs of the user…she’s 12! She wants to surf the web, go to Facebook, maybe listen to music (probably just use it to manage her Sansa Fuze), and read her email. Netbook fits the bill at every turn.”
Pricepoints are a major issue with netbooks – the difference between a cheap laptop and a netbook is getting pretty narrow:
“I bought an Acer Aspire One A110 when Newegg had the Black Friday special for $250. It’s the basic model: 512MB RAM, 8GB flash drive, Linpus Linux. I’m satisfied with it in every way except the cramped keyboard and the short battery life with the 3 cell battery (about 2.5 hrs). My hands are medium size, but the keys are just small enough to annoy me. With fewer keys and more widely spaced it would be perfect.
The $400 pricepoint for netbooks isn’t as compelling. Then you’re competing with low end notebooks.”
“Netbooks seem to me to be just be cheap laptops for people that don’t need a laptop other than for casual browsing. I suppose they could be popular because of the whole crowd who bought gigantic desktop replacement notebooks that they don’t want to haul, but really their functions have been duplicated in better ways by other devices with less compromises. I think it’s really funny how the 12″ notebook category has never really been popular here in the states, but they have pretty much all the advantages of netbooks without many of the disadvantages. The simple fact that netbooks are stupid cheap seems to be the only thing really pulling them attention.”
What I find interesting is that netbooks are showing up at work:
“I work in IT, and have noticed that more people are bringing these in to use on the corporate network (we allow outside machines if they meet security criteria.)
Personally, I find them a bit underpowered for the sorts of things I want to do, and are limited by the current display options. I’d love to use something similar for a rdp/vnc client, negating the need for a heavier, more powerful machine. However, the screens on the netbooks I’ve used tend to have resolution that limits their use for that purpose.
I understand the hardware limitations and have been comfortable within them. A lean Ubuntu installation runs great on the ones I’ve used. It’s also pretty full-featured with the right setup. People are impressed that a lot of hardware and network stuff “just works”.
I do like the weight and portability of the machines, but dislike the battery life on current-gen products. I also really, really, really dislike the keyboards. I have pretty small fingers and am pretty good at ignoring human interface issues, but I would NOT want to type anything long on a netbook keyboard. Even writing an email of this length would be obnoxious. Longer terminal sessions setting up stuff on a netbook is a pain in my backside.
The next-gen Nvidia chipsets look promising, and if kinks are ironed out of the machines to make use a little more friendly, I would be very tempted. Ubiquitous wireless access would also be a significant help. I am very interested in the relatively hardware agnostic nature of MacOS and how it works on netbook hardware. Some of the installs I have seen have been wonderful. If tech/marketing people find a balance that really hits the usability/batterylife/performance sweet spot, I think people will be all over netbooks. Some of the higher-end cell phones might start to eat into the niche, though.
I am watching the situation very, very closely. I think we really are hitting a revolutionary change here – especially with financial pressures being what they are.”
As to uses, netbooks are not power PCs – the basics, please:
“My main computer has 2 22″ monitors and I love them. My laptop is a 17″ Gateway and I love it. My wife has a 15″ Gateway that I would use, sitting in my chair away from the office, but didn’t really like it. The wife got a Acer One – 8.9″ screen – Atom processor – because she liked the color – white. I thought I’ll never use this but I love it. I can sit in my chair, prop up my legs, hold the computer with one hand and surf the net while watching TV. I wouldn’t want it for my only computer but it sure is handy for a lot of things – Runs about 2.5 hrs.”
“For me a netbook is a machine for surfing the web, and taking on trips when I need a laptop. My netbook does basically 95% of what I do on a machine and for $300 it allows me to not have to invest a large sum of money. Ironically I’m a programmer… but I really do not need a lot of horsepower and am not a power user (funny that). You can easily program and compile apps on a netbook. You can browse the web, or even play a dvd that has been ripped. I don’t get what some of the other posters are talking about “doing something useful”. You can do almost everything you use a normal machine for (my normal machine is an athlon Be-2350 with 4gb of ram by the way… so its not some barn burning gaming machine).”
As to the future…
“I think the true secret to the success of the Netbook and the coming Netbook revolution – and don’t be mistaken it will be a revolution in popular computing – is that they do everything that you NEED to do on a computer AND that they have the potential to surprise you by coping with many applications you’d thought beyond them.
Will I ever go back to a cutting edge enthusiasts rig? Probably, when I have time and money and the inclination; but not because I need the power but because it interests me. But this will be a few years down the line yet and in the meanwhile my custom and my money will be with the hardware vendors and software developers that realize that Netbooks are a lot more than ‘the next big thing’.”
In summary, I don’t think netbooks are a fad; rather, they are a good solution to “casual computing” – handy on the road, handy at work with apps on the network, handy at home for maybe 90-95% of what we do, especially on the net. I’ve been using small laptops for about three years when I’m on the road and my take is anything with less than a 10″ screen, 1024 x 768, is too much of a compromise. No matter what you feel at first, a decent keyboard is a MUST. A netbook running 2 GHz with 2 GB RAM would be a really decent machine.
I have to agree with Doc – what we’re seeing is more than “the next big thing” – many users are realizing that they don’t need a lot of horsepower to do almost all of what tickles their fancy, and with economies in a free fall, the $s count a lot.
Congratulations to Jason – selected at random, he won the prize.