2008 - Netbooks

Looking for a small, compact machine to check your e-mail, browse the odd website or keep up with letters and other office paperwork, then maybe a netbook is the ideal answer compared to a standard laptop. These tend to have 7" - 10" LCD screens, and storage in the form of SSD or small HDD. Typically the solid state drive versions are less than 20GB however these can be upgraded depending on the make and model.

We have three netbooks in the family, two Asus 4G's and a Asus 900A. The main reason was that they are easy to upgrade the RAM (unlike the Acer One which requires the camplete strip down of the machine !) and the styling and build quality for the price is good. Typical pricing (as at Dec 2008) is £170 for the 4G, £195 for the 900A with other models like the 901 costing around £270. Above this the 904 and 1000 start to cost around the same as a stanard full size entry level laptop.

Read below on how we became hooked on these excellent devices


Asus Eee PC  

As part of a project for work I investigated the possibility of using a sub notebook or netbook to interface with some really complicated items of catering equipment. Given the available options I opted for an Asus EeePC 901 because this had the best battery performance, and so far the trials have gone so well I presented my findings and recommendations to the board of directors who have now passed the project and have agreed to purchase 10 units for the principle engineers. However as part of my research I noticed that Asus produce a version with slightly smaller screen (7 inch rather than 9 inch on the 901), and they were available in a selections of colours, including pink !

As Sarah's (my eldest daughter) birthday is just around the corner and e-buyer was knocking the 4G model out for less than £150 we purchased one as a birthday gift. To say she was stoked was an understatement. It's the first time she has been speechless in her life !

This model has a 4GB solid state drive (flash memory), 512MB DDR2 RAM, three USB 2 ports, monitor port, LAN, 802.b/g Wireless, 0.3Mp web cam, 10/100 Network port, and SDHC card reader. With a 2 year warranty to boot !

The build quality is very good, quite a solid and robust machine. The first thing I did was replace the RAM to upgrade it from 512MB to 1GB of PC4200 DDR2 RAM. Simple upgrade, just unscrew 2 screws to remove a cover on the back, unclip and remove the old SODIMM and insert the new.

The second change was to replace the Xandros Linux with XP. This was quite challenging the first time as obviously there is no CD drive ! Much searching of the net and I found a very active forum on eeeuser.com and followed a tutorial in one of the threads. Basically by using a few utilities you can remove some components of XP to reduce the installation size, and then make a USB stick bootable and build the image on that. You then boot the EeePC with the USB stick installed and hit the ESC key to invoke the boot menu. Once installed its just a matter of installing the XP drivers and job's a good un !

I then used True Image to make a back up image of the Hard drive so that if she mucked it up (well you know what children are like) I could restore it simply and quickly.

If you are looking for a laptop for web browsing, MSN, e-mail, letter writing and general use then the EeePC makes an ideal choice.