So I am in the market for a new Netbook (some would ask when am I not in the market for a new gadget). This would be my third, therefore I think that you can safely say that I am a convert to the form factor.
There have already been two iterations of Netbooks. Version 1 was the original Asus Eee PC 701 device that introduced the Netbook to the world. This had a 7" screen and ran a specially customised Linux OS. I had one of these and loved it but found Linux to be hard work.
The second version is where we are now with a standard offering of a 10" screen, Intel Atom processor, 3 USB ports, 1gb of ram and, typically, Windows XP. This second wave of Netbooks has been with us for a while now with many companies producing very similar products – the internals are the same but only the exterior shows any real difference. I have an Advent 4211, a rebadged MSI Wind, and I use it constantly.
So I am thinking that we must be about due another iteration – Netbook v3, but what would I want from such a device? Well the following list would be a good starting point:
For me the whole wireless broadband revolution has been great. I have been able to get access to the net pretty much wherever I go (with the possible exception of my mother-in-laws in North Yorkshire) but having the dongle is just one more thing to carry around and potentially lose. So the ability to stick the SIM card into the machine and forget about it would be great. Obviously I would require a Netbook that was not locked to any network to allow me to get the best deal – currently I am on an excellent deal with 3.
Longer battery life
When I first got my Advent I got an underwhelming performance out of the battery so I bought a six cell upgrade and now get close to three hours but still not long enough to not have to take a portable charger with me. Ideally I would like the battery to last all my working day and some of the newer models on the market are claiming some incredible times. For a mobile warrior this is a must
I use my Netbook for a lot more than simply browsing the web and knocking out a few documents. I also do some web development on it with both Apache and MySQL installed. While this works fine it is obvious that the memory is taking a bit of a hit and could do with a boost. I think that this would need to be an after market mod as I think that Microsoft only allow XP on Netbooks with 1gb of ram or less but that is ok as I am handy with a screwdriver.
This one is pretty subjective as everyone has an opinion on design but the newer models seem to be thinner, lighter and more business like. At the low end they still seem to suffer from cheap looking plastic and flex in the chassis but the more you send, inevitably, the less that this is an issue. This does raise an interesting point in that some Netbooks are now more expensive than larger laptops. It seems that mobility now commands a premium.
Windows XP and not vista
I like Windows XP and I don’t like Windows Vista – nothing unusual in that but I also think that Windows XP is better suited to the netbook environment than Vista. Windows 7 is on its way but I have concerns about its ability to run all the Windows XP software I have accumulated so it seems sensible to stick with XP for now.
Full Width Keyboard
My current model has just such a keyboard and it makes a huge difference compared to other models I have used. I couldn’t go back now and so the keyboard is something I am going to be taking a close look at. The other thing is positioning of keys. I have always felt that the position of the Func and Ctrl keys on the Advent were wrong and should be swapped. So again I will be investigating this.
None of the above is earth shattering but these changes would make my Netbook life so much better. There are probably other things that would help: faster processor, better graphics and sound but these really aren’t going to make that much difference to the sort of work I do.
So when will all of this available? Well most of the items on the list are there now. It is only the WWAN that is not universally available and until there is plenty of choice will I take the plunge and I suspect that will be at least another six months.
Know of a Netbook that meets my requirements? Leave me a comment and let me know.