Ultra mobile, ultra cheap – Which netbook now?

[flickr]photo:3505039111[/flickr]Just over 6 months ago I posted Ultra mobile, ultra cheap – Netbooks. I’ve been meaning to revisit this post for some time. Not only has the market moved on in terms of the range of netbooks available, but on reflection my advice was some what biased leaning towards a device for me and not the average student. This post hopes to readdresses this balance identifying what I would be looking for in a netbook if I was a student.

Operating system – go for Windows

I would still recommend going for Windows. A development worth keeping an eye on is the new Windows 7 operating system due out later in the year. Originally I would have recommended sticking with Windows XP, Vista being too resource intensive for less powerful netbooks. Having loaded a beta version of Windows 7 on a netbook I was impressed with the speedy performance. So avoid Vista, get XP and if you are reading this post in a couple of months look out for ‘7’.

Connectivity – wireless + Bluetooth

I wouldn’t change much of my advice here. In fact it very hard to find a netbook without both a wired and wireless connection. Again bluetooth is useful and becoming a standard feature.

Screen resolution – at least 1024×600 (with 10” screen)

I would still recommend 1024×600 as a minimum resolution. For comfort of viewing I would also recommend a 10” screen (don’t forget to play around with toolbars to get maximum space. For example in Firefox use the Compact Classic theme and Glazoom zoom extension.

Storage – 8Gb SSD 160GB HDD

I would recommend getting a decent sized hard drive. There’s nothing more frustrating than running out of space particularly if you have lots of media like photos and video to keep. Unfortunately solid state drives, which have the benefit of no moving parts are still too expensive for this sort of size and you’ll have to nurture a traditional spinning disk hard drive.

Size – keep it compact (225×165mm 260x180mm)

As an every day device a decent sized keyboard will be essential for comfort of use and productivity. This size of the keyboard impacts the minimum size of the netbook so use 260x180mm as a guidance.

Battery Life 6 hours+

A big oversight of my original post was to include criteria for battery life. New processors (namely the Intel Atom chip) mean it is possible to get a lot more usage between charges. It is now possible to get netbooks which easily go for 6 hours while still not adding too much weight.

Cost – less than £250 £300

Unfortunately the global recession and weakness of the pound is impacting how far you money can go. I would also recommend upping the budget slightly to get a device which is hopefully suitable and robust enough for every day use.

Which Netbook would I buy (now if I was a student)?

In my original post I mentioned retiring my original netbook, which I’ve never quite got around too (although the soon to be released ASUS T91 is getting my interest). In the intervening months I have however purchased a new netbook to replace a laptop which got drowned in gin. The criteria I used for selecting a replacement potentially maps closely for what a student might be looking for (everyday use, portable, decent battery life). The device I went for was the Samsung NC-10. This device regularly gets praised for it excellent keyboard and solid build quality. For me the NC-10’s specification strikes a very good balance between being portable and suitable for everyday use and with it easily getting 6-7 hours solid use you don’t have to constantly sit next to a power socket.
Here’s a list of 5 possible contenders compiled on PriceGrabber which broadly fit the specification outlined above (click here to view latest prices):

Lenovo S10 Netbook
from £259.99
(5 sellers)
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MSI Wind U100-220UK Black Netbook
from £259.99
(5 sellers)
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Asus Eee PC 1000H Netbook
from £272.01
(6 sellers)
Compare Prices »
Samsung NC10 Blue Netbook
from £297.80
(8 sellers)
Compare Prices »
MSI Wind U100-221UK Black Netbook
from £298.69
(7 sellers)
Compare Prices »

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  • Fiona Macintosh

    I plumped for the Samsung NC10 also and it has been great. Battery life exceeding my expectations, and indeed those of the reviews I read prior to buying it. It’s fast, with a great keyboard and a fab screen. Highly recommended by me 🙂

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