Sunday, March 29, 2009


A few years ago I used to use an Apple 12" PowerBook and it is still my favourite laptop. I now have a 13.3" MacBook, that seems too large to be convenient when on the move.

When working at a semi-permanent desk I prefer to use a desktop, rather than a laptop anyway. So I need a machine that is just powerful enough for my day-to-day, non software development activities such as email, calendar, tasks, documents, music, skype and reading the web. Most of these are accessed through a web browser anyway. It also needs to be small enough to fit in restricted spaces and not be a burden when walking/cycling.

Given these requirements a Netbook seems a logical consideration. I wandered into a retail shop this morning and the keyboards on all the smaller ones with 8.9" screens were just too difficult to use for my fingers. The models with 10" screens seemed ok though.

All the following are only offered with Windows (in Australia): Dell Mini, BenQ Joybook Lite U101, Fujitsu M1010, Acer Aspire One 10.1, HP Mini 2140, MSI Wind series, ASUS Eee PC 10" series, which I don't find suitable for stability and usability reasons. While the Eee PCs apparently have a Xandros option, I could only find them being sold with Windows. It is also interesting that ASUS gives better battery life figures for Windows than Linux.

The remaining options seem to be the Kogan Agora Netbooks which come installed with gOS, based on Ubuntu. Or alternatively, buy one of the Windows ones that can be reinstalled with linux. The BenQ Joybook seems to be the cheapest of the bunch, coming in at around $600. The Kogan Agora Pro has more RAM (2GB in total) and is priced at $539. While previews indicate good build quality, this is Kogan's first foray into computers, so there is the usual version 1.0 risk.

The future looks interesting - ASUS has announced the Eee PC T91 and T101H, both with touch screens.

The coolest though, would have to be the Touch Book by Always Innovating. The screen and keyboard detach so you can use the screen on its own as a tablet device. I suspect that would be more comfortable when browsing/reading away from a desk. It is also magnetised so you can stick it on the fridge. I would be much happier with my wife accessing her recipes that way, rather than having the MacBook on the kitchen bench surrounded by ingredients. Finally, it has 10-15 hours battery life. Unfortunately it won't be available for several months yet.

Some useful sites for research were cnet.


Kristian Domagala said...

When we were looking for a netbook, Office Works were selling the EeePC with Linux (Ubuntu possibly?) installed for about $100 less than the Windows model. Mind you, I think the Linux model had less RAM, so the price comparison isn't only based on the OS. I can't remember what the model was either - it may have been the one with the smaller keyboard.

The Touch Book looks pretty good, though the form factor seems a bit high and box-y.

Brad Clow said...

Kogan Agora comments.