Thursday, April 15, 2010

Laptops vs Netbooks

I've been looking into this conundrum for the past two weeks now. Which portable computing system to purchase, that is. And bearing in mind that I don't want to spend more than $800 for whichever choice I do go with.

Do I get a Netbook: generally smaller, slower, and weighing a lot less than a traditional laptop, but lacking a lot of the features that are standard on the latter?

Or do I get a Notebook PC: generally bulkier, but possessing greater functionality over a Netbook?

In the end, I had to decide what exactly I intended to use this machine for. In my mind, I rarely need portable computing power in my everyday life. I'm always either at work or at home, both locations already providing anchored desktop options more than adequate for my needs. And when I go out on the town, the last thing I want to do is lug a computer around with me. Nor do I write in coffee shops, or am by any means a mobile professional always on the go.

In fact, the only time I would need a laptop is when I go away on trips. But since I only do this once or twice a year, it hardly seems worth it, don't you think?

However, I just booked a 2-week voyage on a cruise ship. This after having just come back from a week's stay in Paris where I was sorely missing easy, instant access to the Internet and suffering from withdrawal. Added to this is that said cruise liner has wifi available all throughout the ship and in cabins. So it became clear to me that what I really needed most out of my potential mobile PC was the ability to connect online. And to watch movies on the plane, or to upload trip pics at the end of each day rather than in one huge dump at the end of the trip.

I need to be able to do all these things on one nifty, easy-to-use device that won't break my back carrying it through the airport.

What I don't need is a mobile unit that plays CDs or balances my money accounts. But I *do* need one that lets me draft the occasional short story or novel excerpt on the rare occasion I'm bored on my trip and just NEED to write! Hey, it does happen.

In the end, as should come to no surprise, I settled on the Netbook option. They typically only weigh 3 lbs, and, with the right amount of memory, are perfect for when all you need to do is hop online and check e-mails or watch Hulu.

Moreover, most new Netbooks today come with Windows 7 and some version of MS Works already pre-loaded. And for a good chunk of change, if it so pleases one, one can get the MS Office suite added on, too. If you're into that sort of thing.

Me? A simple word processor, built-in wifi, and a big enough screen to watch videos comfortably on is all I need. For real computing power, I can just wait until I get home. Plus, with a Netbook lying handily around the house, Lisa can hop on real quick to check her mail at any time. Which means no more nagging me to stop hogging up the desktop PC when I'm brainstorming my latest prose session. Bonus!

So, after searching high and low for just the right Netbook, I finally settled on my old tried and true source for most of my computing needs: Dell. Yeah, it's not a choice that's popular with most technorati these days. Or, worse, the pseudo technorati known as Mac users. But Dell is a pretty decent middle-of-the-road option. One that has never failed me yet.

Plus, after looking into virtually every other offering on the market now, I fail to see how any of them tops the Dell model I eventually settled on.

Behold, the Dell Inspiron 11z "mini" book:

The standard model comes in obsidian black, but I've found that the plastics used to make these minis are too shiny and prone to fingerprint smudging. I normally love all my electronics to be as black as the inside of a coffin on a moonless night . . . but this time I decided to fall back to my favorite general color: Blue. The standard "sky blue" option Dell offers for their Inspiron line, however, is a bit too lite of a blue. I prefer sapphire or "midnight" blues.

So I decided to splurge a little extra and use Dell's online "Design Studio" division to customize the top lid of this netbook. The color scheme I settled on--called "Suzi Says Feng Shui" from OPI--is a sort of brushed cobalt blue with some swirlies thrown in. I could've done without the swirlies, but cobalt blue is my FAVORITE! I just hope it looks more cobalt and less aquamarine in person than in that pic above. We shall see.

At the very least, I won't have to deal with fingerprint smudging. I mean, they'll still be there I'm sure. I just won't be able to see them as well as I would against a black background. And, as they say: seeing IS believing!

Anyway, for those who are into such things, here are the specs. Take note of the slightly larger than normal (for Netbooks) screen, as well as the extra memory, which I had to upgrade and which I think is typically abysmal on most Netbooks offered in brick-and-mortar stores. With the amount I've chosen, however, I think my videos and website loading should be quite a bit faster than normal:

11.6" display.
Pentium SU4100 processor (1.3Ghz/800MHz FSB/2MB cache)
Windows 7 premium edition
250GB hard drive
4GB RAM (DDR2, 800MHz on 1 DIMM)
Wireless G mini network card
Built-in Bluetooth
Built-in 1.3 megapixel webcam
3-in-1 flash card reader
HDMI out
56WHr Lithium-ion battery (6-cell)
Dimensions: Height 0.92" x Width 11.5" x Depth 8.43"
Weight: 3.3 lbs

Not bad, if I do say so myself. Laptops can do all this and more, of course -- at the penalty of weight, poorer power management, and general bulkiness. But for a Netbook, this is pretty impressive. And while I haven't made the concrete decision yet, I'm almost certain this is what I'll be getting.

Unless someone out there can point me to a better option . . .

1 comment:

Ashen said...
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