The Pick of the Crop
With such commonality of specification, there's really very little to differentiate one netbook from another beyond looks - and they're entirely subjective. But, neck on the line, here are our picks.
We love the Acer Aspire One, especially its keyboard, but then we're writers and that's particularly important to us. It looks great, but it's hard to upgrade and its Linux isn't as accessible as some. There's no 3G support out of the box, and the battery life's not great.
So while these machines get Recommended awards, the Editor's Choice has to go to the Asus Eee PC 901. While it's keyboard may be a little too pokey, its battery life is head and shoulders above the rest, making it, for now, one of the best mini laptops for mobility.
We've looked at today's SCCs - and a blast from the past - but plenty more are on their way during the coming months. Toshiba is rumoured to be hawking an own-brand SCC, the NB105, around schools, and Samsung has already launched a netbook in its native Korea - it's hard to imagine it not bringing the machine to the West, despite the lack of success its Q1 series of UMPCs had here.
Asus Eee PC and friend: plenty more small, cheap computer choices to come
Lenovo is certainly readying its 8.9in IdeaPad S9 and the 10in IdeaPad S10, both known to be XP-only offerings with an emphasis on HDD storage, although the S9 will have an SDD option. LG has the X1110 coming next month, but it appears to be another rebadged - and slightly redesigned - MSI Wind. To that list we can add lesser names like Commodore and ECS. There will undoubtedly be many others.
Next page: Full SCC Specifications
Pleased with my Acer
I made the plunge after pondering for quite some time and opted for the Acer Aspire One. I love it but the article correctly identified the main problems with it which are battery life (not much more than two hours) and the somewhat quirky Linux installation.
I decided against the Dell mainly due to the stupid keyboard layout. The fact that it runs Ubuntu though is very appealing.
The 901 is just too expensive. I know £280 is not a lot of money, but my One cost £199. When I show it off and can say "it was less than 200 quid" I always get the same positive reaction. Saying "less than 280 quid" just doesn't sound as impressive.
Despite what the AC said above, while I do always travel first and business class, my employer pays those fares, I paid for my One so I still care about its price.
What is interesting about this whole sector is how usable a machine can be while remaining truly portable.
My shiny MacBook Pro is on my desk 1 metre away from me but I can't be bothered to go all that way and open the lid; my One just happens to be right here. That's the beauty of laptots (what mine always gets called in our house BTW) they are so small and light that you can have them there with you almost all the time.
Well before Psion and the other pretenders was the Tandy Model 100 from 1983. Battery capacity was 20 hours on four alkaline AA cells. The real keyboard and inbuilt modem made it popular with journalists.
I use my T-Mobile E220 with my Eee, no problem. I believe it's supported out of the box in Xandros, but I'm using eeeXubuntu so I installed the "Vodafone Mobile Connect Card Driver for Linux" (giyf) which works very well, and does all the data logging one could wish. It has repositories for the default Xandros too.
Alpha 400 vs Maplin Minibook vs Elonex Onet+
Though clearly all based on the same design, there are some differences. The Alpha 400, for example, does its wifi through a USB dongle (supplied) and I think the same may be true of the Minibook. On the Onet+ it's built in (as an internal USB dongle, I suspect).
The Minibook has the webcam beside the screen - on the Onet+ it's (a) above it and (b) irrelevant, snce there doesn't seem to be any software that uses it.
I got my Onet+ last week - as with many others it was a what-the-hell free upgrade from a what-the-hell One+. So far I have been quite impressed. No problems at all with WiFi, pretty good build quality and a surprisingly nice keyboard. I don't know if it's bigger, or brighter, or whether just not having a black border helps, but the screen is much nicer than the Eee 701 on which I write this.
I need to do some experiments with the Huawei - the Onet+ does come with mobile broadband connection software - and then I'll start using it to test it in practice.
And to education customers it's £130. What the hell?
Mobile internet on Linux netbooks
I have a Linux Asus Eee 701 that I am happy with although the screen is too small. I do check my email on the train via Vodafone's mobile broadband. The only problem is the network coverage that still isn't great. Hopefully the trend with netbooks will put some pressure on the network operators to improve. To get mobile broadband working on Linux is easy, I wrote down a few note on how I got it to work here:
I hope that can be of help. My guess is that it's not much more difficult with other distros or ISPs.