March 01, 2009

For a while I wanted to get a sub-notebook or NetBook as they call them sometimes.  Something easy to carry around to take notes etc. I tried 9 inch ones and these had too compact keyboard while 10″ looked reasonable.

I believe it is very hard to pick something based just on reviews and description on the net so I decided to try couple of models available at Costco. Costco may not offer the lowest prices on computers but I am ready to pay a fair extra for return convenience.

I started by trying Aspire One and HP Mini 1033CL. Aspire was cheapest at $299 but it also was worst – besides large size it had smaller display compared to HP Mini worse keyboard, small battery and unreachable memory slot so I did not like it.

HP Mini was very small and light and had very nice design.  It also had good quality speaker located just below monitor. On other hand it had just 60GB drive (bad as I planned to upload photos during travel to it). It also did not have Bluetooth required for internet access via mobile phone (the bluetooth sign which was seen on display copy meant the bluetooth software is installed, not the hardware support). Another problem was too small Battery on this system offering less than 3 hours of time. I’d like it to handle reasonably long plane flights on the single charge. The extensibility was another issue.  The laptop came without VGA connector – using some proprietary one from HP with convertor unavailable for purchase right now. It also had only one jack for both microphone and headphones allowing to use only one or special one from HP.    Finally the build in camera was of unusable quality working only in extremely good light condition.  The cost was $399 for this one.

Finally I ordered (via Costco web site) Samsung NC10 and I liked this one the most and going to keep one.  It was the most expensive at $459 and it was taller, thicker and a bit heavier than HP Mini.  Design is nice though not as classy as HP.

It however had larger hard drive (160GB), normal VGA output, 3USB ports (compared to 2 on HP),  Bluetooth,  6 cell battery with up to 8 hours rating and standard audio connectors.  It also has well accessible SODIMM module, so I’ll upgrade memory to 2GB.     Another important difference it has matte display compared to glossy on HP and Acer.    I find glossy display barely usable in certain light conditions.  The quality of build in camera is much better too, which is important as I’m planning to use if for video Skype calls during my travels.

On the bad side – the Touchpad is probably less convenient than HP though I do not like Touchpads anyway and will use Bluetooth mouse when using laptop on the table.

So my pick is Samsung NC10 though I guess I need to spend few weeks using it to see how well it works out for me.

My next challenge is how to keep Mail in sync between this laptop and my main one which is now at its semi-permanent position in a docking station.

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