I’ve been watching the netbook market for a few months now trying to figure out what system would be small enough to be easy to carry, yet still big enough to be easy to use. My requirements, while simple, evolved over time. Initially I only considered machines with “real” hard drives, even though I thought the SSD drives were seriously cool. I was concerned about the limited storage space. Thankfully I realized that it made more sense to carry my music, videos and what-have-you on cheap flash drives than to waste battery power on running a “real” hard drive just for occasional storage needs.
During my evaluation period I looked at products from Dell, Asus, Acer and HP. Most of them had comparable systems, within a similar price range. I had all-but decided on an HP when I received an e-mail from Dell announcing $100 instant discount on their mini-9 series. This put the base unit at the same price as the HP I had been lusting over.
Each had same memory, hard drive, operating system, screen resolution and advertised battery life. However, the HP also included a 2GB additional storage “thingy” ( it’s like a flash drive, but slides all the way in), and at 10.1 inches, the screen was about an inch bigger. HP wins, and enough waiting.
I was immediately struck by how lightweight it is (just under 2½ pounds), especially compared to the 17” wide screen HP I normally carry. Initial set up took just a few minutes. Cold boot takes only about 45 seconds – wow! I was not happy with how long the system updates took, but that is not the fault of HP. I’ll share blame for the long update with Microsoft. I had planned on removing Microsoft works but forgot to do so before running Microsoft update. An HOUR later, after the updates had finished installing I removed works and installed Open Office, Tweetdeck, AVG anti-virus and yahoo messenger. A glance at the remaining space available made me happy I had opted for the (slightly) higher priced 16GB drive and not the 8GB. I had 7.5GB remaining. Quick math tells us that (unless XP is magically smaller) the 8 GB drive would be maxed out already.
I’m also happy I went with the larger size. The screen is perfect for quick notes and email ( I am typing this on it). Even when running on the battery the screen is crisp and bright. The keys are decent size, but close together. I find I am missing & fat-fingering quite a bit, but suspect that I will get better as I continue to use it. I really think the smaller Dell would have been too small for me.
Th HP’s speakers are tucked away below the LCD and behind a narrow wire screen that looks as if it could double as an electric shaver. Even as small as the speakers are, the sound is surprisingly good.
My initial gripes about the Netbook 1030 are few. The glossy case shows every fingerprint, smear and smudge and the door for the SD uses a spring loaded, removable plastic card rather than a flap door. When removed, the card leaves a hole much larger than the SD slot. Even though the system does not have a bluetooth card installed, the software is installed and loads (or did before I removed it) on start up for some reason. Lastly, unlike most larger systems this one did ship with restore CDs. Too bad there is no CD to run them from. Hope it doesn’t crash. Perhaps netbooks should ship with system restores on protected flash drives instead.
As for battery life, this is first time running without the cord and after a few minutes more than 3 hours, the indicator tells me I have 28% remaining. Nice.
I look forward to using the system as I travel and at upcoming conferences. I’ll post an updated review in a few months, probably after PubCon South and SXSWi in late march. If you want to know how it’s going before that, give me a shout on Twitter.
Are you using a netbook? Tell me what you think about it.