Bill, who blogs at prairiepoint, emailed to ask how it’s going with my new mini-laptop, the Asus Eee pc 900HA netbook.
[More photos at my first story about this netbook]
I’ve had it for about a month now and the overall answer is that I love it – with a couple of reservations.
A standard laptop keyboard measures about 11 inches by 5 inches. In contrast, the netbook keyboard is only 8.5 inches by 3.5 inches, a considerable difference. Bill asked in particular whether I can touch-type or if I use two fingers.
That answer is: both.
Generally, I can touch-type, although when I’m moving fast – trying to keep up with my thoughts – I hit a lot of wrong keys. So I have developed a hybrid of the two styles of typing. One useful solution (mostly for women) is to keep your nails well trimmed. When they are even the tiniest bit longer than the ends of my fingers, the nails catch on the key above what I’m aiming for.
There is what I consider one major design flaw: in shrinking the keyboard, Asus placed the Uparrow key between the Question mark/Slash key and the right-hand Shift key.
On full-size keyboards, they are next to one another so I have trouble remembering to reach farther to the right to shift with my little finger on this mini-machine. Really irritating and because one uses the Shift key much more frequently than the Uparrow key, it is a big-time mistake that would have been a deal breaker for me if I had known.
There are many other netbook manufacturers and I suggest you check the location of frequently-used keys before you make a purchase.
Also, there is no CD/DVD drive so you will need an exterior drive if you intend to load programs from CDs or want to view DVDs on a netbook. I don't watch DVDs on a computer and I solved the CD difficulty by switching to free programs I can download such as OpenOffice to replace Microsoft Office that I have on my full-sized laptop.
With those caveats, the netbook is a delight. Unless you play video games, edit video or music or keep a lot of those kinds of files on your computer, the 160GB hard drive is more than enough storage and if you need more, Asus provides an additional 10GB of online storage (free for 18 months) which can be accessed from other computers and shared, with a password, with friends, relatives, colleagues, whomever. I don’t know if other manufacturers supply this feature.
And the 1GB memory makes the netbook as speedy as I need for writing and image work. The smaller screen, which is much brighter than my full-size laptop, hasn’t bothered me either. I can read it easily.
With my full-sized laptop, I’ve never been able to work online when I’m outside on the deck. Whatever controls the range of my in-house network won’t reach that far. But it will on the netbook with as strong a signal as at my desk.
There is more detailed information at Amazon where I bought mine and where it is already nine dollars cheaper than what I spent 30 days ago.
So far, I mostly I use the netbook for email, surfing and writing when I'm at the kitchen counter (good, too, for having recipes where I need them without needing a printout) and in the bedroom where I like to surf and answer email while I watch television there.
I’ve also taken it with me to restaurants where I can continue to work while having lunch, but its greatest value is going to be when I travel. No more extra bag just for the computer and accoutrements and at a weight of just over two pounds, I hardly know it’s in my handbag.
The inconvenience of a much smaller keyboard, while small, is just enough that I wouldn't want a netbook to be my only computer (although if it were all I had, I would undoubtedly adapt without much difficulty). But for its mobility, sturdiness, battery life of five hours and miniscule weight - not to mention price - it is a valuable tool.
I know that Frank Paynter of listics and Saul Friedman who is the Reflections columnist here at TGB each bought one as well as a couple of other readers. It would be good to read their experience with the netbook too.