Don’t buy a laptop. Buy a netbook and a desktop, and keep the change

Back in 2006, I wrote this:

Many laptops, such as the MacBook Pro, are real desktop alternatives. But they also cost an awful lot of money, and they’re hefty things to carry around. Any time I’ve used a laptop when travelling – on planes, on trains, on ferries – I’ve wished I had a smaller computer (particularly on planes, where you get less room than a veal calf). Unless you need serious horsepower from a mobile PC, a top-end laptop is a daft buy: even the titchiest machine is perfectly capable of DVD playback, office applications and anything else you might need on your travels.

That was before the invention of the netbook, which is the smaller computer I wanted whenever I tried to unfold a Powerbook or MacBook Pro in a plane seat. With netbooks becoming so handy (particularly in the battery life stakes) and cloud computing making it easy to share and/or sync stuff between multiple machines it’s bordering on insanity to buy a fully-featured laptop for travelling: with netbooks going for £300 or less (and refurbs starting to appear from the likes of EuroPC) you really need to be rich or daft to buy anything bigger.

As my 2006 post put it:

The little laptop will be smaller, lighter and therefore more portable than a big beast of a machine – and you’ll be less upset if it gets broken, nicked or blown up by terrorists because you’ll still have a working machine at home.

I’ll be testing a Samsung NC-10 fairly soon, so I’ll eat my words if it’s a load of crap. But I suspect it won’t be.





0 responses to “Don’t buy a laptop. Buy a netbook and a desktop, and keep the change”

  1. mupwangle

    I had a play with an NC-10 the other day. Much nicer than any of the others on display. Something about the keyboard bugged me, but I can’t remember what.

  2. Lis

    Already done.. I was in need of a PC for some things that the Mac just won’t do the way I want them to (it’s tax season here). But realized buying a full-on PC was a waste of money when what I really need is a portable email and google machine.

    I wound up falling for the girlie HP Vivienne Tam because it suited what I needed and though I am not thrilled with HP I have low expectations (which it’s surpassed a little bit). I have a Macbook Pro and a Macbook both of which I have extreme preference over any PC. But after a trip this past year with the Macbook (not even the pro) I wound up with a knackered everything (literally) from size, weight and the amount of space it consumed in the standard airline space.

    I actually really do like the HP Mini. With wireless broadband, can literally drive with the internet up or check pricing in the middle of a shop without any inconvenience (though lots of pretension). It fits into just about every handbag I have and looks like one anyway. But I just can’t get over what a pile of crap it is compared to Mac but the Air is too fragile looking for me and too expensive to be a knock about computer. Cheap, cheerful and connected – that’s all I need.

    Compared to a Mac it’s a pain to use. But for traveling and the countless hours I spend in hospitals, it serves more than its purpose.

    It’s a love/hate thing. But it’s soooo pretty.

  3. >>can literally drive with the internet up

    I do hope that’s not true.

  4. Lis

    By drive I mean as a passenger – I was able to stay connected to the internet in a moving car. That said, I live in Florida so driving while on the internet is not necessarily considered a true impairment and would be no more unusual than anything else that happens on our roads. I’m sure Gary will validate that as a true statement ;-)

  5. I was going to get a netbook because I want a really portable computer and do occasionally unfortunately need bloody Windows. But those two things are separate needs — I don’t need the Windows machine to be portable. So I twigged that it’s actually going to be much cheaper to get a Nokia N810 (which is what I really want anyway) and a copy of Windows to install on the Macbook. Add a collapsible Bluetooth keyboard for the N810 and it’s still cheaper than most and a hell of a lot more portable than any netbooks.

    But bloody Expansys are bloody out of bloody stock, so I’m having to wait quite a while. Grr.

  6. mupwangle

    >>Add a collapsible Bluetooth keyboard for the N810 and it’s still cheaper than most and a hell of a lot more portable than any netbooks.

    Not if you’re buying it from expansys it isn’t. £249? Play are doing it for £180.

  7. I used my Macbook less and less once I got an iPhone, but sometimes you just need a keyboard (particularly for SSH access). I sold my Macbook and bought a Dell Mini 9 running Ubuntu, which I love.

    I love it so much I’ve sold my 12″ Powerbook too (which I kept because of the form factor), gave the Mini to ‘im indoors, and have ordered another Dell Mini, in white this time, which I’m going to have a bash at Hackingtoshing.

    My main machine is a fsckoff quad core Mac Pro.

  8. Gary

    I’ve got a Samsung NC-10 to play with for the BBC, and it’s a fantastic wee machine. I’ll do a review when I get the chance.

  9. Gary

    I’d love to run OS X and Pages on it, btw. Pity going the hackintosh route kills the USB ports and WiFi.

  10. Squander Two

    > Play are doing it for £180.

    So were Expansys when I placed my order. Yay!

  11. Squander Two

    Meant to say. Much more than £180 and there’s no point getting an N810: just get an N800 and upgrade the OS, which is free.

  12. mupwangle

    >>So were Expansys when I placed my order. Yay!#

    Fair nuff. Timed it right then.

  13. Squander Two

    I think they’ve actually put the price up to cover the admin costs of me ringing up and hassling them about when it’s going to be in stock.

  14. callum

    Sony were ahead of the game years ago with the little vaio pocket books, My dad had one, but for the battery life and running windows 2k The P3 chip Etc,It was a vey good piece of tech at the time.

    The NC-10 looks very nice and would fit inta a large inside pocket. I would like to get one, but I think my other half would probably kill me.

  15. mupwangle

    I said to Ruth that I wanted one, but the answer of “Because” didn’t satisfy her as a good enough reason to get one.

  16. Gary

    I was going to put the NC10 through its paces last night but a bout of RSI means even 92%-sized keyboards are awkward. If you’re a touch typist used to full sized keyboards they’re a bit cramped. Keyboard itself is nice, though.

    What I *can* say is that the NC10 is surprisingly nippy.

  17. I see Maplin are selling a netbook for £130-odd. Wonder if it’s any good?

  18. Squander Two

    And Nokia have just announced that they’ll be doing Symbian laptops within the next few years. Could be interesting. And could be dire.

  19. Gary on a netbook

    I’m really impressed with this Samsung. If you’re considering a £300 machine it should definitely be on your shortlist. Trackpad is the only thing I don’t like.

  20. Gary on a netbook

    Battery life is awesome. Wi-fi on, browser open, things downloading and battery monitor says 5.35 hours remaining.

  21. With netbooks becoming so handy and cloud computing making it easy to share and/or sync stuff between multiple machines it’s bordering on insanity to buy a fully-featured laptop for travelling.