Open Thread — Off-Topic / Notebook vs. Netbook

This is somewhat off-topic, but as I know many bloggers and blog-readers are technophiles, I wanted to get advice from the best place I could.

The time has come for us to replace my wife’s laptop. It’s about as old and decrepit as a laptop can be and still run Windows, and is a constant source of frustration for her. As any married guy knows, that means that it’s a constant source of frustration for me as well.

Her computing needs are very sparse, so performance is not an issue. At the moment, I’m toying with the idea of getting her a netbook rather than a notebook. I’m sure several readers here have played with the netbooks, and can give an idea of whether they are functional enough to be her primary computer. She will be using it primarily to run her business, but most of that is email and web-based, with occasional document editing.


Cost — The decision is between netbook and low-end notebook, not netbook vs. high-end notebook. Note that this also rules out the ultra-slim notebooks, as you typically pay for the small size.

Operating System — I prefer WinXP. For her, it can’t be Linux, for me, I’d prefer it’s not Vista. We could live with Vista if we had enough horsepower, though.

Storage — Rotating HDD. I know more about SSD technology than most (it’s my job), but the cost/capacity equation is wrong for her application. As a primary PC, and with a lot of storage of digital photos, 8-16 GB would disappear in months.

Software — 95% Firefox. 5% OpenOffice, Picture Viewing, etc.

Size — It needs to be portable enough for her to carry, since she runs a business and needs connectivity on a regular basis. She’s also trucking around one 16-month old child with her, and in another 6-7 months, will have two. So smaller is better in this sense.

Convenience — If a small screen & keyboard (luckily she has small fingers) will grow tiresome quickly, she may need to move up to the notebook.

If I didn’t regularly use one laptop for everything, I’d probably be using a netbook for travel and general connectivity. But I’m sure it would get very old for me quickly, as I’m used to large high-resolution screens and full-size keyboards.

What do you think? I’m thinking of buying a netbook retail for Christmas, letting her play with it for a few weeks, and then if she hates the small keyboard/screen, returning it for a real notebook. But if the general consensus is that she’ll hate it right up front, I might as well save myself a trip.

  • fireballs

    samsung dc-10, look no further.

  • Christine the Soccer Mom

    What? No Mac considerations?

    Those refurbs are a good price – if you can catch it, starting under $900, and you get so much more for personal things than with a PC. Not to mention the lack of problems with 150,000+ viruses…

    Just sayin’.

  • Christine the Soccer Mom

    Oh, yeah… MacBooks are 5 pounds, 13.3″ widescreen, and wifi and bluetooth built in. Refurb link is at the bottom of in blue by “Special Deals.”

  • Brad Warbiany


    Nope… Macs are off the menu. I’m not going to disparage them in any way, because I think on a log of levels, they’re actually better than Windows machines, but I see two problems for what I need:

    1) Cost. A mac is a lifestyle statement, and even with a refurb, you pay accordingly. I’m looking in the $300-400 range for a netbook, or sub-$600 for a notebook. $900 isn’t an option.
    2) Familiarity. If it were for myself, I’d look at a Mac or Linux machine, as I’m a geek and can stand to learn a new OS. My wife, on the other hand, is comfortable with Windows, and I’d rather stick with that. Especially since I won’t use the PC regularly. If she needs Windows help, I can always do so. If she needs MacOS help, I’m friggin’ clueless.

  • tarran

    Also running OpenOffice on Macs is a real pain.

    The stable version requires you to run X-Windows. The Aqua version has annoying bugs especially when it comes to exporting PDF’s.


    You might want to consider system76’s line of laptops. They install ubuntu linux, and it’s pretty newbie friendly (I purchased my workstation from them and for the first time since I switched to linux had no hardware issues whatsoever). You can even purchase a VMWare license and run Windows XP as a virtual machine like I do.

    My wife has an account on my workstation and is after me to install Linux on her laptop (which I refuse to do – her built in wireless networking card does not play nice with Linux). She is strictly a GUI person and gets along just fine.

  • Quincy

    tarran –

    Have you checked out NeoOffice, which is a stable Aqua-native port of OOo? (I tried running OOo 3.0 and it just wasn’t ready for prime time.)

    Brad –

    You can still find some Lenovo ThinkPads with XP Pro pre-loaded at for $650-$750.

  • tarran

    I did try it a while back. I can’t remember exactly what the problem was anymore, but it lasted less than a day on my Mac.