End of the Netbook Era

I’ve been using a Linux powered Acer Aspire One netbook for a while now – during that time I switched from its native Linpus Lite to Ubuntu Netbook Edition. However I’ve become increasingly dissatisfied with its performance as a portable PC at home.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not junking it completely. For travel it’s a terrific companion – lightweight and robust with its solid state hard drive. It’s great for checking email or some light web surfing. It crams into a backpack along with my digital cameras and never complains. It backs up my photos on the road.
However it is not a good machine for portable use around the house. It’s underpowered, memory challenged, and very slow for even the simplest Web tasks. The tiny screen is OK in a hotel room, but I longed for a bit more real estate in the living room. The fact it runs Linux mitigates the problem some, but even without the CPU sucking security apps the Aspire One is a laggard. It’s sort of like using a laptop from 2001.
So I have been tempted for a while to replace the netbook with something that is a little more functional. I don’t want to be tied down to a desktop all the time, but I don’t want to stare at a tiny screen and wait… and wait… and wait… either.
There’s an additional point to all this – I really want to learn more about Windows 7. Many of my “clients” in the Almonte seniors community are getting over their Vista phobia and replacing their XP hardware with Windows 7 machines. If I’m going to continue to help them with simple troubleshooting I need to have some experience with this latest version of Windows.
The net result was that a couple of weeks ago I decided to buy a new Windows 7 notebook. I decided on a Dell Inspiron M501R. This is a 15.6 inch consumer grade Dell laptop – I decided I didn’t need road warrior capability or durability.
I also decided to go with AMD technology. I know Intel has a technical edge in processors, but AMD has good reliable hardware and I believe a slight edge in the graphics arena with their Radeon GPUs. I got a quad core Phenom II CPU and a discrete Radeon 550v graphics unit. AMD calls that combination Vision Ultimate and it should be more than I need for most tasks.
Anyway I customized my machine on the Dell website, my order sped off to Xiamen China where the system was screwed together in Dell’s factory there. Then it headed off to Nashville TN for final boxing and shipping to Toronto. From there Purolator brought it to my door in Almonte. All this took 10 days from start to finish.
I’ve been playing around with my new toy since Monday – typing this post on it now. I’ve found it to be a powerful, smooth and responsive machine – its graphics are significantly better than either of my aging desktops (2205 and 2008 models.) It’s more than capable of running the snazzy Windows 7 Aero interface.
As for Windows 7 – I like it a lot, and I’m a dedicated Linux user. It seems solid and unobtrusive (a far cry from the annoying and bloated Vista O/S I’ve encountered when trying to fix a few problems at certain neighbors.) It does have User Account Control but it’s like a well behaved Linux install – doesn’t jump in your face at every keystroke, and doesn’t dim the screen while it waits for your confirmation. I wouldn’t hesitate to tell any Windows XP devotee to switch over to Windows 7 when they replace their system.
So it’s the end of the netbook era at home. But the little Aspire One will be in my backpack and off on another journey one of these days.

1 Comment
  1. Sarah in Ottawa 10 years ago

    One of these days, huh?

    Though we're watching the Superbowl now – in three weeks, we'll be web surfing (and possibly watching the Oscars) in our hotel room in Ft Lauderdale, awaiting embarkation on the beautiful Equinox!

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