Thursday, April 30, 2009

Netbook Fever

I have been downloading a LOT of information about woodworking lately. There is so much out there on the web, if one could find the time to actually digest it all I am sure they would be a professional woodworker in no time flat. I, on the other hand will require a little more practice.

However it's hard to divide my time between studying this material and actually working in the shop. I could spend every free moment studying it if I wanted to be glued to my computer. Unfortunately I do have other things I need to accomplish in a day. So I was trying to figure out a way to be able to make this info portable so that I could peruse it whenever I had some spare time but wasn't near my computer. Surprisingly enough my spouse suggested I get one of those "netbooks".

Now I am sure I may have mentioned that I would like one of these appliances, but when the suggestion was made I immediately took that as a blessing to go ahead and get one. In retrospect I can see that wasn't the intention.

But I started web window shopping and the best deal I could find was an Acer Aspire One for $329.00. (1.6GHz CPU, 1GB RAM, 160GB HDD, Web Cam, B/G wireless.) For the heck of it I thought I'd check Kijiji, and low and behold, 27 minutes earlier someone posted the EXACT same spec netbook for $200.00! Needless to say I snapped it up before the spouse could say "just kidding".

The thing had been barely used and I put it through some torture the first day. I ran the battery from a full charge non stop for 2.5 hrs doing actual computing. Not great but not bad for a small Lithium Ion battery. I uninstalled the crapware and installed all the programs I would need on it.

I really LIKE it. It's not designed to replace your computer, but for surfing, checking email, watching video or reading e-books its GREAT! For old folks like me the screen is a bit small and requires reading glasses. It's not FAST at anything but it gets the job done. My only major complaint is the networking is a little quirky and slow. I had a lot of trouble connecting to my home network and moving documents or video from my main computer to the netbook. It connects to the Internet fine but is a little slow loading complex pages.

It's small enough to take absolutely anywhere. This means I can carry my full woodworking library of books and videos everywhere I go and catch up on my reading any time I have a free few minutes. I could also watch movies, listen to music, carry my favourite pictures.

The camera works, but the video is very low quality. It might be alright for Skype or MSN messenger, neither of which I use so no biggie to me. This is not a gaming computer by any means. Solitaire and Mine Sweeper are about the limit. The video quality is good and very bright even on battery power. The tin can sound is all you can expect for speakers probably the size of a dime. Headphones or ear buds will remedy that.

There is no optical drive but one can be connected via one of the three available USB ports. Unless it's externally powered it will be a severe drain on the battery unless the unit is plugged in. The keyboard takes a little getting used to. Everything you need is there but some functions require the use of the number lock of Fn keys. The touch pad has two side buttons to replace the left and right mouse buttons. This works exceptionally well. The pad requires only a light touch.

Overall I would give it 3 out of 5 stars. If the networking was better I would have given it 4 stars. It can't get 5 only because it is not designed to replace a computer or laptop. But for portability and usefulness it's right on!

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