Colin Charles Agenda

Netbook shopping

I was in MidValley today, looking for a tiny power adapter for the power adapter on my Eee PC. After much searching, Ace Hardware seemed to have what I was after. However, post-dinner, it became clear to me that walking by the IT Mall there would be kind of useful.

Walked into the Acer shop to check out the Aspire One. I had seen one at, and Ow had recommended it to me. They were retailing at RM1,499 and were unfortunately out of stock. I walked by and saw the Dell Mini 9, and wasn’t impressed by the overall size of the unit. Heck, the keyboard seemed like there was little improvement from my Eee, and if I were buying Dell, I’d hold out for the newly announced Mini 10. I mean, who wouldn’t want a TV tuner, built in GPS, built in 3G and more, right?

Then, it was into the Lenovo shop, and I was taken away by the Lenovo IdeaPad S9. This is a tiny cute little machine, that has an Intel Atom 1.6GHz processor, with 1GB of RAM, a 160GB hard disk, and a lot of ports. Its also dead light, but gets heavier with the 3-cell battery attached. I’ll admit to actually liking the Lenovo S series quite a bit, The keyboard was of the right size, there was tactile feedback, I could type normally, and I even managed to crash the built-in Internet Explorer! Yes, it comes with Windows XP, which can be a minor annoyance, but I think I could live with it.

SD card slot, check. USB slots, check. It even comes with an ExpressCard slot, and for a little over RM600, I can buy a 3G modem, pop by GSM chip inside, and never have to worry about the USB modem ever again. I was almost ready to make an impulse purchase, when I thought I’d give it some time, come home and give it a little research.

Good thing I did that. I found it quite limiting that both the S9 and the S10, have a resolution of 1024×600. One of my main gripes with the Eee PC 701 is the fact that the resolution of 800×480 just doesn’t cut it – I can’t even read my feeds in Google Reader! (unless I use the mobile version, which also means I lose my keyboard shortcuts). Worse, it seems that the 8.9″ screen and the 10.2″ screen mean you pay less for the S9, but the physical dimensions of the units, are exactly the same!

Come on Lenovo. What kind of scam are you trying to pull? The price tags are just a couple hundred ringgit apart, but the physical dimensions are the same, just that the screen is a little smaller? Good thing I waited, because if I do go out and buy something from Lenovo, its definitely going to be the IdeaPad S10.

However, upon further searching, it seems that the battery lives on the IdeaPad’s aren’t so hot. It seems the Eee PC’s with the Atom processors and SSD’s or flash drives are much better. And primarily, my goal for even wanting a netbook of sorts, is to ensure that the battery life completely rocks.

I have an external APC battery pack, which I use with my Dell laptop. From what I understand, it will probably also work with the IdeaPad’s. I don’t know if it will work with the newer Asus’s. It doesn’t with my Eee 701, the last time I checked.

Then I prodded further. (All on my Eee PC 701, running Fedora 8, might I add). It seems that the Asus Eee PC 1000HE is the latest model that they have, which claims about 9.5 hours of battery life! All for under USD$400 (I’ve not seen this unit in Malaysia, so to speak). It comes with Windows XP, and its the recommended OS. For battery life, I just might keep it – I’ve seen the comparisons with Linux, and the battery lives are remarkably shorter. One wonders why?

So the 1000HE is heavy (1.45KG – even the IdeaPad is lighter), but has an impressive battery life. Choices, choices. Netbooks are becoming so commodity-like now, there’s plenty of choice everywhere, with plenty of configurations. I’m glad I didn’t make an impulse purchase, because there’s been much change in the world of netbooks.