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Living with a netbook, 10 months later

Back in August 2009 I purchased a refurbished Dell mini 10v. I use this netbook almost every day, so believe me, I've put it through its paces.

The configuration is exactly the same as when I purchased it, that being a 1.6GHz Intel Atom CPU, 1GB RAM, 160GB HDD, no optical drive, 1024x576 10-inch screen.

Over the course of 10 months it's had three different OSes on it. It was Windows XP Home, then Windows 7 (which I miss dearly on the netbook), then Ubuntu 10.04, then back to XP Home.

I've pretty much made the decision that for the life of the unit it's going to stay on XP. However I have entertained the idea of putting Windows 2000 on it just to eke out some extra speed. The only reason I don't is because it's most likely true the Dell proprietary Windows drivers wouldn't work in 2000, and I don't want to waste my time trying 2000 knowing that would probably happen.

Build quality

I can say without any shadow of a doubt that the mini 10v is the best built laptop I've ever owned. It's never felt like a toy, it's solid in every single way you could think of and absolutely nothing on it has even hinted that it's going to wear out any time soon. I'm very impressed with it. Believe me when I say I use this thing a lot. Not even the keys have shown any hint of the lettering wearing/fading out. It's a very well-constructed unit with good parts in and out.

Workarounds for speed limitations

The primary browser I use on the 10v is Google Chrome. Before that it was Opera. Both run around the same speed, but Chrome's engine has an easier time with web sites than Opera's does. At present I don't even have Opera installed on the 10v any longer.

I don't use IE at all, and as for Firefox I barely use it on the 10v now. If I wanted the ultimate concerning the speediest Firefox, the answer is not to use Firefox but rather a browser that uses the same engine without any of the fluff. That browser is K-Meleon. The reason I don't use it is because it's a bit wonky in operation, plus I run into that "Your browser isn't supported" crapola from time to time on certain sites.

As I mentioned in a previous bloggo, I use Game Booster to shut off any unnecessary services XP runs - and that's been working out quite well.

Would I buy another netbook?

No, for only two reasons:

  1. I run into screen resolution issues.
  2. I wish it were faster.

If this netbook were a 12-inch screen with a 1280x800 or 1366x768 resolution, outfitted with a Core 2 Duo, 4GB of RAM and Windows 7 64-bit, it would be absolutely perfect - and I'm not kidding.

The next laptop I buy for whenever that happens will be in that specific configuration. Technically anything over a 10-inch is considered "regular laptop" territory, and that's fine by me.

I've been checking out what's on NewEgg, and the configuration I mentioned above is available for almost under $500. That's amazing.

A laptop in a 12 or 13-inch variant as described above with Windows 7 is what I consider to be the ultimate portable computer. Super-light, super-portable, views all web sites easily, runs all apps easily, has better-than-average battery life (around 4 to 6 hours).. it's perfection assuming the build quality is on par with a Dell mini 10v.

The brand I'll most likely go for is a storied one, the ThinkPad. No, not the IdeaPad, the ThinkPad. They're still built with excellent quality, have that good all-business look to them and deliver where it counts.

As for when I'd buy one.. well.. that'll probably take a while. 🙂 That's okay however since the 10v is still and outstanding little laptop, even with its limitations.

In comparison...

Recently I had to perform some work on an older Dell Latitude D531. This laptop is huge and heavy.

As I was working on it, I realized something.

I don't like big laptops anymore.

After you've used a smaller laptop long enough, using a big one is just plain annoying. You can't carry it in one hand easily and the battery life is awful (3 hours tops). Sure, it's a full five inches bigger on the diagonal compared to the 10v, but the extra bulk that goes along with that simply isn't worth the bother.

This is why I say the 12 or 13-inch laptops are the "just right" size, physically. They're only slightly larger than a netbook, but pack just as much speed and convenience as the bigger models do. As long as you have a bare minimum resolution of 1280x800, you're good to go.

And said honestly, 1280x800 on a 12 or 13-inch screen is very, very readable. Even those with poor eyesight would be able to view everything on one easily.


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