About a month and half back, I purchased a netbook. Being my first netbook purchase I did a lot of research before deciding on what to get. In the end, I went with the ASUS Eee PC 1005PE-PU27 (amazon affiliate link) model. The reason I chose this model was because of it’s highly rated battery life (14 hours). Now, I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to get the full 14 hours, but I figured if I could get between 8 and 10 hours then I was doing good.
The iPad Elephant
I bought this netbook instead of getting an iPad. Why? Well for one thing, my primary use case for the netbook was programming related conferences (Houston Open Spaces, Austin Code Camp, and Houston Techfest). The idea was to have a computer that I could
- Something that I could actually code on should the situation call for it
- Take notes nicely on. I have enough experience with the iPad touch screen to know that if I was taking notes on it, it’d get messy.
Since the main use case for buying this machine was to use it at programming conferences, the ability to actually code on it was paramount. The iPad has a nice screen and some nice apps, but a full computing replacement it is not. And while the netbook isn’t exactly a desktop (or even laptop) replacement, for my primary use case it was the more preferable option.
Initial Impressions and Hardware Overview
First off, the box this thing came in was small (or smaller than I expected). After getting it out and plugging it in (I usually ignore the whole “fully charge before use”), I booted it up. This particular model came with Windows 7 Starter edition (it was the first thing to go). Using Windows 7 Starter on this netbook seemed be fairly smooth. However I wasn’t doing anything overly intensive so your mileage may vary. And I only used Windows 7 Starter to update the system’s BIOS in preparation for installing Ubuntu Netbook Remix.
The screen screen on this thing is nice, bright, and quite shiny. It lights up well and is viewable in just about every situation I’ve encountered thus far. The chiclet keyboard (separated keys, like a MacBook or Sony laptop) is perfect and my hands rarely feel cramped on keyboard. It took some time to get used to this new keyboard, but it wasn’t long before I was typing at above average speeds. Some people have noted that the right handed SHIFT key is smaller, this is a non-issue for me as I have a habit of using the left handed SHIFT key in about 99.9999% of my typing.
The trackpad supports some limited multitouch activities but I didn’t get a chance to use them under Windows 7 and they don’t appear to work on Linux (if they do I haven’t figured it out just yet and it hasn’t been high priority). The only issue with the trackpad is the same as it is with most trackpads, if it doesn’t turn off while typing you can start typing in random places (sometimes without realizing it). Not huge issue but it can be annoying.
Speedwise, this thing works well for what I need. No, it’s not a powerhouse, and I didn’t buy it to be a portable desktop (or a laptop replacement). My primary concern was battery life, and that is what the Atom processors are mainly built to help with (energy consumption). I should note, that you won’t be watching any HD video on this thing. At least not without skipping in the video. But for my DVD rips, it works just fine.
Ubuntu Netbook Remix
After doing the previously mentioned BIOS update, I quickly installed Ubuntu Netbook Remix 10.04 (in beta at the time). The installation went off without a hitch and I was able to get most of my usual apps installed without too much issue. Most things worked out of the box (excepted the previously mentioned multi-touch on the trackpad). Skype did take some figuring out, but there are instructions to get it working flawlessly.
The overall experience with Ubuntu Netbook Remix has been favorable. I was able to do 2 presentations using my netbook at the Alt.NET Houston Open Spaces conference without a hiccup and many people seemed to be happy with the overall look and feel it as I was giving the presentations.
When it comes to battery life, I have not seen the 14 hours that this thing advertises, however I’m averaging around 8-10 depending on usage and how it’s being used. So I’m quite happy since the idea was to get as close to 8-ish hours of use as possible. I should note that those hours are using Ubuntu with some minor modifications to the power management. Since I didn’t use the Windows 7 install I can’t comment on it’s battery performance.
In the end, I’m quite happy with my purchase. The purpose of the device was to get some computing power with extended battery life. The device has handled itself well through multiple usage scenarios (my wife used it at the hospital while she was there with our son for almost 5 weeks). While you won’t be doing any hardcore gaming on this machine is perfect for casual coding, document editing, web browsing, and chatting. Plus the thing is light enough that its easy to transport around all day and not feel that I’m gonna throw my back out.