The New Pick-up Icon – the Netbook

I’ve had my netbook since the middle of January, running Windows 7 from day 1. No, my netbook doesn’t have a DVD drive. However, a USB to IDE adapter gave me the ability to hook a drive up to the netbook to get Windows installed.

Everywhere I take it – user groups, coffee shops, hotels – I’m asked what “this little laptop” is. I call it my laptop’s laptop. Check this out for a size comparison:

Laptop, netbook, and wireless keyboard
15″ ASUS G1 laptop on the left, Dell Mini 9 on the right

It’s such a great conversation piece. I’ve had total strangers – both male and female – stare for a bit and then come up and ask me about it. So look out cute kids and puppies, the netbook is the new pick-up icon!

So what do I tell people about it? I love traveling with it – smaller footprint than my 15″ laptop, much lighter, and great for things like checking email, reading things on the Internet, chatting online, and basic office functions. Going away for work and want to stay in touch with the fam? This one has a webcam built-in, great for video chatting. I had tested it with one of my friends, who was amazed with the webcam’s clarity, as if he was looking directly into my house. With wi-fi, wired, and Bluetooth capabilities, I can get my Internet fix in a number of ways. The SD card reader is nice for offloading pictures from my digital camera to a hard drive while I’m on trips.

Ah… but the hard drive. So the Dell Mini 9 that I have has a 16GB solid state drive. That’s right, only 16GB. So I have to watch my space. Now I know I can upgrade my hard drive and that Dell is shipping Minis now with bigger hard drives, but from my personal basic setup, 16GB is what I have to work with, which isn’t really that much space for storing pictures – especially when 7GB alone is eaten up by the operating system.

Battery life is good enough for me. With wireless on and full use, I can get a couple hours easily. However, I’m typically not promiscuous with my netbook, so the wireless is usually off and the display brightness isn’t super bright. This means I get about 3-3.5 hours of battery life.

The processor and the memory are my limiting factors. I’ve got 1GB of memory, with a 1.6GHz Atom processor. So it’s great for the stuff I mentioned above. However, as a developer, I wouldn’t compile code on it. Writing scripts, HTML pages, and other notepad tasks… sure. Working on a Silverlight app… probably not.

There are little quirks, but I had to expect something had to change, considering the size. One of the other things I struggle with sometimes is the keyboard layout. For the most part, it’s a QWERTY keyboard, but my tilde (~) and my apostrophe (‘) are in different spots, and that throws me off, for as much as I use those characters.

Despite the headache it was to get it shipped, I am fairly content with my netbook. If you’re doing simple tasks on a computer while on the go, I’d recommend the Dell Mini 9.

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