Adventures in Netbook’ing

In my last post, I recounted using the Kindle DX and how the actual experience of e-reading with the market-leading device doesn’t quite hold up to the promise, in my opinion.

To reprise something else I said in my last post, I also self-identify as a “PC,” as in “pragmatic computing” user. For me, as a software and services industry professional for more than 27 years, this also translates into being an intractable Wintel user, frequently shading towards the hometown favorite, Dell.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m no Mac hater. The very first PC I used at a client in my first out-of-office staffing assignment as a “green bean” consultant for Arthur Andersen & Co’s management information consulting division was an Apple II running Visicalc at Apache Oil. I first became an Apple product owner when I bought one of the first iMacs, back in the day, when Jobs first returned for his current run. And, since then, I’ve purchased two Macbooks, two iPhones, and iPods more numerous than I can recall.

For me, it’s all about pragmatism at this point. Windows works for me, Office apps are the tool of trade in the business world, and Internet Explorer is still practically universal, even with the inroads of Firefox, Safari, and newbies like Chrome.

However, month-in and month-out, I remain in search of lighter, cheaper compute power to get the same job done as well or better. It was with this search in mind that I thought I would give one of the newer Netbooks a test drive earlier this summer.

AcerThe early entrants in the U.S. were Acer, Asus, and MSI. HP was fairly early as well and, of course, now you can find models from Dell, Lenovo, Toshiba and many others. I decided to try an Acer model that was well-reviewed, although about to be one-upped by some newer models. I got it on sale at Office Depot and decided to put it to a real world test on a quick trip to New York. (It appears the model, while available at stores like Walmart, is no longer available online at Office Depot.)

What did I find? While I might be apt to try another model in the future, for now Netbooks are not for me. Slow speed, lack of internal memory, and annoying usability design points were all negative elements of the experience that ultimately compelled me to return the Acer to the good folks at Office Depot, who took it back within their specified two week refund window.

Granted, I knew going into the test drive that there would be some tradeoffs. But, it was the unexpected things that proved to be most annoying, like being unable to push the screen back far enough to get a proper reading angle. Instead, I was faced with hunching over in my seat (remember: roundtrip flight from Austin to NYC) or propping up the bottom of the Acer, below the mouse pad, so that it balanced on its spine. Try typing like that!

In the end, while I so desired to find an affordable compromise device between my fully loaded, industrial sized (and weighted) Dell laptop and my keyboard-and-Office-apps-challenged, but “Swiss army”-esque iPhone, the Netbook just wasn’t up to the test. Not yet. But, let me hear from you, Net book users. I want to know what model has worked for you and your work tips to go with it.

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