Got my netbook last Tuesday after a week of researching online and gathering word of mouth on Twitter and Facebook. In the end, I decided on the Acer Aspire One.
It was the best budget netbook for me: cool colours (tempted to buy the girly pink; settled for blue), comfortable keyboard, decent trackpad. Got it from Best Buy, where it was going for $399. Luckily, I had a $200 gift card to help me out at the till.
The guy from Best Buy offered to “optimize” the computer for me for $99. The service takes at least 1 business day. I was skeptical of it and thought I could rely upon my extensive IT background, so I passed and spent 3-5 hours booting and configuring my netbook myself. Had to update firmware and drivers, one of which was preventing the wireless card from locating any of the networks in my building, let alone mine. For those that aren’t as handy with computers, I’d recommend the day of setup, else be prepared to call your closest tech friend for help (even I did, when I had to find the right NIC driver!). Consider buying your netbook a few days in advance of when you think you *need* it. Even without setup, it requires more time and patience to boot it up for first use as compared to its Mac brethren.
My netbook came XP and free trials of McAfee (including personal firewall) and Office 2007 Home and Student Edition — I’m using those until I’m forced to pay for any software.
It’s been exactly a week now and already I feel like my little netbook has paid for itself. I was able to provide coverage on location for an American Thanksgiving dinner that I was invited to and a nearly live blog account of a new food hopping dining experience. On Sunday, used it to take extensive notes at a coffee seminar that I will be writing an article for shortly.
Wireless connectivity was great as was the transfer speed via memory stick (it has built-in slots for SD and other formats, though I needed to use my external card reader for Compact Flash). The size was perfect for me: small enough to hide it on my lap while we sampled food at a large communal table, and large enough to hammer out text on its keyboard and preview results.
I do wish it had better battery performance, as it currently stands at about 2 hours on its own legs before I need to plug back in. The AC cord is bulky and heavy, so when you have to carry that around too, it adds a couple pounds to your mobile gear.
Performance can be sluggish at times, especially when switching applications. I did go into this with eyes open; netbooks are not made to be multi-tasking powerhouses like desktops or full-fledged laptops, but when the only apps active are 2 browser windows, it’s a little bothersome when the processor has to rest for a bit.
There you have it – hope my experience is a useful case study for your own netbook research!