There has been a lot of interest recently in small Netbook PCs. To the untrained eye they look like small laptops that have had the DVD drive removed and the scroll pad and keyboard shrunk. Netbooks generally start at about 7″ screen width and can go up to about 14″. They usually have an Intel Atom processor and 1 gigabyte of RAM. This all sounds a bit puny compared to the processing muscle available in most desktops, but for the vast majority of computing requirements, it is more than adequate.
The Netbook I want to discuss is the Samsung N130. It’s at the lower end of price scale for Netbooks, retailing for just over £200. There are cheaper models, but they have smaller screens and less storage space. This Netbook has a bright LED based 10.1″ display which is anti-glare and a decent 160GB hard disk. Though it sounds small, the display is very crisp and bright and is great for web browsing, office work, and email. The 6 cell battery is very impressive and used sensibly this Netbook can easily last a working day without needing a charge.
There are a few minus points which I must cover. The web cam is terrible, a mere 0.3 mega-pixels. If you want to use this Netbook for video conferencing, you would be best to get an external camera. The keyboard is very accessible, as is the track pad, but my one complaint is the shift key is rather small…so I end up typing \ instead of upper case letters.
The wireless internet receiver is superb, with my wireless signal strength never going below excellent in my house. There is also a normal network connection if you want to plug it straight into your router. That however, is missing the point of this computer, it is designed to go with you and offer you access to your digital life where ever you travel. It weighs little more than a hard back book and is so compact it would slip easily into a briefcase or work bag. The build is solid and has a quality feel.
Must Have Accessories
- Nice Laptop Bag Lightweight with space for the power pack and some additional items
- Travel USB Mouse Track pads are great…but for extended use a mouse is much better
- USB DVD ROM/RW USB powered so totally portable – slimline access to DVDs and CD ROMs
It comes with Windows XP, which is tried and tested. Vista would not work on this platform, as it is too resource intensive. Windows 7 is supposed to have good Netbook support but I thought I would experiment with something a bit more geeky.
The following is very geeky and may not interest casual readers. If you alter the software running on your computer you do so at your own risk!
I’ve been using Ubuntu linux on my desktop at work for a number of years. Recently Ubuntu launched a Netbook Remix version of their OS. This is basically a stripped down version of Ubuntu designed for Atom processors. The user interface has also been updated to be more accessible on smaller displays.
To install it, I had to make a bootable USB drive. This was much easier than I initially expected. Once I had booted into the installer I created a new partition and installed Ubuntu. My Netbook is now dual boot, using Grub as a boot manager.
For the less adventurous there is the Wubi installer, which runs Ubuntu within Windows. This way you can try Linux without damaging your existing operating system.
Windows XP was never designed for Netbooks and although it is usable, the traditional desktop layout looks aged and the layout is a little cramped. With Remix OS the layout has been designed specifically for Netbooks. You navigate by large colourful icons which use special task bars and layouts to maximise the workspace available.
What really surprised me however was when I set up my USB 3G mobile internet dongle…and it worked! Sometimes Linux can have poor hardware support for things like USB 3G modems.
A great little Netbook, with excellent network capabilities and a long battery life. Ideal for the travelling sales type or maybe a casual user sat in a coffee shop. WIFI is becoming so widespread now in public places – make the best use of it with a little Netbook like this one.