Help me pick out a new laptop

I am in the market for a new laptop/netbook. My current Gateway is more than three years old. It works okay, but it is too big, too heavy, and it is slowly falling apart.

I hope to replace it in the next month, but need some help selecting what my next laptop/netbook should be. I have got it narrowed down to five (though I’m open to additional suggestions).

I plan for it to be my primary computer. I work almost exclusively through online applications, so I do not need to run too many complicated programs. I want to be able to work remotely and will eventually want to add a broadband wireless card. Here is specifically what I am looking at. Please let me know in the comments which of these you would choose and why, or what you would choose instead and why.

I am struck by how incredibly similar these five computers are.  If someone can point me to something that meets my specs and is different than these five, I would be interested.

My laptop/netbook requirements:

  • Weight: Prefer that it be under 3 pounds. My current laptop is over 7 pounds and is unbearable to take anywhere.
  • Screen: Want at least a 10″ screen.
  • Processor: My three-year-old laptop is 1.7 GHz, so something in that range would be nice.
  • Memory: My Gateway has 1 GB RAM, which works fine for my current needs.
  • Hard Drive: Current HD is 75 GB, and I am not using it all, so that range is fine. I would prefer a SSD, rather than a HDD, for less heat and more durability.
  • OS: Prefer Windows XP, though I am open to a Mac (and Sam thinks I should hold out for Windows 7 out later this year).
  • Price: Has to be under $1,000. I would really prefer if it was under $500.
  • Additional: Bluetooth, WiFi, and a webcam.

samsung nc10111 Help me pick out a new laptop

1. Samsung NC10

Weight: 2.8 lbs.
Screen: 10.2″
Processor: 1.6 GHz Intel Atom N270
Memory: 1 GB
Hard Drive: 160 GB HDD
OS: Windows XP Home
Price: $426
Additional: Bluetooth 2.0, 802.11 b/g Wifi, 1.3 Mega Pixel webcam

asus eee pc 1000he111 Help me pick out a new laptop

2. ASUS Eee 1000HE

Weight: 3.2 lbs.
Screen: 10″
Processor: 1.66 GHz Intel Atom N280
Memory: 1 GB
Hard Drive: 160 GB HDD
OS: Windows XP Home
Price: $389
Additional: Bluetooth 2.0, 802.11 b/g  n Wifi, 1.3 Mega Pixel webcam

hp mini note 2140111 Help me pick out a new laptop

3. HP MiniNote 2140

Weight: 5.15 lbs.
Screen: 10.1″
Processor: 1.6 GHz Intel Atom N270
Memory: 1 GB
Hard Drive: 160 GB HDD
OS: Windows XP Home
Price: $464
Additional: Bluetooth 2.0, 802.11 b/g Wifi, 1.3 Mega Pixel webcam

lenovo ideapad s10111 Help me pick out a new laptop

4. Lenovo Ideapad S10

Weight: 2.4 lbs.
Screen: 10.2″
Processor: 1.6 GHz Intel Atom N270
Memory: 1 GB
Hard Drive: 160 GB HDD
OS: Windows XP Home
Price: $350
Additional: Bluetooth 2.0, 802.11 b/g Wifi, 1.3 Mega Pixel webcam

msi wind u100111 Help me pick out a new laptop

5. MSI Wind U100-432US

Weight: 2.6 lbs.
Screen: 10″
Processor: 1.6 GHz Intel Atom N270
Memory: 1 GB
Hard Drive: 160 GB HDD
OS: Windows XP Home
Price: $380
Additional: Bluetooth 2.0, 802.11 b/g Wifi, 1.3 Mega Pixel webcam

Legal Technology

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  • Jason Samuels

    I’ve been looking lately and think the Asus eee PC 1000HE is the best on the market right now. (Have promised myself I get to buy one after I file my taxes.)

    A couple of things about the specs you posted – it actually has wireless-n (not b/g). It also has a 6-cell battery and an LED backlit screen. The larger battery makes it a little heavier, but that’s a fair tradeoff for how long it lasts – Asus claims 9.5 hours under optimal circumstances, PC World tested it at just over 7 hours under normal circumstances, and ZDNet got 4.5 hours out of it under extreme use. All of those numbers are phenomenal. The other side effect of the battery is that it protrudes a bit from the bottom of the machine – but that actually has the effect of tilting the computer up while sitting on flat on a table, which make it more ergonomic for typing.

    Other neat things about this model – every review talks about how nice the new keyboard is (an obvious bonus). The hard drive and RAM are easily upgradable via a panel on the bottom of the machine, the board has one RAM slot that can handle up to a 2GB DIMM, which you can get shipped with the machine for an extra $25 through Amazon. (Some netbooks have the RAM soldered in, making them non-upgradable.) You can of course also swap out the hard drive for an SSD, but FWIW I wouldn’t recommend it yet. SSDs have greatly improved read speeds, but because of the number of steps it takes to them commit a write operation their overall performance gain is not that great – this is especially true on the low end of the market for them. I think they’re still a couple years away from being worth the investment. Anyway, I digress, the 1000HE also has the unique feature of having buttons above the keyboard to switch the resolution to 1024×768 and to change the processor speed from energy efficient to performance mode on the fly. The only consistent criticism I’ve seen of the machine is that its multi-touch trackpad is a little flaky.

    PC World named the 1000HE their top netbook in the March issue, and I recently saw PC Magazine call it hands down, the best netbook for the money on the market right now.

    P.S. Also, if you look on Amazon there’s a really neat picture of a custom silver keyboard accent for it. I looked for that on eBay, found that it’s made by an enthusiast who designed it from scratch at the trophy shop where he works, and he sells them for $20.

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/aaronstreet/ Aaron Street

    Jason,

    Thanks for the great feedback!

    Your points about being able to easily upgrade storage and memory are very valuable. My hope would be to make even a netbook last at least a few years, so I don’t want one that become obsolete in six months.

    I will rank the ASUS 1000HE as my top choice, unless others (Sam?) convince me otherwise.

  • Will Geer

    I concur with Sam. wait for Windows 7 if you can. However, if you prefer to make the plunge, the Asus Eee PC S101 fits your bill with XP, 1GB of RAM, and 16GB SSD (30GB Eee storage). http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=2034940772+1725945080+1723545173&Configurator=&Subcategory=772&description=&Ntk=&SpeTabStoreType=&srchInDesc=

    Also, this Asus EeePC comes with a 40GB SSD and Linux OS (Xubuntu I believe). It’s $399. You could always put XP if you wish. Here is the link. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834220369

    I believe MSI also makes a Wind with a SSD. It’s easily searchable. Good luck.

  • http://lawyerist.com Sam Glover

    If you must have Windows, I would wait for Windows 7. I feel sheepish admitting that I like it better than Linux, but I do.

    As for hardware, the 12″ MSI X-Slim is the only netbook that tempts me at the moment.

    Also, keep in mind that a lot of those battery figures come from batteries that are twice as heavy and large as the one they show in the pictures.

  • http://wonderingtreo.blogspot.com Harold

    I have the MSI Wind and tried out the Asus. The Asus keyboard is just too darn small. It’s impossible to use the keyboard effectively unless you have shrunken fingers.

    The MSI is well under $500 in the configuration you require and comes with WinXP. There are many who have modded the unit themselves, including increasing the HD, upping the RAM from standard 1GB to 2GB (max), swapping out the wifi card (comes with a B,G,N card) and even swapping out the touchpad. I did the wifi swap, put in a 320gb HD and upped the RAM myself.

    The system is so lightweight, I keep it in my briefcase.

    You want to see what Wind users are saying, go to http://www.msiwind.net.

    Harold

  • http://lawyerist.com Sam Glover

    In the interest of fully disclosing my motives, I cannot stand wedge-shaped laptops, and I would buy a Lenovo before anything else, both for the keyboard and the durability.

  • http://lawtech.wordpress.com/ Steven Richardson

    I would agree with Jason on the Asus model. It got great reviews in my research (http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/product/46518/review/eee_pc_1000he.html) and I am looking at purchasing it myself. As for waiting for Windows 7, I am skeptical of Microsoft’s claims of anything at this point, especially of the OS working on a netbook. But that’s just me. I understand Sam Glover has tested it a bit, so he probably knows more about it than I do. Perhaps the question is, how soon do you need it? Does the utility of having it sooner outweigh the potential benefit of having a Windows 7 machine? What specifically does Windows 7 bring to the table for someone using a browser for most of his work?

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/aaronstreet/ Aaron Street

    Harold: I’m a little hesitant to admit it on the pubic interwebs, but I actually do have very small hands, so big keyboards isn’t as crucial for me as for others. I do agree that keyboard size is an important consideration, though.

    Will, Sam and Steven: I’m feeling more and more like it might be worth a few months’ wait to get Windows 7. My only concern is that there’s always some cool new technology on the horizon and I will need to pull the trigger eventually.

  • http://lawtech.wordpress.com/ Steven Richardson

    Just for my own curiosity (hey, I may wait til Windows 7 too), what does that OS offer for netbooks that is worth the wait (other than full on support from Microsoft, which XP will soon no longer enjoy)?

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

    @Steven Speed, for one thing. Windows 7 may tax the hardware a bit more, but it is also better-optimized for modern hardware. All I know is my four-year-old ThinkPad feels faster with Windows 7 than it has with XP, Ubuntu, or Fedora.

    For another, Windows 7 has a much-improved interface. For the most part, it just does what I expect it to do without tweaking or wrestling. The new taskbar is especially awesome.

    From the sound of it, I am dangerously close to becoming a Microsoft fanboy. I had better do a full review of Windows 7 soon and get it out of my system.

  • Shannon

    I have an ASUS EEE PC 1000H. It is the model before the 1000HE. The only difference really (besides the variables that are changeable such as hard drive size, SSD over SATA, etc.) is the longer battery and the shift key on the keyboard. You can notice the difference in Shift keys here:

    http://tinyurl.com/eeecomparison

    Personally, I wish I had waited to purchase my netbook, but my Dell 700m was getting old, and the fact that Microsoft supplemented 30% of my purchase with live.com and ebay made me pull the trigger. A friend of mine has an Acer Aspire One. It has a much better keyboard design, but the screen is just too small. The minimum screen I was willing to go is 10 inches. Now, everyone from Dell to Acer to Lenovo to LG to Samsung make a 10 inch netbook. Most are likely the same. However, I’d wait for the ASUS EEE 1004DN. Its a netbook with an optical drive. Details here:

    http://www.asus.com/News.aspx?N_ID=9CEa2w4Lz1370Mvz

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

    The 12″ HP Pavilion is another tempting buy, and the price is pretty good.

  • Liz Harris

    Travelling in Europe over Christmas, I left my HTC touch at Paris airport and had to find a replacement quickly in Dublin. I bought the Samsung, basically because it was the only netbook available, but just love it. Like you, most of my work is through online applications, and it is ideal. The keyboard is fine, screen is clear and the mousepad has a tap function, which I now use all the time. Highly recommend.

  • Liz Harris

    Should also have added, battery life is fantastic – much better than any previous netbook. Has wi-fi (works well) and webcam. Don’t use bluetooth with my netbook, so have not investigated.

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/aaronstreet/ Aaron Street

    Liz: Thanks for the recommendation. You’ve now begun to cloud my decision-making process by making it even harder for me to decide which model to buy!

  • http://lawtech.wordpress.com/ Steven Richardson

    Sam: On the 12″ HP Pavilion, once you get into pricing like $750, I personally think you have gone beyond the netbook price point and more in the territory of conventional laptops. From what I have read, netbooks are not being used as primary machines, and are mainly being bought as secondary laptops for more basic tasks related to net access (thus eschewing the need for optical drives, fancier graphics, larger hard drives, more RAM, and the like) where increased portability is a plus. Other than the 12″ screen, all the features on this machine are that of a conventional laptop rather than a netbook. Nothing wrong with the machine (I personally love HP products, having purchased a desktop and laptop from them), and Aaron, if you like it, get it. I just wouldn’t really call it a netbook.

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

    @Steven: Oh, I agree. But at $750, the HP starts to look like a pretty attractive alternative to a netbook. Less of an impulse buy, I suppose, but also more useful without adding a lot of size.

  • http://www.biahelp.com Sam H

    I would go with the Dell Vostro 1320. Currently selling for $579. Here is the link. I have been using a dell vostro 1400 for my practice for the last year and like it but it is a bit heavy. The new 1320 is much lighter but not much smaller. (i just purchased it for my wife). You generally can not beat the price of the dells but they do not look very nice. It can also get a free downgrade to winxp pro. Which is what I have with both of them. Battery life is great. I get about 3 hours with the small battery and double that with the 9 cell upgrade.

    I wanted to buy a netbook to carry around with me but after looking at them found that they were very difficult to use for typing or editing documents because of their size. And as a desktop replacement it just does not seem viable without an drive. Vostro works great as a desktop replacement.

    Hope this helps.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/aaronstreet/ Aaron Street

      Thanks for a new model recommendation, Sam.

      I like how easy it is to customize Dells online, which would be one reason to consider a model like yours.

  • Jason Samuels

    Thought I’d update: got my Asus 1000HE this weekend.

    The keyboard, screen, battery life – all awesome!* The trackpad works great but the multitouch functions are tricky – pinching and spreading two fingers to zoom is somewhere between tough and impossible; scrolling with two fingers works better but not perfect; tapping two fingers to scroll lock is cool once you get used to it.
    * Though the small shift key on the right is not ideal.

    I installed a 2GB RAM upgrade. Getting the bottom panel off was a little bit difficult, though it’s a good thing that it fits tightly. The performance is better than expected. There’s definitely a lag opening applications, but otherwise it’s stable and responds well. The furthest I’ve pushed it yet is using Outlook, Live Mail, Tweetdeck and Firefox .. so far, so good. Also pleasantly surprised to find that it handles Beyond TV Link like a charm, streaming back video from my main PC.

    Overall, pretty sweet.

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/aaronstreet/ Aaron Street

    Jason,

    Thanks for the update.

    I have not yet decided what I’ll do, but I’m tempted to wait a few weeks to see if there are any announcements about bundled 3G wireless broadband with subsidized Asus Eee Pcs.

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/aaronstreet/ Aaron Street

    So despite all the great recommendations you gave, I ended up buying a laptop none of us mentioned: The 13″ HP Pavilion dv3510nr.

    As for my required specs:
    Weight: Wanted under 3lbs. This computer is 5lbs.
    Screen: Wanted at least a 10? screen. This is 13.3″
    Processor: Wanted at least 1.6GHz. This a 2.0GHz dual core.
    Memory: Wanted at least 1 GB. This is 4GB.
    Hard Drive: Wanted at least 75GB SSD. This is a 300GB HDD.
    OS: Want to use Windows 7. This is Vista (I will upgrade this fall).
    Price: Wanted it to be $500-$1000. This was $900.
    Additional: Wanted Bluetooth, WiFi, and a webcam. This has all of them.

    In sum, I got a full-performance laptop for only a little more weight and money than a netbook.