Though I’m not sure if netbooks are indeed one of the three horsemen of the “Coming Networking Revolution,” I still think they’re pretty cool, useful and am planning to get one any day now.
In early 2008 I bought and tested a Fujitsu U810, a mini PC which arguably helped pave the way for the current wave of netbooks. I was quite satisfied with the usability and features which included a webcam and fingerprint-based biometrics, though annoyed that I was stuck with the Windows Vista version. However, the combination of Vista Home version which limited its utility in the corporate office (no Active Directory authentication), limited free WiFi where I was residing (Tysons Corner, Northern Virginia), and absence of mobile broadband definitely reduced the usefulness of this handy little machine. In the end I reverted to a standard light Dell laptop which I’ve used more as a desktop replacement with occasional mobile use.
In terms of technical requirements, having Ubuntu as the OS is an absolute must since it’s become my primary client OS. I’m satisfied with the standard netbook specs including Atom N270 CPU and 1 GB RAM. The main usage will be, not surprisingly, casual web browsing and email, though I also have needs relating to remote sys admin, assuming I set up a mobile broadband plan. Must-have apps include PuTTy, Terminal Server client, terminal, Firefox, and a PDF viewer.
So far I’m leaning heavily to the Dell Mini 10v, which fits the bill and has a comfortable keyboard. I also looked at the new Dell 2100-N but it’s a little too heavy in mind for a netbook and is designed primarily for the student market.
The HP Mini has a good sized keyboard too, though its a $100 premium over the Dell Mini. On the other hand, the keys on the Acer Aspire, which is being marketed through Verizon/Radio Shack for $49 lately, were just not usable based on my testing.
Now I need to finish research on the Mobile Broadband plans available, leaning towards Verizon but also want to check out AT&T and Sprint.