Sunday, 29 November 2009

My Netbook Review

Swami Nikhilaananda said:
"It's prudent for a chatterbox to buy a cellphone with long battery life, than buying an iPhone"

I purchased a netbook recently, and I thought of posting a small review about it just in case some of you were considering buying one. I hope you find this useful. If you want anything particularly, I will write about that as well.

Specifications
Well, the netbook that I bought is an Acer Aspire D250 model. The specifications are 160GB hard disk, 1 GB RAM (extensible to 2) and 1.6 GHz Intel Atom Processor, 10.1" LED backlit screen with a six cell battery. It has three USB ports, one port to connect your monitor to, one speaker out, one mic in, one ethernet port and one for charging. It has a camera and mic inbuilt. It has Wi-Fi, bluetooth and 3G for connectivity. The battery life is around 7 hours or so (for sure - sometimes more, sometimes a little lesser depending on usage). The speakers are ok, just good enough, and lacking in bass. Since I use a good pair of earphones, I don't miss it. It is very light, and weighs around 1.2 Kgs I think.

I searched a lot for netbook models to choose from, and found that it was very hard to zero in on one. The reason is the large array of netbook models and companies - However, the interesting point is that most models (nearly 90%) have the exact same specifications!! The price of this model was Rs. 15,600 at the Acer Mall, Manipal Centre, Dickenson Road when I bought it. The price will be somewhere around that.

Buy with a purpose
I found that this particular model had gotten many good reviews. I bought it for the sole purpose of portability. I have a powerful desktop to do any intensive things (including playing graphic intensive games) that I want to do, so I don't really expect the netbook to do anything of that kind. The primary purpose of netbook was to do something on the go - And the main features of the netbook that I feel you should go for, are battery life, weight and cost. Looks etc. are important, but not the main criteria. The trackpad is a little small, but is not at all a hinderance that I thought it would be.

Operating Systems
This model came pre installed with Windows XP and Android. If you are like me, then you will pretty soon feel Android to be very fast but useless. The only purpose you can use Android is to quickly boot and check your mail or do something on the net. However, Windows XP boots a few seconds later, so I never used Android. Instead, I installed Ubuntu Netbook Remix [UNR] Edition. Now this is a good idea for all of you. This version is optimised for netbooks and is very fast. You can install it like an application from inside windows, and remove from inside windows like any other application. So, I think you should go for it - Read more about it here. (How to install? Read in subsequent section)

How to install new operating system?
If you want to install Ubuntu Netbook Remix edition, download it first in the ISO format. If you want to install it through Windows, then you can just mount it on your Virtual CD drive (Netbooks don't have a built in CD drive) You can use Daemon tools or PowerISO for this. Then you can just run the wizard, and you are done. If you want to instead run a live version (To try without making any changes to your system) then first download UNetbootin (Download from here) and run the software. Plug in your USB drive, and it will make your USB drive bootable. It doesn't have to be UNR only, any other Linux distro will do. Restart your Netbook, and press F2 in the first screen to enter the BIOS screen. Go to the boot menu, and change the order to Boot from USB HDD first. Save and exit. Make sure to plug in your USB drive to boot from it the next time it starts.

Please Note
It is always better to take a backup of your default factory settings. Acer recommends putting in a USB CD/DVD writer and taking your backup though the Acer eRecovery Management tool which will take backup. If you lose your recovery partition (explained shortly) you can use this to restore your system. Normally, if your system fails, you can always press F10 just when the system starts and restore it to factory settings (you will lose all your data). Remember that the recovery system is on a hidden partition in your hard disk. So, if you format you hard disk, you will lose all your data, including factory setting recovery part. It is better to take a back up of all your data (including the hidden partition using eRecovery management tool) before experimenting too much.

Applications
It came with several applications pre-installed. Many of them are useless or annoying (mostly both). McAfee antivirus with a short expiration date which keeps telling you that again and again. Microsoft Office 2007 with a short expiration date. Many cute games (loads of fun - timepass) which can each be played not more than 60 minutes (30 mins today and 30 tomorrow means game over - forever) after which you have to purchase them. There were some useful software like Adobe reader, Google Desktop, Windows Live products etc. that also come preloaded. I installed some applications and found absolutely no lag in speed.

Launchy is one of the coolest apps you can download for your netbook.

Google Desktop Search is also amazing, however, disable the persistent search bar, and use the Ctrl button twice hotkey instead to get more space and search results quickly.

Use AVG Free Edition and Open Office in case you don't want to invest on software.

Networking
Buying a netbook is not expensive, so buying additional hardware for it is not prudent. I connected my desktop and netbook via the netbook and was able to share the DVD drive of my desktop, along with files etc. It is a very simple process, and just in case you were thinking of buying some extra hardware, see if you can manage through networking. As of now, you cannot use desktop dvd drive for eRecovery management backups. However, you can do other type of burning. Sharing the CD drive gives you the ability to read from netbook. However, if you want to burn, you have to use Alcohol 120% software on your desktop, and Microsoft iSCSI software on your netbook. There is an excellent tutorial here

Misc. points
The netbook didn't heat up much, and was very quiet. However, remember that it has a radiator on the left, and sucks air from the bottom. So, just try to avoid blocking the air holes at the bottom.

You can consider disabling certain toolbars to ensure a greater viewing area. My computer, IE, etc. come with less commonly used toolbars disabled.

Netbooks with Windows 7 starter edition are supposed to be really good. Do try them out.

You can see how a netbook feels like by visiting a showroom such as Staples (opposite Big Bazaar, which is next to The Forum Mall in Koramangala)

Enjoy your netbook :-)

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8 comments:

DARSHANA said...

Thank u!!! got to know about the net book..... from reading about the netbook from ur blog i suggested one of my friend to go thru it.....:)

prashanth harshangi said...

thanks maga am buying one for my parents :)

MsAmbita said...

Can you run iTunes (mainly for watching movies) on the netbook? And if so, is there any speed issue? I want to buy one for my 7 yr old but want it to double as a movie player for trips. Thanks so much for your review! Very helpful!!

chrnth said...

This is a neat review. By the look of your config its almost a proper laptop... What is the difference exactly? Not netpad v laptop, give me your netpad v laptop...

Nik said...

@MsAmbita - You can run iTunes on it. I used VLC player and Windows Media Player and tried playing some videos and they played well without any issues.

@chrnth - That is my point :-) There are not a lot of differences, which is why I didn't invest on a laptop. Perhaps the screen is bigger, but so is its weight. This is good enough, and I can do all that I want to do. However, I think the difference lies at the processor level - Intel Atom versus Intel Pentium. I was not able to feel any lag when I used it. Like I said, main purpose was only portability, so any intensive things can be done on the desktop.

Sagar T U said...

Thanks for the neat review, Swami! ;). I knew that decent netbooks come for 20k+ bucks. Quite surprised and happy(coz,I might buy one soon) that you bought it for 15.6k. Congrats!

Can you play HD videos(*.mkv)on it? I was told that the Atom processor isn't good enough for that.

And how do you use 3G connectivity on it exactly?

I kinda feel that mobile phones (with good browsing capabilities) are easier to go online on the go using GPRS, which also comes at reasonable cost. What's your take on this ?

Nik said...

@Sagar - I have not yet tried one. I have some .mkv files, I will try it out and let you know. Just look out in this spot tomorrow. I don't think you will ever use them Wi-Fi and Bluetooth will rock. 3G is nice for cellphones only :-) I agree. I believe you can insert a sim card in a slot provided under the hood. I will check it out and let you know.

Rahul said...

its a trade-off b/w portability vs performance , ultimately its you who should decide ..