Chair Force Engineer

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Just Say "No" to Netbooks

It's been said that netbooks have been the fastest-growing segment of the computer market over the past two years. They also enjoy the ignominious claim to the lowest customer satisfaction rating of any class of computers. I have finally been able to experience a netbook over an extended trial period, and I'm glad to say that I haven't wasted money on one.

I recently borrowed a Dell Inspiron Mini 1010 from a friend, with the intention of buying it if I liked it. This friend had originally purchased the netbook but quickly replaced it with a 13" MacBook. Now I'm starting to understand why. it's decent for checking e-mail, but it's very easy to make typos on such a tiny keyboard. The screen is so short that you find yourself scrolling through even the shortest of webpages. But whenever you go to scroll, you realize that the touchpad is so tiny that it's virtually useless. Your index finger and thumb are virtually touching each other as you attempt to click and drag.

I think a lot of the erogonomics issues that cripple netbooks result from the PC market's switch from 4:3 to 16:9 widescreen monitors. If netbooks kept the same width but reverted back to the old aspect ratio, we'd get taller netbooks that showed more of our favorite websites and had more room for a functional touchpad.

Given a choice between the netbook and the enormous Dell Inspiron 5150 that I'm currently using, I've stuck with the older "sumo laptop" based on its superior ergonomics. (This is in spite of the Inspiron 5150's reputation for being one of the least-reliable computers ever created.)

Once I happen to stumble upon niceties such as "a full time job" and "a salary that covers my rent and food allowance," I will probably make like my friend and buy a 13" notebook, probably one from HP or Toshiba. I'm starting to think that 13" is the lower limit for how small and lightweight you can make a practical notebook PC. When it comes to netbooks, you'll be dropping $250 or more on a barely-functional PC that's not suited for scrolling or typing lengthy documents.