Recently my wife and I decided that we wanted to get a laptop computer so that we could check emails, do work and otherwise surf the web while the other spouse was on our main desktop computer. We no longer wanted to deal with the “are you done on the computer yet?” exchanges. (Yes, it was usually me hogging the computer time, I admit it.)
At first we looked at a wide range of regular sized laptop computers. We looked at everything from some nice looking Dell laptops all the way to the fashionable and slick Apple Macbooks. The laptops were all extremely nice, and would do everything that we needed them to, but they all had one thing in common that wasn’t something we were excited about. The price.
Looking For A Cheaper Alternative
After talking with a friend about their new MSI Wind U120 netbook computer, and how much they loved it, we decided to look into getting a netbook. After all, they were in fact a lot cheaper than some of the laptops we were looking at buying.
Everything I had heard about netbook computers up until that point really hadn’t been that great. I had an image of these tiny little computers, too small for my big hands, that would lack the processing power to do much of anything. Getting one really didn’t sound that appealing.
After trying out our friend’s netbook, however, my opinion started to change. Not only did the little machine run a stripped down version of Windows XP, it ran it very well. It had 1 gig of memory, plenty of processor power, a 160 gig hard drive, and really wasn’t as underpowered as I had expected. It was great for checking email, writing word documents, surfing the web, and doing a whole host of other every day computing tasks.
Researching Available Netbooks
After deciding that a netbook might be right for our situation, and knowing that it would definitely fit better into our budget, we began looking at what was available. We found quite a wide range of available units. It seems that netbooks are all the rage right now!
After reading reviews, and checking out several models at local stores, we ended up narrowing it down to several models.
All the units were in the $300-350 price range, right where we wanted to be. In addition, they had almost identical specs:
- 10 inch screen
- 160 GB hard drive
- 1 GB memory
- Intel Atom Processor
After considering the options, and trying out all three units at our local Micro Center store, we decided on the MSI Wind U100 netbook, for a variety of reasons.
First, the unit had received good reviews from many different review sites. Second, it was compact and attractive looking, and we liked the ergonomics of the netbook. It was also the lowest priced unit we found as it was on sale for just under $300 at our local store.
The Wind U100 is able to do just about any basic computing task that we throw at it, minus things that are graphics intensive like video editing or anything else that needs some serious memory and CPU. Since my wife mainly uses it to check email and facebook, that’s not an issue.
The other netbooks we looked at were nice as well, but the Wind won out because of it’s combination of good price, features and good reviews.
While buying a new computer is hardly ever a truly frugal undertaking, there are ways to make it a bit more reasonable. We found that since we wouldn’t be using our new portable computer for much more than checking email and facebook (or twitter!), we wouldn’t need one of the more expensive and feature laden laptop computers. Instead we were able to get something that was considerably cheaper, but still offered everything that we needed in portable computing.
While we are completely happy with our new computer, netbooks do have their drawbacks. For example, a 10 inch screen isn’t really big enough for all applications. Some webpages are too wide for the small screen, and trying to view photos in applications like Picasa isn’t as easy as on a larger screen. I have also have found that the smaller keyboard on the netbook isn’t as suited for larger hands like mine – there have been a few frustrating moments when trying to type on this netbook. Beyond those things, however, we have found that netbooks are a lot more capable and advanced than we had first realized.
If you’re looking for a cheap alternative to buying a $500-700 laptop, and you won’t be needing to do CPU and processor intensive operations, I think netbooks are a great alternative that you should check out. We’re glad we did!
What things have you bought that you were able to find a cheaper alternative for? Was the cheaper alternative inferior, or did it end up being a wise purchase? Tell us about it in the comments. (as well as if you have a netbook, and what you think of it.
Matt Jabs says
I just talked to my sister’s boyfriend about going this route. Thank you so much for putting it all together in a post! I’m going to direct him here for info.
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I have a Acer netbook that I got in the fall last year, so I’ve had it for some time now. I was a little hesitant about how I felt about it for a few months. But the verdict is clear now: I love my little netbook.
I don’t use it for work when I am home, but anytime I travel, or go to a coffee shop, it’s more than powerful enough to do what I need to do. And for a few hundred bucks, it’s a steal of a deal.
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Thanks for the review of the netbooks. I’ve been looking at them for a while, but didn’t come across the Wind. Looks to be one I need to consider. One question, does it have a matte or glossy screen?
i don’t have it with me, but i believe it has a matte screen.
Thanks Peter. When I checked online, I couldn’t find any references to matte or glossy screen. I prefer matte screens.
I got a Gateway uc7308.
Intel Pentium T3400 2.16GHz dual-core processor, 13.3″ 1280×800 widescreen LCD, 3GB RAM, 250GB 5400 rpm Serial ATA hard drive, dual-layer DVD burner, 802.11n wireless, Bluetooth, HDMI out, and Windows Vista Home Premium.
$440. I thought it was worth it to get the normal size laptop for $100 more!
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Where did you find it for $440? I went to the Gateway website and they list it for $749…
I really love netbooks:
-Sufficient hardware for doing everything most people _need_ to do, and with minimal delay
-Typically, you get a less expensive OS with a netbook–one that’s faster, too! (Of course, you can install Ubuntu for free on any machine.)
-the small size makes it more portable on the go
-can be plugged into a monitor, keyboard, and mouse at home when you go into “power user” mode, so that the small size is no longer a problem
My wife has an Asus Eee running Linux, and she loves it!
I have the MSI Wind 100 and use it for everything I do now, all of my blogging, photo editing, everything. It is probably the best PC purchase I have ever made, I love the ultra portability of it.
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wow, so you have the same one, huh? very cool. We love it too, and it is super portable.
I forgot to mention one other issue we had – the battery stopped taking a charge after two months. We took it back and were given a new one free of charge because it’s apparently a common issue. If it happens to you too, know that some are giving new batteries to replace, or if not, you can send it in to MSI to get one.
Peak Personal Finance says
This is great — I’ve been wondering about whether I should consider buying a netbook for our young children to use. They would use it for kid-friendly web sites and perhaps some OpenOffice-type applications. I’m assuming the version of Windows XP on these can run those kinds of applications with out problems?
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Yes, it can run pretty much anything a regular Windows XP computer can run, it just can’t run things like graphics intensive video games, or video editing suites very well.
We have a Lenovo S10. I love the Netbook portability, it really is great for taking a computer places where you otherwise don’t want to carry around a bulky laptop.
Even though it isn’t really designed for heavier use like video, I have tried my Slingplayer on it. I would say it struggled with that, even though it managed to display a continuous video feed most of the time. So anything like Slingplayer or more strenuous you really need a more powerful laptop. Just citing this as an example of where Netbooks start to slow down.
I also dislike the smaller keyboard, but I can’t have a smaller laptop and a larger keyboard and still get the portability, so that’s a compromise I can live with.
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I agree, as a bigger guy I don’t like the smaller keyboard either, but it’s something I can live with. I haven’t really tried too much video beyond youtube type stuff, so thanks for the report on that.