Until very recently, I have been very wary and circumspect of “netbooks.” These are the ultra-small, RSI-inducing laptops such as the ASUS eeePC that are very light, have small screens, but are ultra, ultra, ultra portable. As an aside, I find the name netbook hilarious. Apparently my MacBook can’t access the net. Hm.
99.9% of the time, my MacBook Pro 15″ is great. Does everything I need, lets me virtualize machines (running Ubuntu and XP within OS X is very nice), and is a perfectly manageable weight with a good sized keyboard. Netbooks have always felt incredible cramped, especially in terms of the keyboard, and the compromises made for the sake of size and weight are often innovative yet contrary to productivity (even something as simple as moving the right and left mouse buttons to save on space can be really unsettling when there is such a long-term prevailing paradigm). I haven’t really seen the benefit of them.
However, when I am on a plane…I can see how the netbook really shines. Presuming the keyboard is usable for 2-3 hours (even on long-haul flights I rarely work the entire 4-5 hours, much less 10+ flying internationally – there is only so long I can stare at spreadsheets or the same proposals without losing context) these can be really useful devices.
Recently, I found the CTL 2go PC, which is not only netbook-sized but also a convertible tablet PC. It comes with pretty lame tablet functionality but one can install XP Tablet edition and it works quite well. If I’m going to get a netbook, having one that does tablet would be pretty nice. It also comes with a nice handle, battery life indicator, and a few other nice features.
However, the keyboard is tiny. Really, really tiny. I don’t think I could use it more than 30 minutes. It is designed actually for children, so the size isn’t surprising, but it’s really a shame. It’s also more expensive than other netbooks, which come in around $300. The CTL is $500 base, then you add RAM and buy XP Tablet edition and you’re well over $600.
Oh well…keep looking.