Netbook / Notebook Update

Two days ago, I posted about looking for a new netbook or notebook, and asked for people’s advice. Since then, I’ve done some investigation based on these suggestions.

Rejected Candidates

First, I’ve outright rejected several options. The Thinkpad X100e was out, mainly because it doesn’t compare favorably to the Acer 1810TZ. The X100e’s battery life is worse than the 1810TZ, it is heaver, and has a single-core CPU. Secondly, the EeePC 1201N was ruled out. Again, its battery life was quite a bit worse than the 1801TZ, and also worse than my existing Eee 901. Finally, the EeePC was out because of its extremely slow performance.

Remaining Candidates

I took information from notebookcheck for models I was interested in, and those suggested in the comments at the earlier post. After reviewing them, I made a comparison chart showing issues that matter most to me.

Candidates: Battery Life

Let’s start with battery life. The X200s presents an interesting picture here. In the 9-cell battery, we can expect over 15 hours of life in idle mode, and 7 hours when surfing the Internet over wifi. This was best in class performance for the idle and surf tests, but when under load it drops to one of the worst ad only 2.57 hours. This could correlate with what Lars Wirzenius commented, saying the X200s battery life is poor: obviously it is doing a lot of power management in software to achieve its runtimes, and if a default Linux installation isn’t doing that power management, battery life could be poor.

The other standard in terms of battery life was the Acer 1810TZ, with 12 hours runtime in idle usage and almost 6 when surfing the net with wifi: that’s an hour longer than my Eee 901. It was also the best performer under full load of anything on my chart.

Disappointing results were turned in by the HP 2530p. Even with a 9-cell battery, it couldn’t match the 1810TZ’s battery life. The Dell E4200, with its 6-cell battery, fared even worse — though I should note notebookcheck hasn’t tested the E4200, so those figures come from elsewhere.

Candidates: Size and Weight

Looking at weight, the X200s and E6200 turn in amazing weights at under 3 pounds for a 12″ notebook. HP’s 2530p is the heaviest in the group at 3.84 pounds with the 6-cell battery (the 9-cell will be heavier but I couldn’t find specs on it). The 1810TZ checks in at 3.1 pounds, a bit more than half a pound heavier than my Eee 901.

Considering size, the E4200 is the thinnest in the group at just 0.79 inches thick. The 2530p is also thin, but is one of the deepest. The Eee 901 is smallest in terms of length and depth, but it is the thickest of all.

Candidates: Performance

Here you can really see why I complain about the Eee 901 being slow. On the PCMark 05 test, it had a third of the performance of the 1810TZ. The best performer was the X200s, followed by HP’s 2530p.

In terms of hard disk speed, the E4200 was fastest due to its SSD (though I suspect these tests are not fully evaluating write performance). The SSD on the EeePC 901 didn’t help it; it finished with less than half the speed of the E4200.

Conclusions

From this chart, it looks like there are only three really interesting models: the X200s with its top-of-the-line performance and display, the HP 2530p, and the 1810TZ with its stellar battery life. The disappointing battery life on the E4200 rules it out for me. The battery life on the HP 2530p is modiocre, but it has a touchpad.

For the 1810TZ, my main concerns are size of screen and the fact that the screen is glossy. I am not at all a fan of glossy screens.

For the HP 2530p, we’ve had an HP 2510p in at work. Its size is virtually identical to the 2530p, and felt a bit bigger than I’d like. It was also lighter than the 2530p, but still a bit heaver that I’d like to see. But the 12″ screen might be worth it.

The X200s lacks a touchpad, which is a major annoyance in my book. I have reports of 7-hour battery life on it with the L9400 CPU under Ubuntu. Another person has reported 12 hours on Arch Linux using a power saving guide (which looks helpful in general as well).

Considering size and weight, the X200s is lighter than the 1810TZ, though only by a little if using the 9-cell battery. It’s very slightly bigger in every dimension than the 1810TZ, but perhaps not enough to influence the decision.

What are your thoughts?

16 thoughts on “Netbook / Notebook Update

  1. Have you tried a trackpoint for an extended period of usage?

    They suck at first, but now that I’m used to my T42’s, using a touchpad kills me.

    I bought my EEE 901 because it was dirt cheap (190€!) and that offset the lack of trackpoint, but just barely…

    If you have spent some time with a trackpoint and still don’t like it then… don’t listen to what I’ve said :-p

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  2. I have a Thinpad X200s, and it is wonderful. The Trackpoint is in my opinion much more useable than those touchpads. The battery life is indeed excellent. With a kernel from backports.org and kpowersave installed I can easly get 6-8 hours of websurfing and IRC, even more if you dim the LED-powered screen. Even under full load you still get a long battery life compared to “normal” laptops, which only last a few hours.

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  3. Any reason you’re not considering the Toshiba R600? It’s what I’m looking at for my next machine I think, with the X200s being a possible alternative.

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    John Goerzen Reply:

    Thanks for the pointer. I checked it out, but according to http://www.trustedreviews.com/laptops/review/2008/12/18/Toshiba-Port-g–R600-108-12-1in-Ultra-Portable/p6 both the battery life and the performance are rather worse than the X200s, though it is physically smaller and lighter.

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    David Edmondson Reply:

    Be sure to spend a little time with an R600 before you buy, should you reconsider. The transreflexive screen in my R500 is odd in normal use (though convenient in bright sunlight), particularly if you tend to use a dark background.

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  4. I own an X200, and I find that my battery life generally *exceeds* the specs, with or without wifi. As for “under load”, I don’t tend to burn 100% CPU for extended periods, but in general I find the battery life excellent.

    The X200s also offers impressive screen resolutions for a 12″ laptop.

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  5. I own an X200 and really enjoy it. But I also own a Lenovo IdeaPad S10 netbook, which I consider probably the best buy in the netbook world. At least, I did a year ago when I bought it.

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  6. Is battery life really that important? I keep a charger at home, charger at work and a charger in the car cigarette lighter socket and never have any problems.

    If I really needed extended battery (a plane flight or something) then just buy a second battery.

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    John Goerzen Reply:

    It is to me. It is very, very nice to be able to just grab the thing and go to a meeting at a moment’s notice, and not have to lug around cables/accessories with me.

    The problem with the “just buy a second battery” is that now you’ve increased the number of things you’ve got to keep track of and the weight. So yeah, battery life is important to me.

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  7. I have an e4200 and while its performance is awesome, the battery life with the default battery is indeed abysmal. There is a larger battery available, though giving it a lot more time, but also a bit more weight.

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  8. The larger battery for the E4200 brings up the battery life to something tolerable, and doesn’t increase the weight too much. Do note though that the screen has awful vertical viewing angles (though others haven’t really noticed this, so maybe it’s just me), and the back of the screen is really flimsy: I broke my screen (you could see a crack on the pixel layer) by carrying it in my shoulder bag without a protector. A friend also chipped a corner so that he can see inside case.

    On the plus side, I have a 128 GB SSD which is okay (not an Intel one, though, unfortunately), and the machine is pretty quiet, even under load.

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  9. I guess the Lenovo x200s is a lot sturdier than the acer 1810tz. I transport it in a backpack while riding a bicycle but wouldn’t strap it directly to carrier of the bike. The glossy screen is no problem for me but I wear usually dark shirts – that makes quite a difference compared to a white shirt in terms of reflections.

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  10. +1 for stickpoint. They are realy awesome. You can type and use pointer without moving your hands.

    the only trick is echo -n 250 > /sys/devices/platform/i8042/serio1/sensitivity
    to increase sensivity. Plus make sure you can scroll pages with middle button and stickpoint.

    Then you will love it. i own X61 and consider changing it to X200s as well.

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  11. There is quite a spread in price between the Acer and the HP. With this in mind I would think, Acer if you know you’re going to upgrade it in 2 years. The >Stinkpad < (as I've heard them being called once or twice) as ole faithful, or the HP will keep you and possibly your family too, entertained as well as your mouse fingers happy.. 3 cents from the cheap seats..

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