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What's The Perfect Balance For a Budget Laptop?

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the whatever-fits-over-your-knees dept.

Portables 375

cheapbob writes "Recently HP officially unveiled a budget ultraportable laptop aimed to compete with the likes of Asus Eee PC. According to Compal, one of Dell's assemblers, Dell is also going to enter the budget ultra-portable market soon. All of these devices lack many of the features associated with larger-sized laptops, such as optical drives and large amounts of storage space, yet demand for them is very high. Initial reviews of these devices unsurprisingly expose them to be underpowered and lacklustre. What's the appeal? What do you think is the perfect balance of features and price point for a budget laptop?"

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OLPC (1, Insightful)

Corwn of Amber (802933) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017316)

$100 and it's its own Internet infrastructure.

That is perfect.

Re:OLPC (1)

nijk (781345) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017466)

The XO laptop costs $188 to manufacture, and more than that to purchase one. Where did you get this $100 figure?

Re:OLPC (2, Insightful)

Corwn of Amber (802933) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017504)

Oh off the top of my stoner head. Was $200? Go find an $200 UMPC now. My point stands.

Re:OLPC (5, Insightful)

hattig (47930) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017788)

Back in the days, when we were young wee bairns, those bits of paper our elders bought stuff with were worth a lot more elsewhere in the world than they are now.

Cheap, small laptops in the next year or two will be very popular though. People will be cutting back. They're not going to buy something fancy, they'll get something that will do the job. As long as it does the full internet, does their email, has information manager functionality, they'll be happy.

It's not about CPU power in this form factor, unless you do something silly like running Vista on the device. The iPhone shows that you can have a slick, smooth interface, fully featured (um, cut and paste excepted) that works well for the user, on a mere 412MHz ARM11 CPU. I suspect that some tasks (music decoding) are offloaded to the ARM9 on another chip in the system that has acceleration for that. Oh, there's also an ARM7 in that other chip. Probably ARM7s in the wireless controller too. Intel - you really think you can compete when something like an iPhone has so many ARMs to slap you about with?

Oh, I digress for a bad joke. Anyway, it's about the software and its optimisation. Linux has a grand chance here to shine on the lesser hardware.

Re:OLPC (0, Redundant)

Xanthvar (1046980) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017532)

$100, great. Where do I buy one of these fabulous items. I can't. They run about $188 to manufacture, and if you are from the US, they charge you twice that amount, 1 for you and 1 for some poor unfortunate person out there, and I can't really afford that.

Re:OLPC (1)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017642)

Where do I buy one of these fabulous items.
eBay? [ebay.com]

Re:OLPC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23017628)

$100 and it's its own Internet infrastructure.

Except it's not $100, and you can't buy one.

Currently laptopgiving.org claims your tax deductable donation "of $200 will pay for and deliver one XO laptop to a child in a developing nation, $400 will pay for and deliver two XO laptops, and so on."

Yet the cost goes up for larger sponsorship: 100+ laptops, $299 per laptop; 1000+, $249 per laptop; 10,000+, $199 per laptop.

The month-and-a-half buy-one give-one promotion (US and Can only, not EU, Japan, etc) expired last year.

I quite like OLPC and its X0 laptop, but let's be accurate.

4 hours commuting a day... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23017328)

I commute two hours each way, by train bus and subway. Those of us who spend hours in transit every day can't even understand why someone would need to ask the question about what the appeal is.

Re:4 hours commuting a day... (5, Funny)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017450)

No, we just wonder why the hell you commute so much. I'd never take a job that required me to waste 4 hours of my life daily just going to and from it.

Re:4 hours commuting a day... (0, Flamebait)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017652)

No, we just wonder why the hell you commute so much.
Because real estate near centers of engineering is so much more expensive than real estate in the next town over.

I'd never take a job that required me to waste 4 hours of my life daily just going to and from it.
Good luck flipping burgers, or good luck with your 60-year mortgage.

Re:4 hours commuting a day... (0, Offtopic)

toleraen (831634) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017730)

My engineering job allows me to live 8 minutes from work, and the mortgage is doing fine. It's good to live in the flyover states. Real good.

Re:4 hours commuting a day... (0, Offtopic)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017858)

My programming job allows me to live 1/2 hour from work (walking - a bike, cab, or public transport would be faster), and my mortgage is also fine. It's good to live in a major city on the east coast.

I can't fathom why someone would travel 2 hours each way, every day, just to get to the place where you work. Maybe it's cheaper, but aren't the minutes of your life worth more than saving a few bucks? Even if you worked in NY you could find a reasonable (relative to the payscale and market) place to live that's 30 minutes away.

Re:4 hours commuting a day... (0, Offtopic)

rale, the (659351) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017766)

I think I'd rather flip burgers than waste over half of my free time per day in a commute. Or more realistically, one could just get a smaller house, or rent an apartment, rather than trying to live above their means by commuting 4 hours a day.

Re:4 hours commuting a day... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23017864)

I point and laugh at people like you. Wasting an enormous portion of your life commuting, just because you aren't willing to live a little more humbly?

Re:4 hours commuting a day... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23017936)

He should get a fucking car.

Hell, in the US I bet a fucking horse and cart is quicker than the fucking train.

TWO FUCKING HOURS? EACH WAY? Nutter.

Maybe he should push for a fucking pay rise, so he can afford a fucking mortgage within an hour of work. Don't live to work. Work to live.

I guess he can justifuckingfy it all because he reads on the train, or plans, or fucking shit. Fuck that. Or he could downsize. You don't need 2000sqft you know. A single person can do with 600 just fine, hell, a studio flat that lets you have a fucking life is a far better option. FUCK.

Re:4 hours commuting a day... (0, Offtopic)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017664)

I'm betting his job sucks so bad that the 4 hours of commuting is the part of the day he looks forward to the most.

Re:4 hours commuting a day... (0, Offtopic)

nmg196 (184961) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017840)

Your post is currently modded +5 funny, but I don't think it's funny at all but I would rather it was rated +5 insightful. I think your comments should be taken very literally and it scares me that anybody would think that ANY job is worth wasting 4 hours a day of your life commuting to. They should either get a new job, or move closer to their job. I think the grandparent poster probably has their priorities wrong.

Re:4 hours commuting a day... (2, Interesting)

f0dder (570496) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017848)

Can anyone comment on how much damage if any, the vibration from said ride on {trains, subway & bus especially buses} does to a laptop HD. I've been commuting by bus and often times I get short period of harsh jarring. I had one HD go bad on me. I am suspecting it was from the vibration from the bus commute.

SLASHDOT SUX0RZ (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23017334)

_0_
\''\
'=o='
.|!|
.| |
large amounts of storage space [goatse.ch]

Re:SLASHDOT SUX0RZ (-1, Offtopic)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017428)

\''\
'=o='
.|!|
I dunno... How much storage is really in there?

Nah, I probably don't want to know.

The Appeal? (5, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017338)

I can't speak for anyone else, but the appeal to me is that the machines can do enough- and they do it for an affordable price. That's the key. It was not long ago - and still is the case - that anything this small and underpowered cost a lot.
 
The HP review says it does fine doing the basics - that's all most people need. For people who are on the move a lot, lugging around a full size laptop gets really old. People want to connect to the internet anywhere, but they don't want to carry a boat anchor to do it. These umpcs may be small but they are a lot bigger than many phones that would by the way, cost more. So there is the sweet spot. Price and size.

Re:The Appeal? (3, Insightful)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017462)

Absolutely agreed. I can totally see the market for laptops that'll run games, Photoshop and the like but I'm not in that market - I'll do those things on a bigger screen for less money with my desktop because I don't need to do them on the move.

What I want from a laptop is small size and weight - something I can carry everywhere just to get the odd bit of work done, browse the web or check my email. The system requirements for that really aren't changing that greatly any time soon. Previously there was no such thing as a small cheap laptop, you couldn't trade off power for price and you simply couldn't buy a small machine for anything like the same money as a 15" one. I'm exceedingly happy that there is now a machine that fits my needs, and I can't wait until the various 8.9" models come on sale because I'm buying one in a snap.

Re:The Appeal? (4, Insightful)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017542)

Calling these machines "underpowered" shows a gross misunderstanding of their purpose. They're not supposed to be desktop replacements. They're designed to be "enough" computer for use on the road or in the field. You don't need a supercomputer to run an office suite, web browser, and e-mail client, and these laptops are designed with that in mind.

Re:The Appeal? (1, Insightful)

AmberBlackCat (829689) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017924)

Calling these machines "underpowered" shows a gross misunderstanding of their purpose. They're not supposed to be desktop replacements. They're designed to be "enough" computer for use on the road or in the field. You don't need a supercomputer to run an office suite, web browser, and e-mail client, and these laptops are designed with that in mind.
You don't need a computer at all to do those things.

What tablets were supposed to be (4, Interesting)

marcus (1916) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017866)

They are basic, note-taking, doc-writing, email-sending, web-surfing, e-book-reading, port-able, wire-less, hand-held AKA lap-top devices that don't cost much. Perfect for the coffee table to look up imdb ratings in front of the TV or to check the weather radar/forecast before heading out in the morning.

Couldn't fit-in any more hyphens.

Re:The Appeal? (2, Insightful)

lupis42 (1048492) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017876)

The big thing I'm always wanting? A few more pixels. The speed on my HTC Mogul is enough, but using it for www quickly gets annoying, because the web is designed for 1024x768, or 1280x1024, and even 480x800 isn't quite there. If the 4gig EEEpc, or this, or any of the others I'd looked had a 10x7 screen, (without costing over 500$), I would be tempted. Otherwise, well, my phone costs 500$ without any rebate, is pocket-size, has a good 8+ hours of battery, and supports wi-fi, bluetooth, and mini-usb. What's more, for around 400$, I could buy a keyboard/screen combo for it that would make the combination as big as a umpc, but would ADD battery life. Why haven't I? Because the screen still isn't big enough.

Best laptop ever (0, Offtopic)

pedantic bore (740196) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017348)

PowerBook G3 Pismo. Still the best balance of ergonomics, battery life, and performance.

Too bad it can't run Leopard.

Re:Best laptop ever (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017572)

You can install Tiger on a Pismo using XpostFacto.

Re:Best laptop ever (1)

makillik (995095) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017802)

Actually you can install Tiger natively, it has firewire. Also i believe there are some reports of installing Leopard on Pismos with G4 Upgrades
http://lowendmac.com/osx/leopard/unsupported.html [lowendmac.com]

Re:Best laptop ever (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23017716)

I tried to check out Pismo, but I think I took a wrong turn at Albuquerque.

I don't like the direction they're taking (2, Interesting)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017358)

Small is neat, I suppose, but not something I really care about.

My criteria is pretty much (1) As much power as possible under (2) a reasonable price. All other things being equal, I'll probably select a smaller laptop, but I would gladly sacrifice a couple pounds for a larger HD, a DVD-Rom, expandability, or a full assortment of ports.

I know some people do care, but for me thickness has about as much bearing on my choice as the thing's color.

Re:I don't like the direction they're taking (1, Funny)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017414)

I know some people do care, but for me thickness has about as much bearing on my choice as the thing's color.

And it's bad form, I know, but I'm replying to myself in the hopes of preempting all the dirty jokes making fun of what I said.

Re:I don't like the direction they're taking (0)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017830)

do you care which port it's plugged into?

Re:I don't like the direction they're taking (2, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017534)

Thickness and weight effect the portability. I'd never take my laptop anywhere- too big, too bulky. Carrying it around for more than the trip to the conference room was a pain, unless you wanted to lug it around in a backpack- which was also a pain.

The EEE is easily carried anywhere. You can lug it around all day and never notice the weight, and it will never be awkward to carry. It doesn't have a lot of power, but I'm not looking for a desktop replacement (I'd rather just have the desktop) or something to play video games on (I have a DS). Quite frankly, I could easily get by on less than half the power the EEE actually does have. I'm looking for something with a keyboard that I can do surfing, email, and light programming and typing on while actually out and about. Laptops just fail utterly due to the annoyance of carrying them- its just not worth the effort. EEE works nicely. My only complaint is that I wish the speakers were moved and the screen enlarged into the spot they are now.

Re:I don't like the direction they're taking (5, Insightful)

Wdomburg (141264) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017722)

Then you're not the market for this particular device, just as simple as that. It's like saying you don't like the direction Honda is taking with the Fit when you want to buy an SUV.

Re:I don't like the direction they're taking (1)

uniquename72 (1169497) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017882)

Agreed - smaller isn't always better. In fact, I'll add one thing to your "must have" list: a full-sized keyboard. Without, I may be able to surf, but I can't get any real work done.

light and cheap (3, Insightful)

jay2003 (668095) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017374)

There's a market for light and cheap. To high income people, $400-$500 is practically disposable. You can spend that much on an iPod touch. It's not a big deal to break it or lose it because it's not expensive.

If all you want is email or web access, a cheap ultra portable like an ASUS eee is a perfect match.

Comparing these devices to full sized laptops misses the point.

Re:light and cheap (4, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017434)

Comparing these devices to full sized laptops misses the point.
 
Exactly. I'd like to see a review of a pda that complained about the lack of screen size, power, and inputs/outputs. These aren't laptops - they are something between a pda and a laptop and they do a great job of filling that niche. The demand demonstrates that people have been hungry for something like this that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. I don't even bother trying to use my laptop when I'm actually traveling anymore. For a host of reasons it doesn't work - but one of these would be perfect.

Re:light and cheap (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017550)

If I were in the market for one of these things, I would want something more like the HTC Shift than the mini-laptops. I want the tablet form factor with a slide out keyboard. I don't need internal optical drives, but an external option would be nice (USB). I want lots of memory so that things run fast. I don't need much CPU because I would really only be using it for "surfing" not real work....that's when I'd boot up the real laptop. All sorts of connectivity (Wi-fi, Bluetooth, and some sort of Cellular) and a built in TV tuner (with PVR software). I would want solid-state disk to improve battery life and a memory card reader (SD at least). Basically, I'd use it to surf the web and maybe send quick notes. I'd play media (movies, music, etc.).

It would be for entertainment purposes.....so, surfing the web, watching movies (ripped to storage), playing music, watching TV. Real work requires a real laptop.

Layne

Re:light and cheap (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017620)

Yeah - but the Shift costs something like $1500 if I remember right. That's why these inexpensive and small machines are selling so fast - they aren't just small, they are cheap.

Re:light and cheap (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017888)

Oh, I don't disagree, but the question was, what features do you want in one of the really cheap computers.......I want basically a (touch) screen with a pull-out keyboard and an OS that is focused on media.

Layne

Re:light and cheap (0)

Corwn of Amber (802933) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017480)

No, it's not. The Asus eee suck at web broswing I'm typing this from a MacBook and its 1280px horizontal size is NOT ENOUGH for some sites. So, a screen that's 800px wide, for web surfing? They're CRAZY.

Usable UMPCs are beyond $2000, and they suck. GMA950 and all. Fit a REAL monitor into an Eee and I'll buy one.

Or I'l find some way to get me an XO. It' its own Internet infrastruture. WHEN WILL YOU UNDERSTAND? No more cables, guaranteed last-mile conectivity, NO COST, and it's for kids. Kids who will grow up with the whole of hman knowledge at their fingertips? That will solve one of the two worst problems about school : rote learning. You simply CAN NOT ask kids to learn anything by rote when they KNOW they can find ANY information whasoever with a few skills that complement the "relevancy" algorithms of search engines.

"Free, perfect, instant copies of any data."

Re:light and cheap (1)

legirons (809082) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017564)

"I'm typing this from a MacBook and its 1280px horizontal size is NOT ENOUGH for some sites."

So get firefox 3 and scale the website...

or are you still using a browser that displays images original-size and wondering why you need so much screen space?

Re:light and cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23017656)

If you're going to web sites that need more than 1280 horizontal resolution, that's your own damn problem... and it's the fault of the idiots who designed those sites. No competent web designer would assume a screen width more than 1024, and a good one will design sites that scale down to 800. And if you really must visit these bizarre 1680-wide sites you speak of... you can do that when you get home. What kind of retard expects that kind of functionality in a portable?

Re:light and cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23017810)

The kind of retard that spends his whole post complaining about the screen size of ultra-portables, then declares that he wants an XO (also, some vague rants about the state of education). i.e. your typical attention-whore nonsense poster.

Re:light and cheap (3, Funny)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017746)

No, it's not. The Asus eee suck at web broswing I'm typing this from a MacBook and its 1280px horizontal size is NOT ENOUGH for some sites. So, a screen that's 800px wide, for web surfing? They're CRAZY.
1. Invent time machine.
2. Go back 8 years.
3. Use eeePC when Web pages were designed for 800x600 screens.

Oh, and

4. ???
5. Profit.

HP (1)

wsanders (114993) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017506)

I bought a suplused HP Jornada 720 for $100. A very usable ultra portable except The OS cannot be upgraded, so one is stuck with Windows CE 3.01, no way of transferring files off the machine except by sneakernetting the memory card, and a browser than can't do SSL2, Javascript, Java, iFrames, PNG's ... But for plain web pages it's outstanding.

It cost $900 when it came out in the late 90s, they could probably make it for less than $500 today.

http://h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/product?cc=us&product=61677 [hp.com]

depends on your salary (-1, Troll)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017380)

The question was about "budget" laptop. What people fail to figure when asking that question is how much of the bugdet includes the time they have to waste configuring it or delousing it.

In my experience, if youre not using a mac either
1) your time has no value or y
2) you have some specific reason you need to use another OS.
2b) you have some specific hardware issue
3) you are deploying a fleet of these where cost per unit matters and sysadmin can be pooled.

That's not snobbery, it's just that saving $200 on a laptop means nothing to most people for whom time is money or a lost report is worth more than $200.

If you can use the nice mac-apps as well, then figure those in the purchase.

Re:depends on your salary (4, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017488)

Macbook air low end is what? $1799?
 
The low end on this HP is under $500. I'd say if it takes me an extra hour to get Suse tweaked just right on this box then my time is worth over $1300 an hour.
 
Even with extra ram, a hard drive and suse - I'm still going to come in a thousand or more under the comparable apple.

Re:depends on your salary (5, Funny)

Corwn of Amber (802933) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017556)

ONE hour to tweak a Linux distro as tight as MacOSX? Your time is worth much, much more than $1300 an hour. Your time could make SuSE replace Apple. Yeah, 15% market share in a year, that's how much for the Messiah who figured out how to configure the distro Just Right?

That everything works? I mean EVERYTHING. Temperature sensors and webcam and all... No, you lie. No one can do that. In under a year? No, you said under one hour. YEAH RIGHT.

Re:depends on your salary (1)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017796)

ONE hour to tweak a Linux distro as tight as MacOSX?
Mac OS X is based on FreeBSD and NeXTSTEP.

Re:depends on your salary (2, Interesting)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017558)

Were talking budget. not ultra portable. the comparison point is therefore a macbook not an air.

good luck with your Suse system when you need to run MS Office for compatibility reasons, or Photoshop or basically any app found in the bussiness world.

If you are a student, then yeah, time have no value, to use suse.

I use Linux too. But I use it on my servers and the laptops that have to work with servers. but I don't use it on my bussiness or personal laptops.

Re:depends on your salary (3, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017604)

No we're talking ultra portable and budget. The HP 2133 is lighter than the air - and so my point stands.
 
I wouldn't want to work with office or photoshop on an air or the 2133 - that is not the point. I want something that size to be mobile. Suse is great for browsing, email, and if I needed to I could even handle office docs sufficiently.
 
I don't work in the business world - I work in the tech world and there isn't really anything I can't do, that I need to do, with a linux box.

What problems have you found with OOo? (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017792)

good luck with your Suse system when you need to run MS Office for compatibility reasons
What specific problems have you run into when trying to use OpenOffice.org to read and write doc/xls/ppt? Sure, there are minor formatting differences, but those are comparable to the formatting differences between Word 2003 and Word 2007, or even between different localized versions of one version of Word. Or by "Microsoft Office", did you mean "Microsoft Access with VBA"?

Re:What problems have you found with OOo? (1)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017844)

Macros don't work, for one.

Re:depends on your salary (3, Insightful)

aphaenogaster (884935) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017826)

A used ibm x30 is 200 dollars with a 60gb hd 512ram and 1.2 ghz chip. 3lbs and an 1inch thick. In another year it will be 100 dollars. Why bother with a new computer if all you want to do with it is travel, net, and type?

Re:depends on your salary (0, Troll)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017560)

Or the most common answers:

4)Apple overcharges for mediocre hardware
5)You realize that Mac OS is the worst GUI of the past decade. Really I have to go all the way back to CDE to find a windowing environment I think is worse.

Re:depends on your salary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23017612)

In my experience, if youre not using a mac either...

need some decent software?

I have a mac and it's neat for web browsing. But sometimes you just need a decent editor, and a decent file browser that can actually connect to SSH sites instead of doing a WTF at the existence of non-apple protocols.

Or maybe you just want a consistent user interface for your programs, e.g. not having zombie menus not attached to any window, or not having the close-window shortcut close an entire application.

Maybe you just want the programs to run properly, e.g. without all the ugly-as-hell bitmap fonts you get when trying to run anything on macOSX (e.g. inkscape, gnucash)
 

Re:depends on your salary (1, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017806)

Or maybe you just want a consistent user interface for your programs, e.g. not having zombie menus not attached to any window, or not having the close-window shortcut close an entire application.
Several Windows apps have the same thing: the close-window shortcut closes the window, but the application keeps running with an icon in the taskbar notification area.

Re:depends on your salary (3, Insightful)

Wdomburg (141264) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017778)

In my experience, if you're posting on internet forums about how everyone should be using your favourite operating system you're a platform snob, even if you claim you're not.

How about video phone? (1)

lrohrer (147725) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017388)

The OLPC, if marketed better, might make a perfect video phone. Many of these other smaller machines are REAL CLOSE to the features required for a portable carry anywhere video phone.

Isn't that what we REALLY want?

Re:How about video phone? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017836)

The OLPC, if marketed better, might make a perfect video phone. Many of these other smaller machines are REAL CLOSE to the features required for a portable carry anywhere video phone.
And a camera phone is even closer, no?

Isn't that what we REALLY want?
No. Not everybody wants to look at the other party's ugly mug.

What's the appeal? You're looking at it (5, Insightful)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017392)

Web two point oh. If you spend all day reading/posting on slashdot, you don't need a whole lot of CPU power (as long as you run adblock plus.) People have less and less use for big local apps, and more and more use for web based apps, so this is where demand is going. If it can post on slashdot, it's good enough for everyday use. If it gets 8 hours on a charge and has multi-band wi-fi and a little hard drive space for MP3s and pictures, it will get the job done for most users, most of the time.

Finally, if it's cheap enough to not really force a user to chose between owning a portable and owning a desktop (or better equipped portable) and instead they can have both, then you sir have a cash machine!

Re:What's the appeal? You're looking at it (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017880)

Finally, if it's cheap enough to not really force a user to chose between owning a portable and owning a desktop (or better equipped portable) and instead they can have both, then you sir have a cash machine!
IMHO, nothing will replace a desktop or "better equipped portable" if it doesn't have a built in cd/dvd writer. That's sort of a mandatory 'feature' for me.

A usb/firewire external is in no way a replacement for an internal drive, unless it's part of a laptop dock.

Re:What's the appeal? You're looking at it (2, Insightful)

Xygon (578778) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017884)

*cough* Please. Maybe the few simple web 2.0 apps in the world, but the majority of applications are not simply and cleanly built. Have you tried running a powerpoint-like application via Web2.0? Native apps run MUCH cleaner. I need more cpu power to run a few 2.0 apps simultaneously than most native apps, thanks to the hoops they have to run through as a client-server application. Add in a few Flash anythings and now my system is crawling.

Underpowered for what? (1)

lavalyn (649886) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017406)

Initial reviews of these devices unsurprisingly expose them to be underpowered and lacklustre.

I am not the type that needs to do big Excel Solver sheets or Matlab simulations while on the go. Why carry more than twice the weight for what amounts to a bigger power draw and little marginal value? A computer that consistently hits 40% CPU utilization (fairly high for a desktop) is a computer that is still idle 60% of the time, and that's what my Eee PC is right now.

Gimme lightweight any day; if I need CD-ROM data or more CPU performance, I'll wait until I get to either home or work to do the big grinding.

Re:Underpowered for what? (1)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017510)

I am not the type that needs to do big Excel Solver sheets or Matlab simulations while on the go. Why carry more than twice the weight for what amounts to a bigger power draw and little marginal value?

My sentiments exactly. I've got a dual-core desktop at work (which would be idle 90% of the time if I weren't running two instances of Folding@Home [stanford.edu] ). The most intensive thing I do with my laptop is when I remote-desktop to my work box.

I'm beyond low-end. I got an old PII laptop from Retrobox (now Intechra [intechraoutlet.com] ) for under $150 (it would be worth about $10 now, I think), and put Puppy Linux [puppylinux.com] on it. It's a little clunky, but it does everything I need, and it's half the size and weight of any of the new Vista-capable laptops that sell for $1000+.

Re:Underpowered for what? (1)

Zackbass (457384) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017516)

Following that point, even as someone who does run MATLAB simulations on the go I feel no need for a high power laptop. I connect to my desktop or cluster through the internet and run my fancy stuff on a box designed for it. Even given the choice I'll often find a nice place to work that isn't my desk and work through Terminal Services or VNC. The only thing I get any advantage from being at the computer for is my 3D modeling work. A good network connection is really a fantastic thing.

Re:Underpowered for what? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017922)

Even given the choice I'll often find a nice place to work that isn't my desk and work through Terminal Services or VNC.
If this nice place to work is not a Wi-Fi hot spot, how much does your mobile data plan cost per month?

Re:Underpowered for what? (1)

seasunset (469481) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017710)

I am not the type that needs to do big Excel Solver sheets or Matlab simulations while on the go.
And if you are a matlab guy (computationally intensive, I mean) on the road, most probably you are toast anyway as the battery will run out before you can say "dynamic programming algorithm", even if you have a good battery/low consumption laptop

Re:Underpowered for what? (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017814)

I am not the type that needs to do big Excel Solver sheets or Matlab simulations while on the go.

Even if you do happen to need to run that Excel or Matlab monster on the go there's always using these UMPCs as thin clients to remote into your home or work box to do it while on the go. Now CAD or Crysis OTOH......

The answer's simple... (2, Informative)

Digital Cut (1270418) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017410)

Buy a refurbished machine from Dell's outlet store :-) Seriously, the most important thing I've always found when buying a laptop (or any machine) is not to skimp on memory. Unless you're buying a portable gaming rig, processor power isn't really that critical and your typical bundled graphics device is sufficient to handle any kind of desktop (okay, maybe not Aero...) Came across these guys recently: http://minipc.aopen.com/Global/spec.htm [aopen.com] Nice looking device. My main reservation about the Asus eee PCs is the screensize - my days of squinting at tiny screens are long gone.

optical drives are dead (1)

batray (257663) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017424)

I have not used the optical drive in my laptop for years. I use jump drives and back up to other hard drives (much better ease of use and archival storage). I use USB thumb drives to move data. DVDs and CDs are dead media soon to go the way of the floppy.
My favorite laptop of the past was a Sharp UM32. It had a compact flash slot for moving data and no optical drive. It was thin and light and was more than powerful enough for portable use.
I like small for laptop. Portability and weight are important, blazing speed is not. I use a laptop to browse the web, check email, and to check out my photos as I take them. I edit them on my high-powered desktop at home.

Re:optical drives are dead (1)

Maclir (33773) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017548)

And you can get USB attached CD/ DVD read/write drives.

My mom had one of these... (1)

ForestGrump (644805) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017440)

My mom had one of these orange screened Compaq [homeunix.net] monsters.

Mom had a drapery business then. She'd drag me off to client's houses and talk window dressings with them, and I'd hide in the corner with this portable 386 and play games on it's orange screen. mmm reader rabbit.

oh you mean a modern day computer? I don't know. I have this 10 pound dell from work and love the 1920x1200 pixel display. 2 hour battery is enough for most purposes but when I travel I'll bring 2-4, depending on the location.

Underpowered? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23017444)

I'd say that most modern pc's are excessively overpowered; I have been happy with my past 2 machines being in the 1Ghz range of CPU speed, and didn't have a problem with doing the typical things I'd be doing when portable. The only thing I notice is the time it takes to start and shutdown, and battery life.

Mostly when portable I'm doing basic word processing to leverage time that would otherwise be wasted; like airline travel. Without a desk I'm not going to be doing high end graphic work (trackpads aren't precise enough) and I'm not a big gamer. Light, powerful *enough* and inexpensive will do nicely.

Simple. Not up-to-date, but not stone-age (1)

InfinityWpi (175421) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017448)

It should be able to handle running 3D games at low resolutions... 1024x768, say, or a widescreen version of that. It shouldn't be able to handle Crisis at 1900x1200 without a flicker, but at least let me putter about on World of Warcraft and Sims 2 without feeling like I'm working on something from five years ago.

Beyond that... storage isn't an issue if you've got memsticks or cards. Give it wireless, a decent CPU, and a gig or two of RAM (one if Linux/XP, two if Vista) and WiFi and I'd be happy. And, for the love of god, don't let it burn my lap...

Re:Simple. Not up-to-date, but not stone-age (1)

eebra82 (907996) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017774)

It should be able to handle running 3D games at low resolutions... 1024x768, say, or a widescreen version of that. It shouldn't be able to handle Crisis at 1900x1200 without a flicker, but at least let me putter about on World of Warcraft and Sims 2 without feeling like I'm working on something from five years ago.
Are you serious or just trying to get modded as 'Funny'? The word budget should be a clear indicator to any gamer that this laptop is not intended for gaming. History will tell you the very same thing. It is true that laptops have become more capable at the lower segments, but 3D power has remained consistent (more or less). Budget segments will always target businesses and people who intend to browse the web, check e-mail and so forth. Maybe that will change some day, but not in the next five years.

$99.99 in a blisterpack hanging near the checkout. (3, Interesting)

zogger (617870) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017470)

Those smallish ones are fine, but not paying what they are asking when you can get a full size normal budget laptop for the same scratch $400-500. $100-200 tops right now would be my budget.

Anyway, that's my price point for getting a toy-ish low featured laptop, although they are featured-enough, solid state drive is fine, lowerpowered CPU is fine, just not be skimpy with the RAM, at least a gig or two.. The original OLPC hundred buck idea would be nice then.

So, you richer guys, get crackin and buy a zillion of them for what they are asking now, so the price can drop some more..heh.

I only need three things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23017496)

The a Linux, ability to watch decent video playback and web browsing are what I require. I have really been giving the eee a good look.

Budget vs Ultraportable (5, Interesting)

shankarunni (1002529) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017518)

I think you're asking the wrong question. Budget, Ultra-portable, Powerful - you can have any 2 out of 3.

If the question is truly about Budget and "powerful enough", obviously the thing won't be ultraportable. You can get a reasonable machine (~5 lbs, 14" screen, low-end Core Duo or Turion based) for about $500, or even lower if you look for sales or rebates.

You can then add a cheap or free office suite (e.g. OpenOffice), Firefox, etc., and you're ready to go.

Missing features? (1)

rsborg (111459) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017578)

With the decent sales of the very high-priced MacBook Air, it seems that the "features" this article is quoting aren't really all that necessary to many people.

<Anecdote>
Back in 2000, I got a new work laptop: a Toshiba portege 3440... seemed a bit too small at first and seemingly underpowered, but to be honest, it was quite adequate for taking notes, hacking my Perl, Java & SQL (didn't use the monster-ish Eclipse back then), and when needed, VNC into my desktop to run my batch queries and compiliations. It could also play Starcraft and Counterstrike fine (with an external mouse). I really miss that laptop.. it had no floppy, cdrom or even parallel/serial ports (the port replicator was needed for those).
</Anecdote>

I really miss that 'top, even with my macbook, it's heavier, and has a superdrive that I've used like twice in the year I've owned the thing.

cheap and lightweight are what I want in a laptop (1)

GnarlyDoug (1109205) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017602)

I mainly use my portable to browse the web, write documents, and handle email. I want it to be cheap enough that if it is lost, stolen, or broken that I won't cry over it. I want it to be lightweight enough that it's not a bother to lug around. I want it to have a good enough battery life that I can use it for a while without worrying about an outlet.

I don't need it to be powerful or have great performance to do these things. These reviewers are using the wrong scale to review these types of laptops. They might as well give an economy car bad reviews because it can't beat a Ferrari on the straight away. You review a tool on the basis of how well it does the job it is designed for, not how well it matches up against something entirely different.

I use the EEE in the field for astrophotograpy (1)

Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017610)

To run guiding software, charting programs and remote exposure controls. Much less cumbersome and more battery friendly than my old Dell C400.

Small, Cheap, Fast - pick 1 or 2. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23017658)

Cheap, small, with features that make sense. This implies:

1. Reasonable battery life (2-3 hrs is probably OK)
2. Don't need CD/DVD
3. Personally, I'd drop audio if it would save a bit of cash/space. Probably too many people want to play mp3s on it for this to be a sensible option, though.
4. Relatively slow processor is OK.
5. Screen should be color, but doesn't need to be wide-angle, especially fast or have top-of-the-line color.
6. Touch-screen. Adds to the cost, but makes sense for an ultraportable. I suspect an ultraportable tablet is the ideal for a "small laptop".
7. Wireless (duh!) and wired networking. USB host (cameras/ipods/whatever)
8. Don't need video out, or a dock.
9. A5 sized (the smallest you can go and still have a barely-tolerable keyboard) Going Mac Air-thin isn't necessary, but getting down to 1" would be good.

Thin is not cheap (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017662)

Do you need compatibility with MS office? IF so then you will need Windows and MS Office unfortuntately.

I know I will probably get modded down as a troll for not advocating openoffice and linux, but I am going to say its not fully compatible and writer is nearly useless for my papers in the apa format required for college. Excel compatibility is my concern too and I need the real version of MS office.

If you want cheap and do not need compatibility there are alternatives like the Asus notebooks and OLPC's. However hybrid and solid state drives are expensive still. If you wait when there are sales or use teh internet you can find overstocked notebooks for hundreds off.

I bought my Toshiba Satellite for $650 on sale. If I became more patient I could have received the notebook from the net for $499 as it became overstocked by some of the retailers.

Also ask bestbuy or officemax if you can buy the display of a discontinued notebook. They will usually knock off another %15 of the onsale price.

Re:Thin is not cheap (1)

jroysdon (201893) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017784)

Utter FUD. OpenOffice.org works for 99% of my needs.

very happy with my toshiba a210 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23017668)

I just bought a Toshiba A210, it's not small but at $700 it is cheap considering it comes with an AMD dual-core cpu, 2GB ram, 160GB hd, and a really nice 15.4" screen. It runs gutsy and xp on a dual-boot quite well. and there is enough juice to run a centos guest under vmware under xp. I'd rather have a complete feature set including the dvd burner and yes, the 56K modem which I use at the cottage.

Don't want one (2, Interesting)

Rick the Red (307103) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017692)

I don't want one. What I want is one of those mini-tablet/large-PDA thingies Bill Gates showed us a couple of years ago. You know, the ones with no keyboard, a 7" touch screen with handwriting recognition, etc. Oh, sure, they're available, but I think $500 is a reasonable price, not the $1500 the makers are charging.

I think the biggest appeal of these "budget" laptops is just that -- the price fits most people's budgets.

A modded Eee PC 4G... (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017694)

2x usb2.0 ports, check.
The ability to power an external HDD. Check.
Space inside for HSDPA and Bluetooth. Check.
Upgradeable storage. Check. Although with the Eee it looks limited to ultra low profile gear like flash. The CF-M34 will take CFIDE so if you want solid state, they're up to 64GB by now I think.
TOUCH SCREEN. Eee PC doesn't have this. Panasonic Toughbook CF-M34 has this, but only one USB port and that's 1.1. It does have Cardbus so nothing a PCMCIA adapter won't fix - though that will require a twintail cable to power the drive.
Military-spec rugged. Eee PC doesn't meet this criterion. Toughbook CF-M34 does with flying colours.
Battery life - this is always a doozy. The Eee PC runs from a 22W power brick the size of a bar of soap. The CF-M34 runs on a 50W PSU. It might run on a lower rating if it was run on solid state storage, in which case a good few days on a car battery. Mine runs on a 10 amp marine gel battery and gets two days continuous with a 30GB 470mA Hitachi drive. Plenty for what I use it for (GPS via Cardbus CF adapter/GPS receiver).
Speed is not an issue. You're not playing games on an ultraportable. You don't NEED 2GB of RAM. 512MB is PLENTY for most anything a swanky folding PDA is capable of. Storage might be an issue if you're playing music or videos on it, but there again I'm not into watching video on a postage stamp. I want half a wall (wonder how far they're at with built-in projectors...?)

The "Laptop" (1)

ratboy666 (104074) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017698)

The best "laptop" I've ever used was the Radioshack M100. Could take notes ALL DAY (maybe even all week). Upload the notes, and continue. The size of a clipboard, and a reasonable keyboard (for typing).

Now? *If* it plays movies (DVD, or other), it should be able to play at least 2 full movies (at least 4 hour battery life, although the M100 lasted 20 to 40 hours!). I should be able to pull it out and type on it (capture notes) without waiting minutes for it to "boot". It should be dead quiet for use in meetings. It should be (almost) indestructible. It should offer telnet/ssh connectivity (bonus if it supports X). It should be able to use standard batteries of some kind (AA?), or a common DC input (12V? 6V? but with a wide tolerance). It should support USB ports for additional storage. It should have integrated WIFI and RJ45 network plug. It should NOT be larger than 8.5x11x1. The keyboard should have full (typist) travel.

Does this product exist? I don't know. My current laptop (Thinkpad T43) occasionally goes "super loud" (its fan kicks in), and even blows papers off of my desk. It is too warm to use comfortably on my lap. The battery only lasts 1.5 hours (not quite a movie). The keyboard doesn't have enough travel, but it does run Linux (and therefore telnet, ssh and X). It also takes up to a minute to wake up sometimes. I use it, but I am sure not happy with it.

I don't think my "ideal" laptop exists yet -- but I have to look into the new ultra-small units (not for the size; I think that the keyboards will be too small). I am also very interested in the Apple Air.

lightweight or sub $300 (1)

Xanthvar (1046980) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017738)

Lightweight would be nice, but that costs a fortune. A long battery life (3+ hours, 5 more likely) would be great. Something that you could lug into a college class, and take notes on while on battery power FOR THE WHOLE DAY (3 or so classes) would be idea.

I keep laughing when I see these $400-$500 that are marketed as "budget". A year ago, Wally world had a low end laptop for sale at $300 on clearance, as it was the last one, but I am still kicking myself for not getting it, as I haven't seen anything available for anywhere close to that price (sorry a 2G Eee PC for $299 doesn't count, as they are near impossible without a soldering iron).

I want to run XP and play some of my old games (Ultima, Monkey Island, Civ 3 anyone) when I am air port, road trip, or mobile, and want to goof off instead of being productive. Just my $.02

The appeal is obvious. (1)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017748)

They are a PDA with an easy-to-type-on keyboard.

Email? Check.
Surf Web? Check.
Can type on it? Check.
Cheap? Check.

There you go.

The Next Apple Offering... (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017752)

I'll bet Jobs & Co. are willing to spend the $100 million on gobs of prototypes and the extensive innovation that will do a breakout on screen and data input.

To date, what I see looks a bit recycled.

First, stay away from.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23017762)

Apple products. Unless you want the style or their service, you'll get a better bang for your buck from a PC Windows laptop.

I think the Tobshiba line of computers will give you the most value.

Also, check Consumer Reports. They still list Apple as the best when it comes to service but they're not the best value.

posting as AC because I'm about to get killed by the fanbois with the mod points.

My ideal balance (1)

Smith55js (1206108) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017772)

Personally, I don't need an optical drive. USB thumb drives work fine. Give me an ethernet port, 802.11g, decent size hard drive, decent graphics, usb, bluetooth, comfy keyboard and a detachable mouse that stores in the laptop.

Must qualify to run XP after June 30th (1)

spywhere (824072) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017808)

The only criteria anyone should care about is whether M$ will allow its manufacturer to sell XP on it.

It will be three years before enough laptop hardware to run Vi$ta 'quickly' will cost less than $1500. I would urge all the OEMs to push that definition as hard as they can.

What's the appeal? You're kidding. (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017842)

I need portable email and web on a device with more real estate than my cell phone. Not sure why people would be puzzled by this. "Portable" is the operative word here, not speed. If my IBM 240X thinkpad were still working, (small, light, no CD drive) I'd still be using it today, despite it's "lackluster" Pentium II processor. These days, you can't buy a processor too slow to adequately surf the web, so whatever is the lowest power chip out there would be fine for this application.

Here's my list:

I want cellphone-like battery time, cellphone-like bootup speeds, and smartphone-like cost (low hundreds) but with a real keyboard and a screen larger than 240X320. I want real wifi, *not* some co-dependent device that has to be paired with some cell phone that I'd never purchase on it's own merits.

Add the ability to read the memory chip out of my camera, allow me rudimentary touch-up and publish on the web, and let the device sync with my smartphone, and I could leave my big honkin' laptop at home entirely. None of these features require blazing hot performance.

Seriously, do most people really need four gigahertz quad processors with eight gigs of ram in a laptop they actually intend to carry around with them? Or do they just *think* they do?

The other day a friend asked my advice on a new computer for his daughter. The old desktop was painfully obsolete, and daughter wanted a laptop. I told him, keep an eye open for sales, and buy the cheapest laptop you can find, because anything you can buy new today will be an order of magnitude more than she actually needs. Oh, and request Windows XP rather than Vista.

Moore's law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23017868)

constantly computers are getting faster thanks to Moore's law, while most of the activities we need to perform with a portable PC remain the same. Check E-Mail, examine a presentation before delivering it, modify a document, browse the web to settle a bar bet, none of these tasks require a PC beyond the cheapest one can buy pre-assembled from the computer store anymore. As such, the focus drifts away from more horsepower under the hood and towards less burden on the user. Only a few years ago, if a busy professional needed a computer to accomplish these tasks, they would likely be toting around a bag as big as their briefcase filled with a large laptop and associated kit; a significant encumberment. Hauling a bag like this through the airport was a pain, but a necessary evil. The alternative was to tote around an itty-bitty PDA with a thumboard one could type on at roughly half the speed of smell, resulting in a computer that was portable, but not functional. With smaller and less power hungry components capable of handling the simple day to day tasks of a mobile professional without being a totally alien and cumbersome device as compared to a desktop PC, and prices falling out of the 2000 dollar range, UMPCs got two major legs up towards being a viable solution as compared to their predecessors. These devices are meant to be more like the original concept behind a PDA, an always available tool used in conjunction with a desktop PC, not as a replacement for it. When the UMPCs are considered more in the aforementioned role than as a sole computer, and with a price point in the ballpark of feasibility for that application, UMPC will gain an increasing foothold in the market among the userbase that demands computing agility over pure power.

Playing with an EEE (1)

domatic (1128127) | more than 6 years ago | (#23017894)

I've been messing about with a 4G EEE which cost a bit under $400. The thing is, full size laptops with optical drives and 1024x768 screens start at $550 so I don't ultimately find the EEE very interesting at the moment. What I WOULD find interesting is a machine at $200 or less with a 2G EEE's level of capability. Basically, give me the keyboard, trackpad, ability to surf web, play movies, play audio, and open documents over a network. If I want anything more then I'll pay more.

The EEE started great but they are moving in the direction of blinging them out more. I suppose this is to make them XP or even Vista capable. Again, that is what full size laptops are for. Give me a cheap Internet/Media/Document access machine and volume price it so that I can splatter classrooms with them.
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