A Response to TechCrunch: Netbooks May Not Be Perfect But They Are Good Enough

The following letter is a response to TechCrunch’s post entitled “Three Reasons Why Netbooks Just Aren’t Good Enough” by Michael Arrington. Dear Mr. Arrington, I write this on a MSI Wind netbook as a longtime fan of your blogs and posts. However, your recent post on “Why Netbooks Just Aren’t Good Enough” gives me pause. Firstly, your article showed very little research on the current state of netbooks. While I do not want to dwell on your factual inaccuracies (as already outlined out by Liliputing and Boing Boing Gadgets) it is important to note that:

  • Most netbooks today come with 8.9 or 10-inch displays, not the 7-inch that you reference in your article. Sure some do come with 7-inch screens (the Eee PC 701SD is still an option) but the most popular netbooks today have those larger screens. Just ask ASUS’ CEO Jerry Shen.
  • Typical netbooks have a Intel Atom processor. You mention a VIA Nano processor, but no netbooks to date have been shown with this new VIA platform. VIA’s C7-M chip was a popular solution until Intel’s Atom flooded the market. VIA tells us we could see Nano later in 2009.
  • Most netbooks run Windows XP or a version of Linux and come with a minimum of 512MB of RAM (though most with 1GB). You mention 256MB of RAM and Vista, however only the HP 2133 Mini-Note and the Dell Inspiron Mini 12 are sold by manufacturers with Vista right now.

I stress these corrections because the specs of netbooks have only gotten better in the last year making most of the ones I test (and there are too many to count) capable performers. You are right, they won’t perform like a dual-core laptop, and they are not supposed to but the last three 10-inch netbooks I have reviewed (the HP Mini 1000, ASUS N10J, Samsung NC10) do not have the issues you mention of becoming sluggish when multiple tabs are open in a browser and an e-mail application is running. I am doing that all right now as I type this in WordPress on the MSI Wind and have not had a single hang up. Because they run Intel’s Atom processor and 1GB of RAM, they are completely capable of multi-tasking, including listening to music in Windows Media Player, writing a document Microsoft Works and checking GMail and Flash heavy sites in Firefox 3. People will not be unhappy with the performance if they expect to perform light activities like the ones I have described. I think your claims that these notebooks are underpowered and suffer from “too little horsepower” are exaggerated, especially for what they are meant to do which is surf the Net. Speaking of that Net experience, the screen is something I am in agreement with you on. The 1024 x 600 resolution isn’t ideal (but neither is upping the resolution on such a small screen). But as Brad of Liliputing notes, the comparison to the iPhone is more of a software issue than a hardware one. Sure, I wish I could fit more on a 10-inch screen (so much so that I have prayed that GMail will create a netbook mode so the chat windows don’t block all the rest of the window), but for that browsing experience I expect to scroll down quite a bit. Netbook manufacturers expect scrolling too and that’s why if a a netbook doesn’t have a scroll bar on a trackpad it isn’t going to get a good review from LAPTOP Magazine. Lastly, I take issue with your keyboard comments. Readers of my reviews and posts will tell you the netbook keyboard is my biggest focus when looking at the small laptops. I have found two keyboards that I can truly recommend — that of the HP Mini 1000 and the Samsung NC10. Contrary to what you say, these keyboards ARE much better than a BlackBerry type keyboard. You can’t find these solid keyboards on all netbooks (thankfully, we have heard ASUS is working on its key placement problem) but as an avid BlackBerry Curve user I have always been able to type faster and more accurately on netbook keyboards. What is the solution to the “fat hole in the market between mobile devices like the iPhone and regular laptops?” I don’t know but you are totally correct: netbooks are inching closer to becoming real laptops (just look at the Dell Inspiron Mini 12). I really am interested in your Internet tablet and I do think people would love a slate like you describe (and I hope one day will actually come to fruition). When the time comes, I would love to review it! However, I also think people out there like netbook devices with a real keyboard and a laptop form factor and I think the current choices are just fine for what they intend to do with them. That is simply surf the Web in a cafe or while sitting on the couch, write a blog post at an event, check e-mail while on vacation, take notes in class, etc. People have to find, what I call, their perfect netbook balance – for some occasions a netbook will be just right but other times a larger laptop may just need to come along for the ride. The screen size, performance, and keyboard are more than fine on the Samsung NC10, MSI Wind, ASUS Eee PC 1000H, and HP Mini 1000. And for those that can deal with a smaller 9 inch screen will have no problem with the Dell Mini 9 and the Acer Aspire one. Netbooks aren’t perfect (I’d like longer battery life and faster hard drives to mention a few of the issues I have), but for now they are more than good enough for most of us. Sincerely, Joanna Stern News Editor LAPTOP Magazine (or as I have been called in certain circles, the Netbook Diva)

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  1. michael arrington Says:

    I should have been clearer in my post for those people, like you, who really know the space. I’ve tested a ton of these, and I have definitely done my research.. They litter my office. A lot of them are older 7 inch models. I have a Nano device that I guess hasn’t hit the market yet, running vista. not so well. I’ve got one of the Dells. I’ve tested 10 inch, 8.9 inch and 7 inch machines on every OS they offer (XP, Vista, Linux). I’ve even scraped machines and put my own stripped down version of linux with a browser…

    and that’s when things start humming. The screen still sucks, and the keyboard still sucks, but the machine works well. as in as well as a desktop, at browsing the internet.

  2. Mikey Says:

    Arrington, your opinion is your opinion and, in my opinion, worthless.

  3. Henry Adams Says:

    Mr Arrington, you should consider beefing up the advertisement infrastructure on your website. Once a broader monetary capture scheme is in place, just continue writing highly questionable, inaccurate blog articles and get an even larger return on your viral-blog marketing. If this was your plan, a pat on the back for you. I will personally click all you links 10x. Maybe next time you should invest more energy and resources into your published word.

    Thumbs up to laptop and the others for bringing the much needed light upon the misinformation.

  4. Sascha Says:

    Sorry Michael but if you would have tested a ton of these, you would know that there are no netbooks with a Nano cpu on the market.
    Seriously, when someone who is doing the weather forecast on any local news station is publishing something like this i would say.. alright, he is just the weatherman and has no idea about it.

    but someone who claims to be a pro, reviewing tons of these systems and writing for such a big website, should know better and not getting an article online that is full of errors and biased content.

    And believe me, you have no Nano device.

    and now let’s wait for Patrick Moorhead, who is a pretty good spin doctor, too…
    I guess that happens when you don’t have any platform for the demand of the market…

    You and AMD missed it big time… but the difference to people without any background at all is, you guys are making it public… ;)

  5. Robin Says:

    I absolutely with you Joanna aka miss netbook ;)
    I’m into the netbook story for quite a while know. I love my quick and superb Samsung NC10! It’s pretty good for internet,e-mail,word,excel and even runs some games and photoshop.

  6. shiva Says:

    newer netbooks are good for most general applications.

  7. h c edwards Says:

    I wonder if the S10 is right for me.
    I really want a “digital photo album.” I want to keep my images on my PC and edit them there – I am currently using Microsoft digital image. When we travel, I want to be able to transfer selected albums to the S10 and show them as a slide show or as individual images.
    Is the image quality of the S10 good enough for my purposes? I know that this is a subjective thing- what is good enough for one person may not be good enough for others.
    Also, I like the option of plugging into a TV.
    Just looking for a reality check.

  8. Diplodoggy Says:

    Netbooks are selling like hotcakes and also if you would consider its price in the market, It gives oppurtunity for people to suite thier computing needs specially us young professionals in middle class countries and allow us to do our side jobs anywhere since i do have VPN and WIFI connectivity.

    ===NO Keyboard NO Screen NO Horsepower issues===

    Everything is SMOOTH with my 1.6Ghz Atom 2GB Memory and 160GB HDD NETBOOK
    … just like riding with the WIND.
    And also LESS BACK PAIN carrying it : ) if you would consider my dual core full size laptop who does the same function as my netbook.

    Well Mr. Arrington guess what, I could also do MAC OSX on my Netbook without any flaws. ( just do the right Instructions) good luck to you if you want to have one. : P

  9. rkms Says:

    So what do you recommend a home user buy ? A netbook or a notebook or a PC Desktop ? Considering he needs mobility but at same time would like to have a computer which is useful for browsing the net, editing a document in a wordprocessor and doing some image editing – say connecting and downloading the pictures from his camera and resizing them.

    I for one will root for a netbook because of the following reasons :

    Lower price range
    Smaller size without sacrificing power and memory.
    Choice of operating systems installed by default – WinXP or Linux
    More competition – HP, ASUS, DELL – all have jumped on the netbook bandwagon – which is good for the consumer.
    Variety of specs

  10. toe Says:

    I f****ing love my s10. Honest to god, it’s replaced my desktop. Here’s how I use it: dock it at home and use it sort of like a desktop (simply a usb mouse and vga cable to a 21″ lcd, seamless) and unplug it and throw it in my bag when I go out. The lcd monitor is left over from my desktop, and I figured that I might as well use it.

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