Do You Need a Mini-Notebook as a Second PC?

Mini-NotebooksNo one knows better than us that mini-notebooks are a hot ticket. Thanks to their irresistibly small sizes and low prices, some of us at LAPTOP have even become a bit obsessed. But not everyone has bit the bait, which brings up the question: “Who are these for, anyway?” We pitted two of our writers with opposing views on the mini-notebook hype against each other to battle over why—and why not—these mini-notebooks are a solid choice for people seeking out a second computer. Point: Why Your Second Computer Should be a Mini-Notebook by Avram Piltch From the moment I first laid eyes on the ASUS Eee PC, I knew I needed a mini-notebook. I already own a high-performance desktop computer, and a reasonably-powerful, if somewhat chunky, notebook. So why would a mobile professional like me need yet another device? I need a light, unobtrusive, and ultimately dispensable device that I can use to access my e-mail, surf the Web, and do light typing. The large screen, full keyboard, and more powerful processor make a full-fledged notebook the best choice when you’re on a business trip, sitting at your desk, or making a presentation. But there are so many situations when you need something else:

In public places: How comfortable do you feel whipping out your regular laptop when you’re waiting at the train station or packed into a tight bus seat?First, you have to try balancing it on your lap, a chore even with an ultraportable.Then you have to worry about damage, loss, and theft. Though it’s not exactly disposable, you can think of a mini-notebook as the comfortable economy car you drive all over the place, while you leave your expensive luxury vehicle in the garage. If your $1,800 MacBook Air, which just happens to hold your important data and apps on its hard drive, falls onto the subway tracks, you’re going to jump down there and get it even with an oncoming train in sight. If your $399 Eee PC falls on the tracks, you’ll be sad as you watch a train turn it into plastic confetti, but you’ll seize the opportunity to buy a newer model. In social situations: Think of all the times when you’ve wished you had a computer on hand, but the situation called for discretion. Let’s say you’re at Thanksgiving dinner, and you just have to look something up on the Web. In most families, if you whip out a regular notebook and plop it down on the dinner table, you’ll be met with disapproving looks at best. You can keep a mini-notebook on your lap and at least appear to be giving your family and friends your undivided attention. At business meetings: Paper and pen just don’t cut it in the boardroom. When the boss asks you for the latest numbers, you can grab them from your e-mail account or open up the corporate Intranet. However, if you lay down a regular laptop—even an ultralight laptop—on the meeting table and open the lid, your face can become obstructed, which is awkward when you’re trying to present information and may appear disrespectful. A mini-notebook has a smaller lid, allowing you to easily conduct a face-to-face conversation while your computer is open. At meetings, you also want a notebook that will boot and shut down quickly so you’re ready to go at the start and can pack up easily when a meeting ends. Many mini-notebooks boot and shut down quickly. True, a mini-notebook may not be powerful enough to use for all your work, but when you’re sitting in a meeting, you’ll need access only to the essentials. When you need access to something more powerful, you can use your mini-notebook to access a remote control application such as or Microsoft’s remote desktop to connect to your primary PC. At home: A good mini-notebook gives you nearly instant access to the Internet when you’re in a part of your home not conducive to full-size laptop use. Perhaps you’re lying in bed at night and important questions that demand immediate answers pop into your head: How many legs does Jabba the Hut have? Is Britney Spears in rehab again? When is the next BlackBerry coming out? You’re in luck if you have room for a regular notebook to sit comfortably on your nightstand. But even an ultralight like the MacBook Air is a tight fit in many small spaces and, if you’re conscientious, you have to worry about keeping an expensive computer lying around the house in places where you might knock it over or spill drinks on it. A mini-notebook is small enough to keep next to the bed and light enough to easily plop into your lap for a quick e-mail check or Wiki search. Even better, a fast-booting mini-notebook will start up, connect to your router, help you find out that Jabba the Hut has no legs, and then shut down before your significant other realizes that you were surfing in bed again.

It almost goes without saying that a mini-notebook is not the best kind of computer for gaming, watching movies, content creation, or using productivity software. Most Web pages will look better on a conventional notebook with a larger screen. However, a mini-notebook isn’t meant to replace your main computer; it’s meant to go places where a conventional notebook is too large or too valuable to go. Read Dana Wollman’s Counterpoint >>

Email* (will not be published)
*Indicates required field
Submit Comments

  1. Sondjata Says:

    Neither really. My n800 fits the bill perfectly.

  2. ComputerGuy Says:

    I picked up an Asus EEE PC for a second computer when my other laptop died. I still use a desktop for most activities, but certainly enjoy the EEE when I need a something mobile yet fully functional.

  3. degustibus Says:

    2nd computer? I run off and on 8 desktops (mostly old machines running win2k (2 newer PCs w/ Vista for copying netflix // Blockbusters DVDs), 4-5 Notebooks, a couple of older ones, seldom used, a newer Dell B130 in the bedroom and this here lenovo R61e in my armchair, bargain hunting, plus 2 ebay UMPCs for various use. A couple of Fujitsu touchscreen PCs for jaunts, work on the road. At some point I may get an eee, but no hurry, I’m gonna wait until prices drop.

  4. Mike Cane Says:

    The warm weather is rumored to be starting here in NYC. I like to sit in parks and read, look at unattainable attractive women, and access the Net and also write and blog. But I just don’t sit on my butt, I also move around the city. Doing all that is easier with less than 3 pounds hanging off my shoulder than the 5-6 pounds a full notebook would weigh. (And those computing pounds would be in *addition* to other things I drag around in a shoulder bag — such as a NYPL book or two.)

  5. Matt Says:

    There is no point of a mini-notebook. All of the things that you need it for you can accomplish with a ipod touch or iPhone. Its smaller, can fit in your pocket etc.

  6. LTM Says:

    My Nokia N810 fits the bill perfectly for most of what a mini-notebook can do. The Asus EEE, while small, is not something you can tote around in all situations. The Nokia N810 is and it’ll get better when the diablo OS comes out plus micro and hopefully mini SD memory sizes gets larger. I use bluetooth with it when I’m out of a wi-fi area and I need to check my e-mail or do a quick internet search. I use google docs for all my office needs. I’ve got 35 books on it, 400 songs, 30 movies, 35 tv shows, 200 photos. ( Two 8GB mini cards and a 4GB card ). I use it for GPS routing using the wayfinder sofware ( okay so its Sat fix time isn’t the best, but firmware will improve that ). I’m using GPE for a calendar, to do and contact list. I’m using skype for cheap phone calls on it. I’ve got internet radio running in the background with my favorite radio stations. I’m watching tvshows on and movies on it from quicksilver screen using the flash plugin and because of flash, I can play a bunch of games on it as well as install game emulators opening up a whole world of pass the time gaming ( I’m even running doom and quake on it ) and when hava gets their player working for the nokia, I’ll have access to my DVR and TV channels on the road using the the hava wireless HD. It’s got a 10 day standby battery life, 7 hours of use and I can pop a fresh battery in and out when I’m out of juice. If that’s not the definition of a mini-notebook, I don’t know what is!

  7. Wayfarr Says:

    I love these small machines!
    I’ve been watching them since XOXO was One child, One computer. At that time I thought them an amazing answer to an education problem. Soon after, I realized how good the wind-up power and peer-to-peer linkage would be in an emergency situation, natural or man-made, in almost any part of the world at any time.
    If an emergency service is not designed, I will likely have the EEE when it’s a tad bigger and accessories come to size. These minis impress me with their cost and usefulness. They are just large enough that I don’t have to break out the reading glasses to operate the thing as I do when texting on the cell. This will be a great boon to folks who don’t need or can’t use all the programs on their tiny tiny cellphones.

  8. Larry K Says:

    A lot of people are all excited about EEE and the like because of the cost, and not because they need something smaller than a normal laptop. Those people need to read the Sunday paper more often, because at least every other month there is a normal laptop available for $400-$500 at Best Buy or Staples. If you want a laptop to use around the house, and small size is not a priority, you will probably be better served by a normal one.

  9. Jay Says:

    I had a slightly more expensive laptop with a 12 inch screen and a dual core processor. I junked it once the eeepc became available. Weight and portability were major considerations. Storage was not. Seriously, if you’re planning to work why bring 400 songs, 35 movies and 35 tv channels with you? Although you can stilll do that on the eeepc I realized that I can live on 8gb of SD memory (plus 8gb more on a flashdrive). I bought an 80gb external drive and found out that I don’t use it that much so now I leave the drive at home. My video and music files are in my desktop computer at home anyway. The ability to work on office documents without having to find a way to connect to the internet , always iffy in my place of work, was also a major consideration as was the ability to connect to an LCD to give presentations. My only beef is the tiny screen but I can live with that. The only time that I will replace the eeepc 701 is when the eeepc 900 comes around (same external dimensions, larger screen).

  10. bob Says:

    Alright, I bought an EEE, used it for a month, then sold it on ebay. I couldn’t stand it! Being a college student I thought it was the perfect choice for a one the go laptop but couldn’t stand the tiny screen and small keyboard. Typing notes furiously for an hour and my hands would literally start to cramp up. I’m done with EEE, I just bought a 13′ mac book instead and I love it. It cost more, heavier, and bigger but now I realize keeping it in my backpack really isn’t that bad. These UMPC’s are way overpriced and overrated.

  11. Miss Hjemmeside Says:

    That woman is just beauitful, I mean a lot seems to think she is a fool but that’s just an act, it does require some skills to become one of the most famous people in the world.

All Product Types Accessories Cars Digital Camcorders Digital Cameras eReaders GPS Laptops MP3 & Video Players Projectors Smartphones Software Storage Tablets / MIDs VoIP Wi-Fi
All Subcategories
All Subcategories All-Purpose Budget Business Desktop Replacement Gaming Multimedia Netbook Nettop Rugged Student Tablet PCs Ultraportable
Acer Alienware Apple Archos ASUS Averatec BenQ CTL Corp. Dell Digital Storm eMachines Emtec Everex Fujitsu GammaTech Gateway General Dynamics Getac Gigabyte Hercules HP HTC iBuyPower Intel Lenovo MSI Nokia Nvidia OCZ OLPC OQO Origin Panasonic Sager Samsung Sony Sylvania Systemax TabletKiosk Toshiba Verizon Viewsonic Viliv VooDoo Workhorse PC ZT Systems
Minimum Rating
Any Rating 4.5 Stars 4.0 Stars 3.5 Stars 3.0 Stars
Screen Size
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 4 5 6 7 8 9
1024x576 1024x600 1024x768 1200X800 1280 x 720 1280x1024 1280x768 1280x800 1366x678 1366x768 1440x1050 1440x900 1600x768 1600x900 1680x1050 1680x945 1920x1080 1920x1200 800x400 800x480
Weight Range
10.1 - 12.0 pounds 12.1 - 14.0 pounds 14.1 - 16.0 pounds 2 lbs 2 pounds and under 2+ lbs 2.1 - 4.0 pounds 4.1 - 6.0 pounds 6.1 - 8.0 pounds 8.1 - 10.0 pounds Over 16 pounds Under 2 pounds
more options