Netbooks – Good Geek’dm for Writers

August 28, 2008

Lenovo IdeaPad S10 

Netbooks are the latest piece of hardware to target the geek scene.  Every manufacturer worth its salt is rushing to get their version of the netbook on the market. Not to be confused with laptops/notebooks, netbooks are optimized for light computing tasks like word processing and heavy internet usage – hence the term “net”.  They are the latest craze in computing and are spreading like wildfire.  I’ve been watching the netbook craze since Intel introduced the Atom in the spring of 08’.  And while the netbook truly has benefits for writers, I believe its greatest purpose will be in offering the ultimate low-cost web portal to the world at large. Mark my words, these things will soon inhabit the Amazon jungle.

One of the most attractive benefits of netbooks is the price tag – as low as $250. Why so cheap? Netbooks are not high performers when compared to their big brother notebooks/laptops.  They have slower processors (i.e. Intel’s Atom and Celeron M) and smaller, slower hard drives.  Hard drive capacity can be as small as 2 GB (the size of my very first Pentium desktop) or as large as 250 GB.  Some use solid-state disks (SSDs). However, with slower processing speed, storage space becomes a tertiary matter because you are not going to get the speed you need to run bloated software programs.

What, less performance!!

Aren’t we headed in the wrong direction?  Not quite and here’s why: Cloud computing (internet based programming) is everywhere and giants like Google, Apple, and Microsoft are leading the pack. The more we access applications on the web to complete our day-to-day tasks, the less desktop performance we need.  Netbooks are designed primarily for web-based computing.  They carry all the bells-and-whistles when it comes to USB ports, WiFi, WAN and Bluetooth connections. 

No multitasking, gaming or heavy software programs ALLOWED!
Now think about it… For writers that’s not such a bad thing.  More than ever before scribblers find themselves mobile, as the coffee houses have become the home office and working vacations are common  – as is writing your novel during a lunch break or polishing that blockbuster script poolside.  You simply need a machine that catches your brain droppings no matter your location and a software program that pulls it all together in a nice neat format. 

Photos, games, IM – that’s called DISTRACTION.  Notice I didn’t include music. Select a model with descent HD capacity so there’s plenty of room for tunes – a godsend when you need to drown out those inconsiderate types who dare frequent the coffee shop to socialize. Blasphemy!  Can’t you see I’m spinning gold at the tips of my fingers here!

What kind of juice we talkin’?
On average expect between 3 – 5 hours of juice.  You would think slower hard drives (3200/4200rpm), slower processors, and smaller screens would equal better battery life, but it doesn’t equate to such with netbooks.  My guess is WiFi and web surfing can be quite taxing on the battery.

Asus Eee PC1000


Which model?
There’s over 30 models in the market to date.  Wikipedia has a great comparison chart to jump-start your research.  Writers should weigh heavily the screen and keyboard size, as you don’t want compact technology to impede your productivity. I don’t recommend the smaller 5” and 7” screens.  Often times the smaller the screen so goes the keyboard.  I recently had the chance to test drive Acer’s Aspire One with a 8.9” screen. Admittedly, I have small hands, thus the 95% full-keyboard wasn’t a problem.  If you need ample keyboard and screen space check out some of the 10” models like Asus Eee PC 1000 or Lenovo’s new IdeaPad S10.

Computing for the sole purpose of writing –  No distraction-ware allowed!

Setup your email and download your favorite word processor, novel writing (DevonThink, Ulysses, CopyWrite, etc) or screenplay software (Final Draft, Movie Magic, etc) and that is it! If you use web-based email and writing programs, even better! Store your internet research in places like Google Notebook. Netbooks are lightweight and compact, fitting perfectly in your purse or backpack.

What if I want to access files that are stored on my desktop or my primary laptop? 
Check into Live Mesh, or Sugarsync for virtual file syncing applications and look into Jooce for virtual desktop space that stores all your work.

Pro-and-Con it!
Low Cost
Mobility – Light Weight, Compact, Wireless

Performance Power
Battery Life


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Ellen South August 29, 2008 at 9:42 am

Robin – great perspective of the netbook as it relates to writers. I enjoyed this article as much as the Tablet PC series.



Netbook Guru August 29, 2008 at 5:48 pm

It’s refreshing to read an article about netbook computers written by a writer with some geek-ability, rather than a geek with some writing-ability.
I will watch for more of your articles!

Buy Netbook Computers!


Robin August 29, 2008 at 9:43 pm

Ellen S. – Hope you found some interesting material in both articles.

Netbook Guru – Cheers back at you. Thanks for stopping by.


Mark September 26, 2008 at 12:40 am

“Cloud computing” soon to be replaced by **insert hyperbolic marketing phrase here** aka ‘the next big thing.’

The vast majority of people will NEVER use so called cloud computing. With ISPs moving to meter bandwidth, tracking of usage, privacy concerns, and the fact that the Net is NOT 100% reliable makes ubiquitous use of “Cloud Computing” nothing more than a dream.

Most people have purchased computers that are far beyond their needs, and they know it. PCs are becoming more commoditized each day. Computer purchasers are becoming more price sensitive, as well. (yes there is a difference) This is driving the market for low end PCs of all sorts. Cell Phones followed a similar trend. Even today’s most expensive cell phones are are less than 1/100th of what an original cell phone costs in real dollars. Many companies are putting out basic cell phones that are inexpensive and to some degree disposable.

As or the battery life, hard disks are a killer, as is the beacon and broadcasting of WiFI or WiMax. Bluetooth is worse. Dell has an Atom based laptop that has a solid state HDD. Sorry I have no specs to pass along.


Fabian August 18, 2009 at 9:36 pm

I recently took a trip through the Amazon, and I met a whole bunch of people using netbooks. No joke. This is when I started to get interested in them, actually…


Robin August 19, 2009 at 11:02 am

You’re kidding Fabian!! LOL Guess I’ll have to start prophesying more.


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