My ultra-portable is dying: info sought

My ultra-portable notebook, which I use on the road, is dying.

Does anyone have experience with the HP Mini or the itty-bitty Dell or any of the other really small notebooks?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. ealber says:

    What do you mean by “dying”? I am not very knowledgeable about computers but have used Dell (one of their larger notebooks) and its battery died about year and half after I bought it. The fix would be to just buy another battery. I now have the Dell mini 9 and the battery is doing fine so far.

  2. Mark says:

    The best one out there is a the ASUS EEE PC 1000HE. It’s got a good screen size, a great keyboard, built in bluetooth and wireless b/g/n. I got a deal on it at

    Thanks for a great blog.

  3. Petrus says:

    I love my Acer Aspire One. Get one with a 6cell battery and you have a amazing netbook. I’ve heard they released one with a 10″ screen, so that’s even better.

  4. Kevin says:

    I absolutely agree with Mark about the ASUS PC-1000HE. It has the best battery life and feature set. In addition, it is one of the few with the trackpad buttons in the proper place!

  5. Landon says:

    I take care of laptops for a living, so go ahead and email me with any of the symptoms and I would be happy to troubleshoot.

    I also second the Asus EEEPC as well as the new MSI wind.

  6. GCC Catholic says:

    I can also echo support for the EEEPC. I have an EEE 901 running a modified version of Ubuntu Linux called EEEbuntu.

    If I recall correctly, the 10 inch models have a full keyboard. The 700-series and 900-series ones have a smaller keyboard which may take some getting used to.

    Best of luck with this!

  7. Pomeroy on the Palouse says:

    Should you be interested in switching to a Mac OS, Instapundit had a blurb a bit ago about how easy it is to install the latest Mac OS on a Dell Mini 9 and get the hardware and software for under $500. Here;s a link:


  8. Tom Seeker says:

    I can help Father. IT Director and have several HP Minis.

    Let me know how I can help.

    Tom Seeker

  9. Jimbo says:

    Father Z, Considering the price range involved (minimal) with netbooks, I’d read the rest of the feedback and then flip a coin. My experience has been with the Acer AspireOne, which was a nice attempt at a good idea, but not what I would recommend (or have bought) in hindsight. Word on the web points to the EEE or MSI Wind. If I was to buy another today, it would be the EEE because of its proven record.

  10. I am clearly looking for the experiences people have had with different ultra-portables.

  11. Jimbo says:

    Father Z, Okay…experiences. Acer AspireOne: Keyboard is too cramped, left button next to touchpad unresponsive after only four months of use, power management less than desirable.

  12. Richard says:

    I got stuck at an airport the other week and did a comparative test of about a dozen ultraportables.

    Don’t know about battery life or reliability, but just on the keyboard and trackpad the Samsung NC-10 is by far the easiest to use.

    I guess the others would improve with practice, but not if you’re usually using a normal keyboard. The Samsung is almost full size, with a very well thought out layout, and feels and moves much more like a regular laptop keyboard.

  13. TS says:

    Asus Machines – Keyboards are too small on most of them. The Linux distribution that comes with them (XP Home is an option) has too little to be of much use, so I put a version of Ubuntu on and it works out much better.

    Acer’s – Good machines, best for the $$. Keys are average for a netbook. Windows XP Home does fine. The biggest annoyance is the mouse buttons being off to the side (left on the left, right on the right).

    Lenovo S10e’s – My favorite at this point. Keys are just about right, and my hands are larger than average. Mouse buttons are in the usual spot and separate switches (Asus uses a single rocker switch). They have an ExpressCard slot which is handy and forward thinking. Works great with my Verizon KPC680 card. Face recognition seems to work well, sparing having to enter your password every time you step away.

    HP Mini240 – My 2nd choice. Great screen. Keys seem to be standard notebook size (bigger than the Lenovo’s) and are a hair concave to catch your fingers. The mouse buttons are on the side like the Acer, and take a little more effort to press than the Acer. XP Home does the trick just fine.

    I’m an IT Director for a Catholic school. I have an S10e and an Asus 900 owed by the school. I’ve done free demo’s with the Acer and HP (have it 1 more week).

    That said, I’m still not sold on netbooks. I carry an S10 around town, just in case something comes up at work after hours and on weekends. However, for out of town trips, I still don’t leave home without my MacBook Pro. The Lenovo comes along only for show-and-tell and if I run out of battery power in the Mac. Just easier to get more done faster on a standard sized notebook where I can store everything and have all my usual applications, plus the optical drive.

  14. Justin says:

    Fr – I used the Samsung NC10 – 10 inch screen. I haven’t had any problems with it. Battery life is excellent – 7 hrs. Really large spacious keyboard. Windows XP OS. I highly recommend. I find it much faster than my regular HP Pavillion.

  15. This is interesting and helpful. I need, as does everyone, long battery life. I also would like a built in webcam and integrate bluetooth. I suppose most will have two USB ports.

  16. Jason says:

    wait for the new Apple Mac that will be coming soon. touchscreen, small, easy to transport and it is a Mac. I know it can be considered a radical move to Macs from PCs, but this is what PC Mag has to say about it today:,2817,2342761,00.asp

  17. Jason says:

    My experience:

    The Asus EEE series of machines work well and have solid hardware, but the included Linux distribution is useless and you have to have some Linux savvy to get another stock version to work with the hardware. Also, the keyboard is too cramped for many people’s hands, and a few keys are wildly out of place, hindering touch-typists. The touchpad has a rocker bar instead of right and left buttons, and it requires fair force to use; it also makes a very audible click that annoys my wife. All that being said, I use my 701 for all my home computing, including some pretty fair programming, and it serves me well. I’ve installed Fedora 10 on it, and all the hardware worked without tweaking – but it was tough to install.

    The HP Mini 1000 has a great keyboard and, if you get the larger display, a decent screen. It felt like it was pretty well built. I’ve only used one with Windows XP installed, and it ran well doing office and web-browsing type stuff. The buttons are to either side of the touchpad, and that’s weird to use, but they worked well. Frankly, I wanted it, but it wasn’t mine to keep!

    The new HP 2140 sounds like “close, but no cigar”; people who liked the 2133 (which had performance problems, but great hardware) like the 2140 less, and people who didn’t like the 2133 seem to like the 1000 better.

    Honest recommendation: buy a small laptop, but not one of the minis. They’re all decent, but there are compromises to be made in this form factor that haven’t quite been managed yet. Battery life is short, display is constricted, performance is marginal, and keyboards and trackpads need work.

  18. Zach says:

    Check out the Sony Vaios. We have four of them, all different sizes, but our 11 inch one is the very little handy one. It is a couple years old and still works great. They have a really cool one out now that is 8 inches. Check it out.

  19. Ouida says:

    Does anyone know about the new Dell Mini 10? It just came out.

  20. Carlos says:

    I’m writing this in a HP Mini. It is a wonderful computer, as long as you don’t use for for processor-intensive tasks (encrypting large files take a long time, for instance). The keyboard is awesome! Beats any other laptop keyboard hands down. I bought this computer because the keyboard in the Sony Vaio I had was absolutely awful, and I use it mostly for writing. It is the cadillac of laptop keyboards, and it is spill-resistant. The shell is aluminum, and quite solid. I’ve used it under (light) rain, I carry it in my bag at work all the time, and it works flawlessly. With the 6-cell battery it has over 5 hours of work time.
    The gizmo that detects movements and locks the HDD works too well, though, and it can be complicated to use it when in a car on dirt roads, as it will lock the HDD most of the time.
    I wish I never bought the Vaio.

  21. Kathy says:

    I have a Dell Latitude X1 that’s heroically endured four years of overuse. It was actually made by Samsung for Dell. It’s essentially a netbook, and has never given me a moment’s trouble. It’s made me a huge fan of Samsung netbooks.

  22. Christopher says:

    Go with the HP mini Father. I have the original hp2133 and have had no problems with it at all. The size is ideal for working on the road, the full keyboard can’t be beat, and the brushed aluminum housing is not only durable but gorgeous.

  23. canon1753 says:

    I have a EEEPC 701 with XP on it. First thing to do is to get a large (8-16gb) SD card, and you should not have problems with most apps and room. Works fine. Typing is cramped with my fat fingers, but good for note taking with one finger. Internet is great. (Firefox actually). Have Open Office writer portable on it as well.

    If it is an internet point and occasional writing tool, I think netbooks are fine. If you want a full computer, spend the additional money on a full small laptop.


  24. Joan Ellen says:

    Fr., I also have a small eee pc…uses just 22 watts when plugged into electricity. And I have an e machine
    D620 with full keyboard that works just fine. Can not tell you the maximum number of battery hours on either one.

    P.S. eee pcs come in black, white, pink, blue and green colors!

  25. Domini Sumus says:

    I have a Dell Mini9 and I love it, but I usually use it plugged in so I don\’t know how the battery life is.

  26. mary martha says:

    I am on an HP mini 1000 right now… and I LOVE it! I am enough of a girl to have spring for the designer version in red with the flowers (ridiculous, I know).

    The keyboard is very workable for basic typing. I wouldn’t want to write a book on it, but for emailing and basic web posting it is fine. There is an integrated webcam – but it isn’t going to be winning any awards. The trackpad buttons on the sides takes a bit of getting used to… but after a day they were second nature. It does have 2 USB ports but they are on opposite sides of the computer (which may cause an issues with one of my external hard drives which uses 2 ports).

    As long as you remember this is a minimal computer fr basic netbook uses… it is fine. Frends and family who have seen it want one too! I brought it to a family thing this weekend and my brother who is a pilot is buying one this week to replace the big laptop that he has been lugging around the country for the last few years.

  27. Marty Fuhry says:

    I’ll back up the Asus EeePC 1000HE. I’ve had mine for about two weeks and really enjoy it. It’s light enough to bring to class with me (and as a Computer Science major, it gets a lot of use in class) and the battery life is fantastic.

  28. Matt says:

    MSI Wind u100. Only laptop upgradeable to 2GB RAM. This puts it above and beyond all current models. Not to mention 160GB hard drive, LED backlight, 6 cell battery and more IO ports than most laptops all with a $369 price tag.

    MSI has received very high marks and even beats Asus in almost all areas. The HP mini is in a different price class. It is targeted towards the corporate environment and carries a corporate price tag. The very best bang for your buck at the moment is the MSI Wind u100.

  29. Terry says:

    U100!!!!! as in WIND.
    I have it setup as a triple boot from a 320G 2.5″HD.
    OSX, XP and Ubuntu.
    Yes it’s the only serious NetBook.
    97% of a full keyboard.
    2G RAM is essential.
    And so is the LED screen.

  30. BT says:

    I’m writing this on my eeePC 1000HE, the latest netbook model from Asus. I’ve had the computer around a week now, and it’s fantastic. My only concern before I received it was that the keyboard wouldn’t be comfortable for word processing, but its keyboard is very close to full-size. It’s only taken a slight adjustment to become perfectly comfortable typing on it. Compared to other netbook keyboards, this one is great.

    It also has a built-in 1.3 megapixel webcam, bluetooth, 160 GB hard drive, 3 USB ports, and a multi-format memory card slot. At present, the 1000HE only ships with Windows XP loaded, but it’d be no problem to load linux if that’s what one wants.

    I did a lot of reading and research before settling on the 1000HE. I ordered it on Amazon along with a 2 GB memory upgrade that took me all of 2 minutes to install. It’s a fast, impressive machine–especially considering the relatively low price. I wanted the new machine as I’ll be working on my dissertation starting next semester, and it’s going to be a great tool.

  31. Ruth Lapeyre says:

    My husband just bought me an HD Mini and I love mine as well, especially the keyboard. I use it primarily for writing. Several days ago we had big thunderstorms move through the Detroit area and the wireless router went out. My husband fixed the situation with the other computers but the HD Mini which is using Ubuntu cannot reconnect to the Internet. He was on the phone for sometime before getting to the HD Linux help line and apparently they were clueless as to how to help with this situation. He can fix it but it will take time as his work demands attention. Otherwise, the Mini is wonderful and the little mouse you can get works well for me but my hands are small.

  32. Ken says:

    I have had a MSI Wind U100 and a Dell Mini 9. The Wind’s power unit failed after about 2 months, and the Dell was DOA. The Dell got fixed right away by customer service, and it has travelled with me on a few trips. Battery life on the Dell is great, easily 3 hours of use without charging.

    The keyboard on the Wind is far better than the Dell, because the Dell moves some keys around that cause you to have to think every time you type more than a few words. But the trackpad and buttons are better on the Dell than the Wind. The Dell’s metal-sheathed casing feels more solid than the plastic Wind’s.

    The problem is that the Dell that I have has a very small SSD drive that is slow and full out-of-the-box. 8GB, with 7.1GB used – and that’s stripped down of every non-necessary accoutrement and app. I have an SD card that I used for storage, which is nice, but it also means that I can’t install Dropbox on the Dell – which is an essential app as it keeps my active docs backed up in real-time. It looks like I’ll have to replace the drive inside with something larger, which will have an impact on battery life, I’m sure.

  33. John Monteiro says:

    Fr. Z:

    Linux Magazine currently compares Netbooks. Here is their article:

    Hope this helps.


  34. John P says:

    Dear Father,

    I have had experience with the HP Mini 1000 and the Acer Aspire One. The HP Mini had a problem that apparently plagues many of the HP Minis. The keyboard was so close to the screen that they keys were hitting the screen and leaving large scratches on it. The Aspire One had no such problems. I ended up getting rid of the Aspire One because I decided that I really needed a full-sized laptop for my use, but out of the netbooks I’ve used, even the venerable EEE PC, I’d prefer the Aspire One for sure. The Asus EEE had keys that were too small for my preference, and I generally don’t mind small keys. The Asus models also tend to be a little “fatter” size-wise. has refurbished Acer Aspire Ones right now for $239.99 with the 120GB Hard Drive.

    On a side note, whatever netbook you decide on, I would recommend purchasing one with a hard drive. Solid State Drives, or SSDs, though they are durable, tend to be a little slow, and also are just too small for everyday use.

    To Conclude, I would recommend looking at the Aspire One first, as it has a great performance per dollar ratio.

  35. Pawel Pojawa says:

    I have a eeePC 901.

    One feature I really enjoy is battery life of 6 hours (with camera and wifi disabled; less if you are using them, but I guess still more than 4 hours).

    I also upgraded mine to 2G RAM, as I read it was not advisable to have swapfiles on SSD drives.

  36. Ella says:

    Hi Father :-)
    I, too, suggest an Asus EeePC! has great deals. They are wonderful little computers and very sturdy. Mine runs on Linux, so it boots and shuts down in mere seconds; however, it is difficult to customize or install programs on if you’re unfamiliar with code. You can get them with trusty ol’ Windows XP though!

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