Product review: Netbooks for business
Pint-sized, ultralight, and ultra-affordable, a new class of portables woos the mobile professional. We put an Asus Eee PC and HP Mini-Note to the testFollow @infoworld
Cost vs. benefit
So are netbooks worth it? Whereas early Eee PC models were notable for their rock-bottom pricing, Asus seems to be distancing itself from the notion of the Eee PC as a "disposable laptop." The latest models feature improved build quality but higher price tags, with the 901 listing at $599. And HP's 2133 Mini-Note line is even more expensive, at $499 for a stripped-down configuration running Linux.
Even at $750 for a well-equipped model, however, the 2133 retails for a fraction of the price of earlier ultralight notebooks, yet delivers most of the capabilities. If you value performance over size, standard-format notebooks can be had even less expensively; but in the ultralight category, the Eee PC and the HP 2133 are both incredible bargains. Either should come as a breath of fresh air to weight-conscious customers, who have traditionally paid a premium to lighten their carry-on bags.
When I say not to expect too much of these machines or their forthcoming competitors, then, "too much" is really the operative phrase. Long-term use will surely be fatiguing, and lack of an optical drive could make netbooks a hassle to configure and maintain in department-wide deployments.
Still, these are real PCs -- not toys -- and they pack more than enough juice for word processing, presentations, spreadsheets, and Web-based apps. If you can accept their limitations, netbooks are an exciting, breakthrough category for mobile customers who are willing to trade processing performance for a lighter load (and who don't want to break the bank to do it).