Netbooks with HDMI Capabilities – What We Like

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I haven’t bought a new netbook since I picked up the original Asus EEE PC a few years ago when it was introduced. It was a fantastic little machine that went with me everywhere except my living room. What do I mean by that? Well, despite my netbook being powerful enough for all of my needs in my business life, the one thing it didn’t ever do so well with was watching videos. In an age where HD video is almost the standard way to upload content to the web, it seemed strange to me that not only did my netbook not have the capabilities to watch HD video with a more powerful graphics card, it also didn’t have an HDMI out that would allow me to plug my netbook into my TV or projector to watch movies at home.

With more and more folks turning to cheaper netbooks as their main computer in their house, it makes sense to find one that has all of the functionality of an actual computer. Below are some of the basics of HDMI and why you want it on your netbook as opposed to a standard video output connection, as well as some netbooks you can look into to take advantage of the ever growing library of HD content that’s uploaded to the web each day.

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In Review – The Acer 5742G

I’ll admit, I’ve been out of the gaming world for a while, so when I was asked by a friend to review the Acer 5742G, I was a little hesitant to take on the job. Plus, we review only netbooks here, and so this had to be an exception. After a few hours of research and a few hundred product reviews from around the web, I’ve got a pretty good grasp on what this particular Acer can and can’t do. In short, for the price, it’s a damn good laptop that would be worthy to sit on any computer user’s desk. However, there are a few small considerations to take into account before you immediately take the plunge to buy one for yourself, for gaming or otherwise.

The Basics

For those not looking for a technical mumbo-jumbo spiel about what this Acer can and can’t do, this is your section. For those interested in the technical side of things, I suggest you skip to the next section to find out what’s ticking on the inside.

The outside of this computer is nice and sleek, with a mesh black finish that not only keeps finger prints off, it looks good sitting on the desk. The processor inside, Intel’s newest “i3” line, is more than enough to handle all of your daily computing requirements. The graphics card within is also nice and powerful and can play HD video back on a 15.6” high definition display with easy. The 640-gigabyte hard drive has plenty of space for storing movies and music, meaning you won’t have to choose between family photos and your DVD collection. There’s an HDMI port to help connect the laptop to bigger displays so that you can turn your laptop into a business or entertainment center with ease. And while it isn’t super light (5.7 pounds), it’s not too clunky that you would ever consider leaving it at home while you go into the office for the day.

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Dual Core Netbooks – Should You Buy One?

It was only a matter of time before manufacturers started catching onto the netbook trend and responding to users’ complaints about speed and efficiency. While I was pretty happy with the netbooks I’d tried over the years in terms of what they could accomplish while on the go, some people wanted more. They wanted a netbook that could replace their laptop or desktop computer as their main computing device. A dual core netbook is simply a netbook that incorporates a dual core processor instead of a single core, theoretically meaning more speed than the predecessors. Although, the upgrade and price difference may be more than meets the eye.

In General

Before we waste your time reading the whole review to tell you what we think, we’ll just give you the basics here. A dual core netbook sounds like a good idea on paper, but doesn’t always pan out so well in reality. Most netbook users don’t crave the multitasking ability that a dual core processor provides because of the small screen size and inability to play high quality multimedia content with ease. Multi core processors are a great jump forward for netbooks, for sure, but only if you’re willing to still go without that extra screen real estate to have many of your favorite programs running at once.

The Contenders

Asus EEEPC 1015PEM

The only netbooks currently available with dual core processors are the Asus EEEPC 1015PEM and the Dell Inspiron M101z. Each of these dual core netbooks features the newest Atom processor, the N550. In benchmark tests compared to their single core cousins, both of these dual core netbooks performed almost identically to their older siblings. The only difference? As said before, the only difference any user will notice is an upgrade in terms of multitasking performance, which I cannot deny is a plus.

Positives

You may be wondering why we’re not breaking the reviews for each of these dual core netbooks into separate sections. The reason is that because most netbooks are built on almost exactly the same platform, the only difference you’ll see between products like the Dell Inspiron M101z and the Asus EEEPC 1015PEM is a change of faceplate and maybe a slightly different screen size.

That being said, the advantages of dual core netbooks still remain. Netbooks are renowned for their for their long battery life, meaning more time out and about and less time spent near a plug trying to charge it. The small change in price from a single core version of the same computer to a dual core version(less than $50 in most cases) is well worth it for some users. Multitasking capabilities do indeed increase, which is nice for those that like to work while on the go.

The Dell Inspiron M101z

Negatives

We could get nitpicky with the downsides here, but we’ll try and keep it light. Our complaints aren’t just for the computers listed here, they’re for almost all netbooks out at the moment. The fact is they’re not meant to replace a home computer that has full computing capabilities. Working on the go is fine, but expecting to watch a high-def movie on the plane while you’re chatting to your girlfriend on Skype via in-flight Wi-Fi is just unrealistic.

The dual core netbooks have a marginally better time playing back high definition content, but not enough to warrant selling your current computer to rush out and buy one of these. And since the screens are small and the keyboard is a little tight to maneuver about, I know that I won’t be grabbing a dual core netbook just because it’s the newest installment in the netbook lineup. Call me when HD video is standard and I don’t have to worry about upgrading the RAM to get things working smoothly.

The Verdict

To recap what has been said before, unless you’re looking to buy your first netbook and the dual core option is available on checkout, we’re not sure that we would recommend selling your current computer in exchange for what sounds like a nice upgrade. The small price increase is worth it in our opinion if you’re the type of person that likes to get work done while on the go and doesn’t mind the smaller keyboard and screen. It’s tough for me to work on the go, but then again, I don’t travel often enough to warrant having to “work on the go.” Any users that have experience with a netbook and full time working with it, please share your thoughts below.

For the general consumer, it seems as though big netbook names are simply trying to take advantage of a small feature increase in exchange for some extra cash. While it isn’t a ripoff considering the price of an extra processor isn’t cheap, dual cores just aren’t necessary yet. You’d be better off looking at a higher priced “premium” netbook if you’re looking to take advantage of the extra dual core speed boost.

In Review – The Toshiba NB 505 and NB305

Toshiba is a quality company that has been around for many years. Unfortunately, they often get left behind with brands like Dell and HP doing all of the grunt work in terms of marketing and promoting things like netbooks. While I’ve never personally owned a Toshiba netbook, I’ve borrowed a few from friends over the years as they’ve gained popularity and would like to share some of my insights about their quality and which ones have stood out in terms of being winners.

The Names

Unfortunately, Toshiba hasn’t gotten the memo about how to name products so that they’re easier to remember. People remember things like the EEEPC because it’s a brandable name. Toshiba went with things like “NB305” and “ NB505” for their product names. Luckily, the name doesn’t do anything to detract from the quality of the products.

The Toshiba NB505

By far the best selling and most appreciated Toshiba netbook is the NB505, as was mentioned above in critique for the poor name.

Specifications

  • 1.66 gigahertz Intel Atom processor
  • 1GB of DDR2 RAM (667MHz, expandable to 2GB)
  • 1024×600 native screen resolution on a 10.1” widescreen monitor
  • 250GB SATA Hard Drive
  • Geniune Windows 7 32bit Operating System
  • 8 Hour Lithium Ion Battery

Experience

When my friend Tim lent me his NB505 over the weekend while he was out of t own, I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to do with it. He told me I should just “check it out” for a little while and see what I thought. I’ve always been a desktop PC guy, so I thought I may as well try and bring it around town with me for the weekend to try and get some work done on the go.

The first thing you’ll notice about the laptop is how light it is. Weighing in at just 3 pounds, it’s easy to toss it into a backpack (which is exactly what I did) or a purse for the day. Not only was it lightweight, it was also pretty thin. There are some extendable feet that are on the bottom of this Toshiba netbook that let you stand the computer up a little higher so that the keyboard tilts towards you. A nice feature, but pretty unnecessary for me.

My Favorite Parts

Since I didn’t actually own the computer, I couldn’t take too much advantage of the hard drive to vouch for how fast it was when accessing large files. What I did see of the data access though was pretty snappy considering this is only a 5400RPM hard drive.

There are 3 USB ports and an SD card slot that I got full use out of, as I’m an avid photographer. I didn’t think I’d be able to upload photos to my computer and the web while I was out just taking a few shots one afternoon, but I could. My camera’s SD card read quickly and the NB505 was able to scan all of my images and copy them over in a snap. The long battery life also helped that afternoon considering how much work I was doing. Obviously, the 8 hour claim that Toshiba makes is a little inflated. If you’re going to be using the high res monitor like me and copying a whole bunch of photos over (using the computer to its max), you’re looking realistically at about 5 or 6 hours of battery time. I wasn’t out long enough to see how long the battery would go for, but I did manage to get a good 4 or so hours out of it without any problems.

In a sort of additional note that I didn’t know how to throw in anywhere else, I’d like to give big kudos to the keyboard designer. My problem with netbooks has always been the keyboard size. I don’t like fumbling around with function keys and ALT keys to get what I want. I’m used to a full keyboard and the Toshiba delivered.

The Not so Hot

Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for Toshiba. The 1GB of RAM is kind of a joke. Most operating systems and computers need a minimum of 2GBs of RAM to operate decently these days, so Toshiba skimping out on an extra stick of RAM seems a little cheap. Luckily, RAM isn’t too expensive to buy and you can easily get another stick if you need to. The lack of RAM also leads me to my next point….Windows 7.

I’m a big fan of Windows 7 on the desktop, but I’ll admit that it doesn’t port over well to the netbook world. The laptop does meet the minimum specifications of the operating system but fails to run it well. Things are slow to load sometimes, so it’s difficult to stay super productive when you want to have all of your favorite programs open at once. Again, this problem can be fixed with some additional RAM.

The Little Cousin: The Toshiba NB305

Almost identical to the NB505, the  NB305 differs with a slightly slower processor and a stick of DDR3 RAM instead of the DDR2 in the NB505. The computer is the same size as its big cousin, but features the standard netbook keyboard that doesn’t play too nicely with fingers and wrists. If you’re going to be typing a lot, the NB505 is the much better option.

I’ve never had any personal experience with the NB305, but there do seem to be some occasional problems. I’m not sure what happened to the build quality from generation to generation, but this one seems to have a few more problems than its cousin. If you’re looking for a faster machine though, and don’t want to shell out too much extra cash (you’ll want to get a warranty through Amazon or whoever you purchase from), the NB305 is the way to go. As soon as I can find a friend with the NB305 I’ll get some opinions together and update this post. Until then, feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments below. We do our best around here to answer them as quickly as possible, so don’t be shy!