The other day I walked into a coffee shop where I witnessed a man—a grown man—hunched over a tiny laptop. He wiggled with cautious, uncertain movements like a fat guy squeezing his way into an old pair of pants. His hands, too wide for the keyboard, made him look klutzy and a bit stupid. His face, in almost erotic proximity to the tiny screen, squinted to either see more clearly or repress the eyestrain. And to top off this scene of sleek convenience, a long, mismatching wire complete with power brick connected the computer to a nearby outlet. After all, such a small machine could never be expected to run off battery power alone!
Netbooks are torture.
The poor fool. Like the midlife crisis guy sold a car too small for his rump and too young for his hairline, Asus or MSI or someone had convinced this slovenly coffee drinker that hunchbacks were in this year.
And this scene—one I've witnessed on more than one occasion—confirmed my suspicions. The small laptop was a failure, a marketing ploy manufacturers were not incapable of implementing before, but simply too kind to do so.
For one, these computers aren't cheap. Sure, the price may start at US$350 or US$400, but you'll need to upgrade to 2GB of RAM if you'd like to run XP in the fashion you've become accustomed to. And you may want to buy the larger battery too (every manufacturer lies about their mini laptop's battery life to conspiracy levels worthy of their own Oliver Stone tribute).
Now, with that snazzy US$500 to US$600 machine, let's do some browsing! Surely, this will be way better than on my phone! Unfortunately, such is not the case. While mini-notebooks have bigger screens than smartphones do, smartphone browsers and news applications are often designed around their limitations. Yet architects of XP and Firefox simply never took 5" to 8.9" tiny screens into account. If one's choice is tiny text on a premium OLED phone screen or a bottom-dollar LCD, there's no comparison. I'd rather read the headlines through the New York Times app on my iPhone than the browser on my Eee any day.
Oh, and then there's the typing situation. Don't even get me started.
The end result of using any mini-notebook is a complete loss of comfort coupled with the guilt of not enjoying the experience more. Plus, while you might not be bringing your full-sized laptop to the coffee shop, you'll still need your briefcase to lug a mini-notebook, no matter how small.
Netbooks are like feral cats. They look cute at first, but put one in your lap for a bit and you'll learn real quickly why you stayed away in the first place.