Exactly 2 years ago I ordered an Acer Aspire One from Walmart.com, doubling down on trashhiness yet being blown away by the quality offered by both. For 220 dollars and free shipping, I ended up getting a tasty 1.6GHz processor, 1 gig of RAM, a scrumptious 160 Gb HD, and a deliciously useful Atheros network card*, all usable for around 8 hours thanks to the 6-cell battery. Since the Acer’s keyboard is about as strong as a wet napkin, and Acer’s track record of quality almost as admirable as The Cheesecake Factory’s dedication to health, I anticipated that I would buy a new one in two years time.
It’s been two years, and not much has changed in the netbook market. The hard drive size has doubled and the processors are slightly more power-efficient, but it is now impossible to find a new unit for the 220 price point that I snagged it at 2 years ago.
With most computer components doubling in size/power every 18 months, netbooks are showing little to no improvement. 280 dollars is now the average price to get a 10 inch screen and 6-cell battery unit. It appears as though netbooks were an experiment, which has failed against the demand for tablets. I am both shocked that netbooks have been losing out to tablets, and that an Acer product has lasted for more than two years without anything snapping off.
Netbooks are miniature laptops that focus on long battery life due to their rather gutless components. The small screens and weak processors use much lower amounts of power than traditional laptops, and allow some units to get upwards of 10 hours of use on a single charge. Tablets also make use of small screens and weak processors, but benefit from flash memory and high resolution screens to set them apart from their netbook counterparts, providing long battery life in an even smaller, and weaker, package.
The main difference between netbooks and tablets are their purposes; netbooks being an ultraportable laptop, and tablets being media consumption devices. Touchscreens on tablets do not lend well to typing out long strings of code, and low resolution screens on netbooks do not make for amazing video experiences. For as many similarities that both share, they are better suited for different tasks. Both make marvelous Frisbees.
Microsoft has made it clear that they will support tablets over netbooks. The traditional 10 inch screen on nearly all netbooks weighs in at 1024×600 pixels, with Windows 8 requiring 1024×768 to run most of its applications without a registry hack. The very interface is one designed around the interaction with a touchscreen, and Microsoft isn’t known to make bad business decisions stemming from knee-jerk responses to Apple.
I find it rather disappointing that the low-cost option for portability is being thrown to the wayside like an expensive Frisbee, leaving only tablets and 900+ dollar ultrabooks. Netbooks are the perfect way to watch a few movies in between editing a script or playing some Fallout 2 while on an 8 hour bus ride. Perhaps when everyone grows tired of Angry Birds and DJ applications, they’ll gain an interest in netbooks. Perhaps netbooks are dead in the water and manufacturers are just waiting for the market to dry up.
*Oh hey, the main article already ended, but if you are interested in why the Acer Aspire One is a fucking bombshell of a device, I would love to tell you about it.
Y’see, with the Atheros chipset, your computer can go into “monitor mode”, which in turn allows you to crack wireless networks. Shhh! Not so loud! It’s not exactly legal!…In fact, it is the opposite of legal: unlegal.
Even though you’ll be pushing your netbook to the limit, you can still eke out 5 hours of usage, which is plenty of time to crack a few WEP-protected wireless networks. Since the netbook is small, you can easily hide it in an oversized sombrero or a fake beard, just like a professional spy would.
What’s more, you can boot from a USB thumb drive. That way, if your identity is compromised, you can swallow the drive. It’s the perfect crime, but ends up being kind of a pain in the ass later, both literally and anally.
The next part of why it’s great is because of the x86 architecture. If there is a game that you love, released prior to 2004, you can likely play it on a netbook. Rock out with Fallout 1 and 2, Starcraft, Diablo 2, and Deus Ex, scoffing and laughing at everyone who use their tablets to play “tap and drag grindfarm”. You can then spit on them, but don’t neccessarily require a netbook to do so. You can spit on them any time you wish! You probably wish there was an app for that.
Also, at the price point, you can afford to destroy the netbook to make yourself look like a well-to-do railroad tycoon. Light the netbook on fire and use it to light your fancy cigars, then extinguish the netbook and place it into your breast pocket of your 3-piece suit. Soon, everyone at the countryclub will be talking about the flamer with the netbook and his cigars that smell of plastic.