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Mini Laptops – Are They Any Good?

Updated on December 26, 2011

Mini laptops, also called a mini notebook or mini notes, are a relatively new addition to the ever increasing realm of options people have for mobile computing. It’s not a regular notebook or laptop computer, but it’s more than a PDA or smart phone, too. In the industry it is considered a Mobile Internet Device, MID.

A mini laptop is considerably smaller than a regular laptop computer, often weighing in at less than 2 pounds. They are stripped of all unnecessary bells and whistles in both hardware and software, and along with it, stripped of unnecessary costs. You can often buy one of these mini laptops for around $400. For someone who doesn’t need much more functionality than surfing the internet and using a word processor to do some writing, these are very welcome additions to the market place.

For someone with more demanding requirements but who still wants the ultra portability of something of this size, there are other options such as the MacBook Air. But do you think you’re going to get one of those, new, for around $400? I don’t think so. If you can, please contact me to let me know how!

Another thing that I like about most mini notebooks is the fact that they come with Windows XP instead of Vista. Need I say more? It shouldn’t really come as any surprise that the resource hog known as Vista couldn’t realistically be used for such small, simple machines. Kind of makes you wonder why you would want something that is so bulky on any machine… but I digress. In addition to XP, some of them run on Linux, which is pretty cool in my opinion. In either case, they will use lower end processors, which again, for simple uses as mentioned above, is just fine.

Among the mini laptops, one of the brightest stars has been the Asus Eee PC 4G.  This little beast has an 800-MHz CPU, 512MB of RAM, and a 7-inch screen, weighs less than 2 pounds, is only 8.8 inches wide by 6.5 inches deep.  This really is about the size of a paper notebook!

While the ultra small profile of this machine is pretty cool when you first see it, it does still have some drawbacks for some people, namely normal sized adults.  The QWERTY keyboard had to be made so small and compact that it is truly difficult for normal sized adult hands to use it.  I suppose with practice it could become easier.  I never thought I would see the kind of speed and apparent ease of typing with only thumbs that I see today with my teenager (and probably every teenager out there) as they text 23.5 hours a day…

One other drawback to the Eee PC is that it has a very small hard drive at only 4GB.  When I look at my iPod Shuffle with 1GB, it makes me wonder why they couldn’t have added a bit more here.  But, considering the list price is under $400 ($399), I guess I won’t really complain too much.

Part of the reason I won’t complain is because I have options. The Asus Eee PC 900 is a step up with a slightly larger screen size; going to 8.9 inches up from just 7 inches. It also has a really cool multitouch touchpad that allow for easy zooming in and out and scrolling through documents by using some easy finger combinations. So while the keyboard remains teeny-tiny, it is now easier to manage document use.

And while it also comes with only 4GB, it ships with an additional 8GB SD card. Another addition is that the 900 comes with 1GB of DDR2 RAM, as opposed to the 512MB that is in the PC 4G. Along with these additions came a slightly elevated price tag of $549. To me, I still considered this a reasonable price point for something that travels so well (and for someone who travels as often as I do, like me recent need for corporate housing Tucson...), if it meets your processing needs. However, this was the price when the product came out in 2008. Today you can easily find the same machine for under $300 on amazon.com. To me, that is a great price.

Overall, these Asus mini laptops are especially well suited for a child’s first computer, in my opinion. If you’re one of the “One laptop per child” people, these are excellent contenders. On the other hand, if it is your hands that are going to be put to work for any significant length of time, you might want to look into something that has a slightly more natural sized keyboard. In this case, the HP 2133 is one mini laptop you may want to take a closer look at.

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