liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
[personal profile] liv
So I have managed to kill the keyboard on my netbook, an old-school Asus Eee from about 2008 ish. I suspect that the reason why this happened is that my use-case is that I sling the netbook in my backpack and take it with me on my regular 4-hour train journeys, most of which I spend writing several thousand word emails.

It looks to me as if the niche occupied by the Eee PCs doesn't really exist any more: what I want is a portable computer with a "real" keyboard, which is also cheap because it's low-end when it comes to spec. Now it seems like there's souped-up ultrabooks, which are light and powerful but also commensurately expensive, and there's tablets, with the possibility of perhaps getting a stand with a portable keyboard, maybe. I have heard rumours that there's a new model Eee but I've never actually seen it for sale!

Does anyone have any good suggestions, recs or anti-recs?

I need something that's physically robust because I am not just going to be "checking my email" and playing the odd round of Angry Birds, I'm going to be spending several hours a week touch-typing at speed. I am not sure that a tablet plus portable keyboard is going to last long enough to be worth it, though against that, off-brand tablets can be very well priced compared to the power you get. I want long battery life, 4-6 hours or more if possible, and I want light, certainly under 2 kg and preferably under 1.5 kg.

I want to keep the price low, not so much because I can't afford a fancy ultrabook, but because I don't want to carry around something that costs several weeks' salary, I would be constantly worried about losing it, dropping it or getting it stolen. And because this is a secondary computer, already a luxury, so there are other things I'd rather spend lots of money on. I'm very willing to compromise on screen resolution and graphics, processor speed, multimedia features etc, and I'm even somewhat willing to compromise on battery life and weight.

Thank you to [personal profile] flippac for helping me start to think about this. Options I'm considering are:
  • Get the keyboard fixed. I like my Eee, it suits me very well. And it's better for the environment to repair rather than replace a dead laptop. The downside is that replacing a keyboard on an obsolete netbook probably costs nearly as much as a new machine which would benefit from 5-6 years of Moore's law. And my Eee is elderly, it barely manages 90 minutes battery life which is too little if I can't get a seat with a power socket.

  • Borrow [personal profile] jack's netbook, which is an Acer of a similar vintage. The spec is somewhat better than for my Eee, and it's obviously good both financially and environmentally to repurpose an old and barely used computer. But it's running this really weird cut-down version of Linux which appears not to have any option to install software or upgrade the OS. I think what I need to do if I go down this route is to figure out how to install (probably a legacy version of) Ubuntu from a pendrive; I know the basics, but right now I can't discover how to get into the BIOS.

  • Chromebook. That does fulfil the criteria of being cheap-ish and portable. However, I remain extremely unconvinced by the Chrome OS, it looks very much as if it expects everything to be "in the cloud" and my main use-case is that I want to download emails when I'm at home and reply to them offline, I don't at all want to have to pay for (possibly unreliable) internet access just to be able to write emails.

  • This ducky little Lenovo convertible laptop - thanks again, [personal profile] flippac, for finding that for me. It's a bit more expensive than what I'd really like, especially since it's "only" 1 GB of RAM, but as a convertible, it may well be a bit the best of both worlds and it isn't as ludicrously expensive as most convertibles. And it's Android, which I think is better than Chrome OS but still involves selling my soul to Google.

  • Simply use my phone as a secondary computer. This is less ridiculous than it sounds since it's a Galaxy Note with a high-res, 6'' screen, so essentially it's a mini-tablet. But I think it's too small really for composing long documents, and although writing with the stylus plus Dragon's rather excellent predictive keyboard, Swype, is a lot better than I expected, it's still vastly slower than touch-typing.

  • Small tablet. There are plenty of quite high spec 8'' tablets retailing for a reasonable price, even if I have to buy a physical keyboard separately. I think the main downside of this is that I am not sure whether a portable keyboard is going to be good enough, and it's one more thing to remember and keep track of when I'm already carrying too many devices. Also I think 8'' may still be too small, though since that's a diagonal it is quite a lot bigger than my phone which is nearly big enough.

  • Off-brand 10'' tablet. Same problem of needing an external keyboard, but this does fulfil my criteria of being willing to sacrifice features and processor speed for price.

  • Suck it up and spend money on a fancy ultrabook type machine. I'm mostly inclined against this because I need something which is small in dimensions as well as small in weight, and I don't think it's worth spending lots of money on this sort of toy. Although I could use the ultrabook as an actual work computer which also happens to be portable, maybe.

    Any opinions regarding cannibalizing old equipment versus buying new? Tablets versus netbooks? Brand recommendations?
  • (no subject)

    Date: 2014-06-17 12:24 pm (UTC)
    jenett: Big and Little Dipper constellations on a blue watercolor background (Default)
    From: [personal profile] jenett
    I live in the Mac world

    I use a Zagg keyboard case on my iPad (the iPad flips down into the case, the case acts as a stand, case joined by Bluetooth.) The case gets something like 80 hours on a battery charge, and it'll turn itself off if it's not used for a while: I don't use the keyboard heavily except if travelling, but I basically charge it before I travel and rarely run out the battery between trips.

    I touch-type about 85 words a minute, and while I think I'm a little slower on the iPad than my main computer, it's not by much (in comparison, I *despise* typing on a screen, because it slows me down to a quarter of my usual.) The one thing I do hit that can be annoying (and is worth looking at the keyboard layout for) is that the 'lock this tablet' button and the delete button are right on top of each other, and hitting the former when I wanted the latter is tedious.

    The iPad itself runs between 8-9 hours battery life if I'm doing mostly text, though about half that if I'm doing video (as I often do if I'm travelling by myself, watching something, and knitting.) I suspect that there's a number of non-iOs tablets out there with fairly similar battery lives these days. (My iPad 2 is going on 2.5)

    (no subject)

    Date: 2014-06-17 12:54 pm (UTC)
    jenett: Big and Little Dipper constellations on a blue watercolor background (Default)
    From: [personal profile] jenett
    I figured the general set-up was more use, yep.

    (And yeah. I was dubious about how much difference the keyboard would make, and then a friend lent me her case for a weekend while I was at a convention, and I went home and ordered one. I can't do everything on the combo that I would do on a home computer, but I can do 95% of what I do most often, even if it's sometimes a little clunky.)

    (no subject)

    Date: 2014-06-17 12:28 pm (UTC)
    kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
    From: [personal profile] kaberett
    Samsung netbooks still seem to exist in one form or another, and have for the past few years been the only type of keyboard that reliably doesn't kill my hands. (Middling-bad RSI, typing speed of ~100wpm.)

    (no subject)

    Date: 2014-06-17 01:03 pm (UTC)
    wychwood: chess queen against a runestone (Default)
    From: [personal profile] wychwood
    Installing proper Linuxes on an Acer is definitely possible, because I did it - I actually don't even think it was that complicated, from what I remember, but it's been a few years. If I remember, I'll check how to get into the BIOS next time I use my ACER; I think it's just hitting F1 during the boot up or something, but I can't remember for sure off the top of my head.

    (no subject)

    Date: 2014-06-17 08:09 pm (UTC)
    wychwood: chess queen against a runestone (Default)
    From: [personal profile] wychwood
    OK, so, on mine you hit either F2 (for setup) or F12 (for boot order specifically) during the early stages of bootup. It does actually tell you that on screen at the appropriate point, so hopefully Jack's machine will do the same; if not, try hitting one of those through the first couple of loading screens you see, and see what happens?? Then it's just, as you probably know, setting it to check the USB as the first boot option.

    For the pendrive, I don't think it needs to be FAT32, it just needs to be bootable; the Ubuntu wiki has instructions on making a bootable pendrive. The default Ubuntu desktop deal is now Unity, which I loathe but which is less horrible on a lightweight netbook where you only really want to be doing one or two things at a time; alternatively, you can install Xubuntu, which [personal profile] pseudomonas suggested to me, and which I've been quite happy with. I expect there are other Debian variants, etc etc, which would also work fine.

    (no subject)

    Date: 2014-06-17 08:19 pm (UTC)
    sally_maria: (Mint Logo)
    From: [personal profile] sally_maria
    I hope you don't mind a lurker butting in, but I've been using Unetbootin to install Linux from pendrives for several years. It's pretty straightforward, and enables you to try the distro as a live system without installing it first, if the distro has that option.

    (no subject)

    Date: 2014-06-17 01:20 pm (UTC)
    oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
    From: [personal profile] oursin
    I recently bought an Asus Vivabook X102BA - which is cheap (under £300) and light - due to concerns over the withdrawal of support for Windows XP, which my previous netbook, some years old anyway, was running.

    I found some problems under Windows 8.1 with legacy software I'm using, but if you are just using it for standard operations rather than running an Information Manager originally acquired in MS-DOS days for my research notes, I don't think there would be any.

    (no subject)

    Date: 2014-06-17 02:17 pm (UTC)
    nanila: me (Default)
    From: [personal profile] nanila
    Not sure how useful my input is since my main portable computer is a fancy HP ultrabook (bought by my work). But I do love it. I'm a fairly speedy touch-typist and I very much like the keyboard and touchpad on it. It's very light. I carry it in my rucksack (which is padded - it's for photography equipment) with no case. I'm...not exactly careless with it, but I'm not delicate with it either, and it's holding up nicely after several months of use.

    (no subject)

    Date: 2014-06-18 11:51 am (UTC)
    nanila: me (Default)
    From: [personal profile] nanila
    My ultrabook is 14" and is fine for doing nearly all kinds of work (although I miss my dual monitor setup when trying to edit multiple documents simultaneously). I can use it easily when on a crowded train as long as I have a seat.

    (no subject)

    Date: 2014-06-17 02:57 pm (UTC)
    marymac: Noser from Middleman (Default)
    From: [personal profile] marymac
    Mum recently replaced her Eee with an 11" Lenovo Yoga and is enjoying it (once we turned off the touchscreen). She types the way you'd expect someone who could do 100wpm on a manual typewriter to write and hasn't killed the keyboard yet.

    If you want to do actual work I wouldn't go smaller than 10-12", but if you go up to 15" you're getting into the expectation of using it like a desktop, weight wise.

    (no subject)

    Date: 2014-06-17 03:57 pm (UTC)
    princessofgeeks: (Default)
    From: [personal profile] princessofgeeks
    We've been pretty happy with an Acer netbook. It's plenty big enough to type on, I've found.

    (no subject)

    Date: 2014-06-17 06:25 pm (UTC)
    ewx: (Default)
    From: [personal profile] ewx
    See what ebay is like for used netbooks perhaps?

    (no subject)

    Date: 2014-06-17 09:35 pm (UTC)
    ephemera: celtic knotwork style sitting fox (Default)
    From: [personal profile] ephemera
    I have a little Samsung 10 inch netbook, which seems to still be available from a number of places, and apparently has enough grunt to run Windows 8 should you want such a thing (Sc flashed mine and it's happily Linux Minting away) - at least two other people in my current class of 21 have the same machine for taking notes in class. The battery life is good - (5-6 hours, ish)- and I like the keyboard. (N150 if you want the model number.)

    My partner is very *very* happy with his high-end Chromebook, having been less happy with a much cheaper one. They do a certain amount of offline, but you would really be fighting it's basic assumptions a lot of the time.

    (no subject)

    Date: 2014-06-17 10:10 pm (UTC)
    green_knight: (Bruja Informatica)
    From: [personal profile] green_knight
    My (Linux-based) Eee is still languishing somewhere; no idea whether it could be salvaged for its keyboard. (The battery life, last time I tried it, was about 15 minutes, and I'd started finding my iPhone just as useful, so I didn't bother to do anything with it.)

    My current mobile setup is an iPad mini (1st generation) with a keyboard case. If I wanted to write lots and lots, I'd splash for an Apple Bluetooth keyboard, which is lightweight, and has wonderful keys, but it's somewhat less than ultra-portable.

    The iPad mini is small enough that I can hold it in one hand and type with the other if necessary; this makes tables desirable but not strictly necessary.

    (no subject)

    Date: 2014-06-18 05:42 am (UTC)
    pseudomonas: (Default)
    From: [personal profile] pseudomonas
    http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/i.html?_nkw=eee%20keyboard http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/i.html?_nkw=eee+battery suggest that the bits to fix the issues with your eee aren't too pricey.
    Edited Date: 2014-06-18 05:43 am (UTC)

    (no subject)

    Date: 2014-06-23 12:52 am (UTC)
    lovingboth: (Default)
    From: [personal profile] lovingboth
    Oops, I thought I'd replied to this.

    I have a much loved Eee 901, which I am going to mourn greatly when it dies. It really is a lovely form factor, and sticking 2G RAM and Lubuntu on it makes it even better.

    When someone was selling Eee 900s very cheaply, I got one as a spare and it's almost as new, but it's noticeably poorer - the keyboard isn't as good (it's easy to mis the od leter out on it), I know the battery life is much worse (I've never bothered to charge it), and it runs hotter. It's also got Lubuntu, but I didn't bother with the RAM in the expectation that if I did end up using it more, I'd move the stick of RAM from the 901 into it.

    There are alternatives from that era Samsung called theirs the NC10, I think, but the issue is going to be battery life unless you factor in getting a new genuine one, and I suspect those are now in short supply.

    (no subject)

    Date: 2014-07-13 11:12 pm (UTC)
    syllopsium: Carwash, from Willo the Wisp (Default)
    From: [personal profile] syllopsium
    Yes, rather late to this, but it looks like the IBM/Lenovo X series are terribly cheap second hand.

    The X200/X201 are solid, compact (12" screen) and quite fast. The X61, which I bought second hand years ago, is even cheaper. X200 stuff goes for about 150-200 quid. X61 or X60 are cheaper than that, I wouldn't bother with anything earlier - it's too slow now.

    The only weakness is that the graphics chipset is rather poor if you want to run accelerated games, but that's not what the machine is aimed at. Also, the battery life of a second hand laptop will never be brilliant, but shouldn't be dire.

    Should support Windows 7 fine, there's not much about Windows 8 on Lenovo's site. http://forum.thinkpads.com/ may be informative.

    Widely available on Morgan Computers, ebay and other discount/refurbished stores.
    Edited Date: 2014-07-13 11:17 pm (UTC)

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