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[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?
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