A bit of an aside…but after looking at Microsoft’s website it appears most 2010 installations license for two machines. However a lot of sources on the 'net are indicating that you can actually install / activate it on 3 computers before it will stop you from activating any further.
The OP said very clearly that “funds are kind of tight at the moment.”
And very few people considering a regular netbook are going to want to spend the $1000+ required for a Macbook Air. Just because both types of computer are small and light doesn’t mean that they’re really in competition with one another. My wife has a 13" Air, and it’s a great computer, but basically no-one goes to the store and says, “Mmmmm, should i buy this $300 netbook or that $1000 Apple?”
This almost exactly describes my own computer use: desktop (with two screens) at home, and netbook for taking to campus, the library, research trips, vacation, etc. It’s a great combination.
Personally, i don’t think i could do ALL of my computing on a netbook. If i didn’t have a desktop, i’d have to get a larger, more powerful laptop.
A real killer for me is the screen real estate. I love the dual monitors i have at home; they allow me to keep a bunch of things open without constantly having to ALT-Tab to search for a window. I can have a PDF and a Word document open on one screen, and watch baseball or Netflix on the other. I can hav my email client and web browser on one screen, and Excel and Powerpoint on another. It’s great, and when i use the netbook i really feel the lack of screen space.
My netbook is just about three years old, so it doesn’t have the latest netbook processors. It struggles with HD video, and even with non-HD, some sites don’t work very well. Watching games on MLB.com doesn’t really work with the netbook. I agree that Linux seems to make better use of the netbook’s limited specs than Windows. My netbook dual-boots WinXP and Ubuntu 10.04, and everything works just a bit quicker on Ubuntu.
I like the look and feel of the iPad, ad also of the two android tablets that i’ve played with, but for the type of stuff i do, having a keyboard and all my regular programs is far more important to me than the benefits of the newer tablets.
I should have read the OP more carefully. By the way, there are Windows compatible ultrabooks which may be cheaper than an Air.
My HP mini 110 netbook, which I bought in 2009, stuggles with video especially full screen video and is sluggish all around under Windows. I have a Windows / Xubuntu 12.04 dual boot. Xubuntu is much snappier but mobile broadband doesn’t work in Xubuntu so I switch back and forth depending on where I am. I will be ditching this piece of junk soon.
I have an Acer Aspire One 722 with a dual core AMD C-60 processor. I love it. I was at home sick today, and I spent all day in a recliner working remotely from the netbook.
It has a big enough keyboard that I can type easily. When I bought it, I did upgrade it from 2gb to 8gb memory, and I did a fresh install of 64bit Windows 7. (Even though the specs say it is limited to 4gb, it will recognize and use one 8gb stick.) It has a HDMI port and will stream 1080p to my TV.
I paid $220 refurbished for it. They are still available on Ebay for about that price. I have no desire for a tablet. I hope tablets do not kill netbooks.
I wrote a fairly extensive blog post on the topic a while back, which involved doing a lot of research; I’m confident that Netbooks will be around for a while yet, although the buzz has moved on. They were never hugely popular in absolute terms, but their market share grew immensely at a time when the rest of the PC market was stagnant, and they were hip, so it seemed for a while as if they were the future. As it turned out their share of the market has declined gracefully, it’s the growth that hit a cliff. Now the non-tablet, non-Apple laptop market is in a muddle, because ultrabooks haven’t been the success that Intel expected.
My original circa early 2008 Asus 701 still works. I have it running Lubuntu, and I can surf the internet with Google Chrome, and type stuff. It’s no powerhouse though and the battery life is quite short. My circa 2010 Asus 1005HA running XP actually feels a bit slower - it’s objectively faster, but because the machine is larger I expect it to be much faster, and its not - but the battery lasts for five hours and the screen is just large enough to be useful. I believe they sell dual-core Netbooks now.
My tip, and this is what I ended up doing: buy a second-hand Lenovo Thinkpad X60 / X60s / X61 / X61s. They’re not much larger than a netbook, the batteries last for ages if they’re in good condition, and they have proper Core (2) Duo CPUs. My circa-2006 X60 is noticeably faster than my circa-2010 Asus Eee 1005HA. Bigger keyboard, 1024x768 screen, cost me £99.
I have the same one, and so does my sister in law! It is my primary computer because my only computer-based needs are web surfing, writing a few word docs, and playing games that came out in 2000. (Zeus at the moment, FYI). All of which it works brilliantly at, with great battery life as others have noted.
Another fan of the netbook here. Acer one that is a few years old, but still seems like the perfect device for when I’m travelling. I give talks from it and like to tinker with the presentation, v easy to work on. My iPad isn’t in the picture for this sort of work use.
My acer has a tendency to drop wireless signals, which does suck. It’s a very cheap and very cheerful device, basically (think it was 150 quid). Really works well though for typing and drawing when you’re on the road.
I’ve done all of my home computing on an Atom netbook for the last couple of years - the only thing it feels a little inadequate for is video editing, but surprisingly, not because of the render times - just because of the screen size - not convenient for multi-layered projects.
The 9-cell battery this one came with gives me about 5 hours of continuous use (it was 9 or 10 hours for the first 18 months - I’m thinking of replacing the battery soon) - I can quite reasonably take this machine away and use it without worrying about where’s the adaptor.
I don’t play games - what do I need a larger or more powerful machine for?
Thanks, people. It sounds like nobody thinks that netbooks are going to disappear from the market (or become more expensive) anytime soon, which was really my main concern.
Opinions on how good they are seem to differ, but the consensus seems strongly positive. I take note that the display is tiny, and that is certainly a relevant issue for me, but many of the ones I have seen have both AGP and HDMI ports, so, when at home, I could use it either with my desktop monitor (AGP) or my TV (HDMI). Presumably a netbook that has these ports can handle the larger displays ok. However, if netbooks are not likely to become unavailable (as I had feared) I will be leaving it on my wish-list for now. I was afraid that if I did not buy pretty soon, then later on i might have no other choices but a tablet or a relatively expensive laptop. (Ultrabooks are way out of my range.)
I guess one of the reasons netbooks are on the decline is that they blazed a trail for a generation of thin and light laptops that aren’t netbooks - I mean, the first netbooks had a couple of GB of flash memory, no hard drive, slimline Linux OSes, and 7-inch screens floating in the middle of a big bezel. Then people wanted a hard drive, or a bigger screen, or Windows - almost as soon as they appeared, they started evolving away from being netbooks and back toward just being little laptops.