What's the least amount of computer I can get away with?

I’m in the market for a new computer to replace my decrepit Dell desktop, purchased in 2003. Since that time I’ve really paid no attention to developments in the home-computer market, and now I’m finding the choices overwhelming and I’m not sure how to research. So, please help!

I know I want a laptop, or notebook or netbook or whatever…small and portable so I won’t be chained to a desk anymore. Maybe big enough to watch a movie on, maybe not.

I’ve owned only PCs up until now but would get either a PC or a Mac (assuming I wouldn’t lose the files I have now…mostly pics, video, a few Word files, iTunes library). My only other gadgets are an iPhone and an iPod.

Here’s what I’d use it for…

[li]Maintain iTunes (ca. 100 gigs of music)[/li][li]Surf the web (mainly gmail, Facebook, youtube, my bank etc.))[/li][li]Skype with friends (so, webcam?)[/li][li]Maybe watch movies (optional)[/li][/ul]

That’s it. Like everyone, I want something reliable, good battery, lots of speed and capacity for as little money as possible. :slight_smile: But the main theme is “keep it simple.” What would you recommend, or where should I start?

Thanks in advance,

I have a tiny eee pc that does all of that except have a large hard drive, and you could accomplish that by getting a 1 terrabyte external drive…

You didn’t say how much screen size you need. You could theoretically manage a lot of that with a tablet.

I’d recommend against doing this - iTunes really doesn’t like to have its library on an external drive.

If weight isn’t a big concern, I’d suggest you look around on some of those bargain-hunting web sites (dealnews.com, slickdeals.net, etc) and find the cheapest 13"~16" laptop you can find from an established manufacturer, with a 250GB or larger hard drive. (If you have 100GB of music now, you’ll probably run out of space soon on a 160GB drive.) You should be able to find one for maybe $350 or less.

Why not? I’ve done it that way for years, and the only time I encountered issues was if I didn’t have the external drive plugged in. Even then, all it did was start claiming it couldn’t find my music, and then after plugging the drive back in and pointing it back at the folder, it was fine.

I have two Acer laptops. They were the cheapest thing I could find, and they’ve been great. The older one I’ve had a few years and is sturdy enough to carry to school every day. I haven’t had any problems with either even though I never blow the dust out and I have 4 cats and a dog. I got them at Walmart.

I just bought this, and I’ve got no complaints. Obviously the main selling point is the extreme cheapness, but for cheap and simple it’s the cheapest and simplest I’ve seen, but still manages to play iPlayer videos and run Banshee (Music Player) and so on without a problem. I’ve got Linux on it, though, so Windows might be slower.

Thanks for the suggestions so far (more are welcome!). I’m already managing iTunes off a 1 Tb external hard drive, so I’m OK with continuing that if need be. I’m going to check out some of these products at a store this weekend, but, um…(naive question alert)…where should I go? Best Buy? I’m not going to make a purchase there, just play around and then probably buy online.

If it weren’t for the disk space issue, I’d suggest an iPad.

OTOH you could consider 2 devices: an iPad and a NAS or HTPC device which stays at home.

Interesting. I’d never heard of NAS or HTPC. I can see I’ll be doing homework as well as window shopping this weekend.

If you wanted to stay Windows - this Dell convertible is pretty cool, and only $600 for the base model. It’s laptop running Windows 7 - but when you close the lid, the screen flips around and it becomes a touchscreen tablet. It’s definitely worth a look.

In the other corner, a basic Macbook would probably suit you perfectly, and complement your iPhone/iPod. A Mac Air would work too, if you wanted to pay the premium for it. You could buy a Mac Mini & an iPad for the price of the Air.

Hmm. My recollection is that when I did this (forgot to turn on the external drive with the iTunes library before starting iTunes), it went ahead and created a new library on the local drive and it was a pain to recover from. But there may have been other factors involved.

But in any case, if you’re buying a new laptop, it seems prudent to pick one with a hard drive big enough for current and near-future use.

I just bought and set up an Acer Netbook for a friend of mine for $230. The biggest problem for you is that the hard drive is only 160GB. You can get an Acer with a 250GB drive for $247 from Walmart. I was pleasantly surprised how well the computer performed. I thought I would have to upgrade it to 2gb to run much.

What also impressed me is that the power consumption in standby was too low to measure on my kill-a-watt and it was 12 watts when it was running playing divx movies. I told her to not even bother shutting it down. You close the lid and let it go on standby. Just press a key and it is running in a few seconds.

The biggest problem was that the speakers weren’t very loud, but she already had an external Logitech speaker to hook up.

NAS - network access storage. I have two of these at home. I even stream my iTunes from one of them.

my experience is kind of different from JoelUpchurch’s. I had an Atom-powered netbook for a while, and it was OK but it continually choked on web pages. Especially ones that were heavy in animation or javascript; when opening multiple tabs in any browser I could almost hear the poor thing scream for mercy. iTunes was ok, I guess, as long as I never tried to use the iTunes Store. That was useless. I am not joking when I say clicking on a link in the iTS meant the whole program would freeze for 10 seconds before doing anything.

Windows 7 Home Premium seemed to run the best on it. It was well supported in Linux but web browsing was even more painful.

I think the Atom has its place, but in its current form it has no business being anywhere near a web browser.

I recently purchased this Asus Eee PC. It’s designed to be a bridge between portable netbooks and powerful laptops, and so far as I can tell it does pretty well at that. I’ve thrown a few different things at it so far and it’s handled them all pretty well, though I haven’t tried serious multitasking yet. (Hulu runs perfectly on it.) The biggest downside is that I got the short end of the hardware stick, and the case fan is loud and irritating. Once I get that fixed it should be a sleek little machine.

It’s probably about as minimum as you can get away with for watching videos and multitasking. Everything else I researched before settling on the 1215N that was lower-priced had trouble with anything beyond basic web browsing and minor multitasking.

I use a atom based netop as my regular web browsing computer and it works okay. From my experience, most performance issues are
a. memory
b. hard drive
c. processor speed

You should check if it is actually the processor that is maxed out.

Also when I started with the Acer, I spent over an half hour uninstalling the crap that Acer installed on it from the factory. I installed Avast as an Anti-virus and Chrome as a web browser. If you really want to speed up your web browsing, install SeaMonkey from Mozilla. It is much leaner than Firefox.

Of course, I have a quad-core with 4gb for things like video editing, but I don’t turn that computer on every day.

JZ, you must have gotten a bad netbook with a poor configuration. Windows 7, for example, can’t run comfortably without 2 Gigs of memory. Anything with less than that should run Linux or Windows XP. And that’s not even touching the hardware: a lot of netbooks are crap in that department. But there are good ones. My Acer EeePC 1000HAB runs fine.

And the Linux you used must’ve been crap, too, as I could get the web up to full speed on a P4 2.0 Ghz computer using Linux as of less than a year ago. I definitely can do anything on the EeePC. And I didn’t have to uninstall anything, although I moved lesser used stuff out of startup so it doesn’t slow down startup.

Anyways for the OP:

I’d get a netbook for the portability. Get one of the more powerful ones if you are concerned. Some even have dual core processors, if you don’t mind the cost (as you are then paying for the portability). Make sure you get one with an easy to remove hard drive caddy. Then, eventually, you can replace the hard drive with a terabyte one and store all your music on there, only using your external as backup.

Also, one that allows you to replace the memory is good, but that seems to be a standard feature now. Though finding one that can support 4GB is a good idea–as many only support 2GB.

This sounds really good to me. I checked out some netbooks today (“checked out” = got my mitts on 'em at Best Buy) and really liked how light the Asus Eee PCs were…but 2GB is their max. I know nothing about hard drive caddies, though I’ll research this…but in the meantime, if you have any particular models to recommend I’d welcome that.

Thanks again, everyone.

The model I linked to above is good for this. It comes with Windows 7 64-bit and will accept up to 4 GB RAM. I ordered the RAM at the same time I ordered the netbook (2x2GB SODIMMs for <$45), and replacing the RAM was zero hassle.

It’s larger than most netbooks, being 12" instead of 10", but it’s pretty comfortable. You may be able to find a 10" netbook with Windows 64-bit, or else install it yourself, but I’m not sure of availability.

Bosstone, the model you linked to does go to 4GB and has a nice big hard drive…but it’s Windows 32-bit, not 64-bit. Pardon my naive question, but is this a big difference, or is it easy/hard to upgrade?