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Any suggestions for a netbook or tablet?





ocalhoun
I've been thinking of getting a small, portable netbook or tablet computer to take to school for engineering.

...Before you rush in the the most popular recommendations, let me put a few stipulations on it:
#I want to be able to run specialist engineering programs on it, so it needs to be able to run any standard computer program. I would also like the option of putting linux on it. -- This rules out many tablets.
#All other specifications can be ignored as long as they aren't horrible, but I do want extremely long battery life, and as much hard drive space as possible.
#Must have a USB port or two... or at least some easy way to transfer data on and off of it, and to connect peripherals like a camera, a mouse, or a printer.
#Must have wifi capability, but a wired lan jack would also be good to have for using it at home.


Basically, I want to in principle be able to do anything a large computer can do (although it's okay if it does it more slowly), and want to have plenty of battery life and storage.
Some of the engineering classes will involve special software like calculators and simulators... I'd like to be able to run those on my little computer while in class -- that way I could have an interface I'm familiar with when outside of class, and it would make saving my work much easier.
(I'd also like to be able to leave downloads running while at school, since they'll have a better internet connection than I will at home, hence the demand for lots of storage space.)
It would be cool if I could find a tablet that could do all that... but I suspect I'll need to go with a netbook mini-laptop in order to get that kind of versatility and compatibility.

If anybody knows of any kind of little portable computer that would do this well, let me know! Thanks.

*edit*
Oh, yeah, and why don't I just get a full laptop? Well, for one thing, I don't want to lug something that big around to all my classes, nor do I want something that will take up that much real estate on a desk.
Also, I shouldn't really need the full processing power of a larger computer for the relatively simple tasks I'll be asking this one to do. I don't need it to (permanently) have CD drives and the like either. -- Occasionally hooking one up via USB would be perfectly fine.
Ankhanu
ocalhoun wrote:
I've been thinking of getting a small, portable netbook or tablet computer to take to school for engineering.

...Before you rush in the the most popular recommendations, let me put a few stipulations on it...

I think you'll probably want to go with a netbook, with as strong a CPU and RAM as you can get. Current multimedia style tablets aren't up to the tasks you're asking, and are intended as lite systems, with lite OSes... that said, there are real tablet computers that are full OS systems in tablet form; they've been around for nearly a decade, but they cost a small fortune... likely out of your reasonable price range. They're also significantly larger than the popular tablets (thicker, heavier... like a laptop).

A netbook will give you your battery life, storage and peripheral flexibility, along with the processing power and software compatibility you're looking for for your specialized applications. They're not as neat as a tablet, but, you'd be hard pressed to find a tablet with similar capabilities.

ocalhoun wrote:
Basically, I want to in principle be able to do anything a large computer can do (although it's okay if it does it more slowly) ...
Some of the engineering classes will involve special software like calculators and simulators... I'd like to be able to run those on my little computer while in class -- that way I could have an interface I'm familiar with when outside of class, and it would make saving my work much easier.
...
Also, I shouldn't really need the full processing power of a larger computer for the relatively simple tasks I'll be asking this one to do...


These two statements aren't necessarily compatible Wink
I know a lot of engineering software is quite process intensive, running many complex calculations... hell, even a stats package will require some hefty processing, and these are generally heftier than stats packages.
sonam
Like Ankhanu wrote the CPU and RAM are most important for your specifications and I think it will be quite heavy to find tablet PC for your needs. Maybe, in that case, is Apple better solution for you.

Sonam
ocalhoun
sonam wrote:
Maybe, in that case, is Apple better solution for you.

No, by all means, Apple is not a good solution for me.
Their proprietary OS likely wouldn't run specialist programs, and (at least for their tablet) there is no USB port. (And their laptops still have the OS problem, while also being overpriced.)

@Ankhanu:
Yeah, I kinda figured a netbook would have to be the solution... and now that you mention it, perhaps I do actually need considerable processing power.
(Which is too bad, since if I demand small size and high power and long batter life, the only thing left to compromise on is price.)
Also kind of bums me out that it is hard to find a netbook with solid state storage... I don't trust a traditional hard drive to survive the amount of movement involved in what I plan for it. It's a very common feature for tablets; why don't they put it in netbooks more often?

Any specific recommendations though? I haven't kept track of that market for years, so I have no idea which ones are good and which ones are junk...
Ankhanu
ocalhoun wrote:
sonam wrote:
Maybe, in that case, is Apple better solution for you.

No, by all means, Apple is not a good solution for me.
Their proprietary OS likely wouldn't run specialist programs, and (at least for their tablet) there is no USB port. (And their laptops still have the OS problem, while also being overpriced.)

Yeah, avoid iPad for this, by all means. It is NOT what you're looking for in any way Razz (And I think it's the best multimedia tablet on the market at the moment)
Macbook (and Pro) hardware is good hardware, but, it is expensive. It WILL do what you want it to, especially if you install Windows via Bootcamp (or in a virtual machine, such as Parallels, but that will use more system resources just to run both OSes), but I don't think it's a route you'll want to go. I love MacOS, but, if it's not a selling point for you, you can get a similar system for slightly less with a Windows or Linux OS (Systems with similar quality to a Mac are not that much cheaper than Macs, but they are cheaper... just no where near as much as people like to believe).

I do everything I need on my MacBook, including running Windows proprietary statistics packages.

ocalhoun wrote:
Also kind of bums me out that it is hard to find a netbook with solid state storage... I don't trust a traditional hard drive to survive the amount of movement involved in what I plan for it. It's a very common feature for tablets; why don't they put it in netbooks more often?

Unfortunately, you'll spend almost as much on a decent capacity SSD as you will on the netbook itself... possibly more, really. SSD volumes are still relatively small, and the prices are pretty high.

ocalhoun wrote:
Any specific recommendations though? I haven't kept track of that market for years, so I have no idea which ones are good and which ones are junk...

Not really. For the most part, they're almost identical. If you go in to a store and look at the myriad netbooks they have to offer, when you look at the specs, they have pretty much identical components (with variation based on age)... they're virtually all identical.
That said, there are some with boosted specs, but you'll have to hunt around.
ocalhoun
Ankhanu wrote:

Unfortunately, you'll spend almost as much on a decent capacity SSD as you will on the netbook itself... possibly more, really. SSD volumes are still relatively small, and the prices are pretty high.

Very true, of course... I'm planning on keeping 'hard drive' space needs minimal by keeping installed software to a minimum and using memory cards or USB thumbdrives to supplement storage whenever possible.
(And possibly even downgrading to an earlier form of windows to save more space.)

The cost is unavoidable, but I really don't think a physical hard drive will survive that kind of treatment for long. (I would like to be able to move it around while powered on.) Better to have 1/10th of the space than to lose everything.
As an upside though, an SSD probably draws less power, so I think it would increase battery life.

I suppose I might stick with an ordinary hard drive, and only upgrade it after the ordinary one dies... I'd just have to make very frequent backups.
(It is possible to make such an upgrade for most netbooks, right? Laptop upgrades were never my specialty to begin with, and I've been out of the IT business since before netbooks and SSD's were invented...)


As for which one to choose, I'm starting to lean towards Sony's smallest laptop. It's slightly bigger than what I'd like, but everything else is pretty good, and they have (expensive) high-capacity batteries on sale for it.
metalfreek
My recommendation is HP Pavilion dm1z series. Customize it as you need and buy it. Its great, small and powerful.

http://www.shopping.hp.com/webapp/series/category/notebooks/dm1z_series/3/computer_store
ocalhoun
metalfreek wrote:
My recommendation is HP Pavilion dm1z series. Customize it as you need and buy it. Its great, small and powerful.

http://www.shopping.hp.com/webapp/series/category/notebooks/dm1z_series/3/computer_store

Hey, you're right, that is great!
Costs almost $1000, once I get done adding upgrades... but it's nice that I could order one with extra battery and SSD already included.

I had been avoiding HP, since I don't really like the company, and they tend to install scads of bloatware onto their new computers... But perhaps I should get one from them. Bloatware can be deleted, after all... and I know some good software utilities to get rid of the more stubborn bits.


Just a tiny bit bigger than I'd like, and after upgrades pretty expensive... But I might be able to live with those given that it has everything else I need -- battery life and power are best-in-class from the reviews I've read, and I can get it shipped with SSD, and it has all the ports and accessories I'd want.
Definitely better than that Sony I was looking at -- that one was a little weaker in battery life, though they also sold bulky, expensive high-capacity batteries. It was also a bit more expensive, and couldn't be factory built with SSD.

I guess unless somebody wants to surprise me with an even better choice, that will probably be the one.
*sigh*
Not looking forward to having to remove all that HP bloatware... but I guess it can't be helped; lots of companies put dumb software on their computers.
metalfreek
ocalhoun wrote:
metalfreek wrote:
My recommendation is HP Pavilion dm1z series. Customize it as you need and buy it. Its great, small and powerful.

http://www.shopping.hp.com/webapp/series/category/notebooks/dm1z_series/3/computer_store

Hey, you're right, that is great!
Costs almost $1000, once I get done adding upgrades... but it's nice that I could order one with extra battery and SSD already included.

I had been avoiding HP, since I don't really like the company, and they tend to install scads of bloatware onto their new computers... But perhaps I should get one from them. Bloatware can be deleted, after all... and I know some good software utilities to get rid of the more stubborn bits.


Just a tiny bit bigger than I'd like, and after upgrades pretty expensive... But I might be able to live with those given that it has everything else I need -- battery life and power are best-in-class from the reviews I've read, and I can get it shipped with SSD, and it has all the ports and accessories I'd want.
Definitely better than that Sony I was looking at -- that one was a little weaker in battery life, though they also sold bulky, expensive high-capacity batteries. It was also a bit more expensive, and couldn't be factory built with SSD.

I guess unless somebody wants to surprise me with an even better choice, that will probably be the one.
*sigh*
Not looking forward to having to remove all that HP bloatware... but I guess it can't be helped; lots of companies put dumb software on their computers.


This one also comes with a lot of blotware, make no mistake about that but it can be removed so I wouldn't bother too much about that. Its a great hybrid of netbook and laptop. Very good one to carry around and has the power to do some advance stuffs.

I am glad that you liked my choice.
ocalhoun
While I liked the HP... I've done some more looking... and some more thinking... and found a tablet I really liked; and it's on order now.

Took forever to find one, but I found a windows tablet with decent (8 hour) battery life.
(The motion CL900)

Pros:
Excellent battery life (about twice the battery life of most other windows tablets)
Great display (720p resolution and aspect ratio -- better than the ipad), covered in gorilla glass and non-glossy to make outdoor viewing as easy as possible.
Great multi-touch capability (uses the same touch technology as the galaxy tab)
Durable (guaranteed drop-proof up to 4ft, splash and dust resistant)
Windows, so I can run any program I want on it (and I'll be testing out just how compatible it is with linux... might end up doing a dual-boot)
GPS capability (10 inch touchscreen GPS, FTW!)
Bluetooth (Will come in handy for using a keyboard)
Decent cameras, front and back
Really nifty active digitizer pen

Cons:
Mediocre performance (pretty much standard netbook-level hardware, but at least it is the absolute latest and greatest netbook hardware... and it flat-out beats most other tablets out there.)
High price ($1500 or so, with all the accessories I want)

But, given the very strong pros there (especially the durability and long battery life), I'm willing to overlook the cons and get it.
Linky: http://www.motioncomputing.com/products/tablet_pc_CL900.asp
If you look there, you can see it's definitely marketed more towards the corporate world, rather than consumers, which is part of why it was so hard to find... But the 'motion computing' company looks pretty good, and apparently they have a long history of making solid, business-oriented windows tablets.

I'll make a thread about it with my own pictures once it arrives.
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