Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Key Buying Factor Of Cheap Subnotes

Seeing all of the coverage of Computex, it's gotten to the point when a new cheap subnotebook is shown, I'm left asking, What, again?

The specs all seem identical.

And yet there are differences.

Some units are booting up faster than others. What accounts for that? Different hard drive RPM? Windows XP not being optimized? Sunspots?

I don't know that I'd consider bootup time a factor until all the reviews are in. I have a suspicion that some vendors might be stripping things out of XP that we'll only find out about later.

Trackpad size varies among vendors. Size doesn't always matter. It's how it works that's important. Can it be used for scrolling? Is there multi-touch capability? Double-tapping?

Click buttons have also varied. Some are one-piece, some are like rockers, while others are distinct two-piece designs. One of them has incorporated the LEDs!

Keyboards also vary. Joanna Stern says in a video fondle of the Acer Aspire One that it has a keyboard like the original EeePC, yet an earlier report states it has a keyboard that's 89% of full-size.

Even full-size keyboards on regular (read: expensive) notebooks vary in their feel (as I note in a Comment, I love the keyboard of the MacBook but can't stand the one on the MacBook Pro). Although I can't find the report right now, I do recall earlier today hearing in a video that one unit had Shift keys that were smaller than usual.

Screens will probably vary. Even though most seem to offer identical resolutions, we haven't yet heard anything about viewing angles or minimum/maximum brightness or the kind of backlighting used. Also, how true are the colors?

Most are offering the same ports: 3 USB, VGA-out, and a card reader. It will be interesting to see how many of those card readers can accept SDHC.

Weight and thicknesses vary. As does the outer and inner plastic covering. I'd beware of glossy plastic.

We don't yet know how hot most of these entries run. Can they raise blisters when placed on a lap? Don't forget: the Everex Cloudbook's WiFi would shut down from the internal heat!

Some of these will never see brick-and-mortar retail distribution. Some will, but not widely. I'm not brave enough -- nor am I greedy -- to buy something sight unseen and unfondled.

Out of all of these variables, I think the key one to consider will be the type and capacity of battery.

Steve and JKK at one point in a podcast discuss the difference in batteries. I'd like to see them put those thoughts into text form because I think it's going to be persuasive in helping people to choose which subnote is actually worth having. Not all batteries are equal.

All other factors can be secondary if the subnote's runtime is only two hours!

Another factor with batteries is whether or not a vendor will offer a higher-capacity battery and what that does to weight and the unit's profile (i.e., does it raise the back like the hp Mini note, making form-fitting cases useless?).

And speaking of power, how large is the AC adapter and how much does it weigh?

Here we are in the 21st Century and everything still comes down to power, batteries, and battery life.

When will that stop being a factor?

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