I just got a very interesting email yesterday from one of the readers of this blog. He was planning to buy a new computer, but wasn’t sure if he should pick a new netbook or an older SH laptop. I believe many of you might have thought about this, so here’s a quick comparison between the two options.
First, we’re going to take a mainstream netbook, equipped with the Atom N270 CPU, integrated Intel GMA 500 graphics (or Intel 950), 1 GB of RAM and 160 GB hard-drive. Such a device usually goes for around $350 in the US, offers good connectivity and an autonomy around 5 hours. And is of course new, so comes with 1-2 years warranty. From such a computer you should expect of the following benchmark results:
- around 1450 points in PC Mark 05 CPU test
- around 1 min 30 sec for Super Pi 1M
- around 115 points on 3DMark06 (very very poor graphic performance)
Translating the numbers above, for those less tech savvy, such a device is able to run Windows XP and standard applications, like a text editor, excel, a music/video player, a web browser etc. However, i don’t advice running many of them simultaneously, or else the system will get a little bit sluggish. Also, if you plan to run Windows 7, you should know it won’t be able to run it properly with Aero and all the fancy graphic options activated. It will do fine with a Windows 7 Starter version (not great, definitely not great), but i do recommend upgrading RAM memory with at least 1 GB more, to improve performance a little bit.
Now going on Ebay, for around 350 bucks you can get some interesting used laptops, like a Dell Inspiron 620 or a HP Pavillion dv2000. Since they are used, you won’t be able to get any warranty on these, but you should be able to find quite some powerful machines pretty cheap. I for one was able to find an Acer Intesa with a 2 Ghz Turion X2 processor, 2 GB of RAM, 160 GB hard-drive and ATI Radeon X1200 graphics for $360. Here are the predicted benchmark results, based on what I’ve found online:
- around 3000 points in PC Mark 05 CPU test
- around 50 sec sec for Super Pi 1M
- around 265 points on 3DMark06 (a little bit better, but still pretty rubbish)
As you can see, overall performance is better, although the graphic solution is still limited. This device is pretty much similar with my older Asus netbook, that had a similar CPU. I was able to Run Vista on it decently, but in the end i switched back to XP because of some problems with drivers. Overall, I’m pretty sure it can run Windows 7 OK, even with Aero, although the graphic solution is not top notch (so when running multiple applications, it might automatically turn Aero OFF). However, you should not forget this is a 15.4″ laptop, a lot bigger and heavier than a netbook and with less impressive battery life (since it’s used, I’d reckon around 2 hours from a 6-Cell battery). In terms of performances it might be better, but…
So, in the end, I believe we’ve reached the same conclusion as in my previous article where i explained the differences between a netbook and a notebook: if you want performance, you should get a laptop; if you want portability, go for a netbook. As you saw above, you will be able to find good deals on used laptops, more powerful than the standard netbooks. Also, I believe this year we might even see new full size laptops with Intel CPUs for around 400 bucks during the winter sales period. So you should grab one of those. Here you might find some interesting Cyber Monday offers on laptops and other portable electronic devices.
Last but not least, if you’re looking for a more powerful mini notebook, you should go for one built on Nvidia Ion platform, like the Samsung N510 or the HP Mini 311. The last one for instance benchmarked around 1900 point on PCmark05 and around 1300 points on 3Dmark06 (source). So,these gadgets do come with increased graphic performances thanks to the Nvidia GeForce 8400M graphic solution, but still use the same low power Atom CPUs. And are at least $100 bucks more expensive than standard netbooks, and in this price range you can find even more powerful full size laptops than the one above.
So, it’s still a tough choice. If it was for me, i won’t go for a used laptop. I would consider my requirements from the mini notebook and try to see if any of the best netbooks on the market at the moment fit my needs. And then just go for them. In the end, if you’re not entirely satisfied, there’s also the 30 Days money back guarantee option…