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Sunday, 29 August 2010

Being Net Savvy

Being Net Savvy

Are you sure you need a notebook, or will a cheaper netbook work better?

BEFORE buying a laptop, most of us have grand plans about what we want to do with it — maybe, write a book, shoot a video and edit it into a movie, bring home spreadsheets from work and reduce your burden in office. But once we get hold of a laptop, all the plans die an easy death and we end up using it for surfing the Net, watching movies and playing games. It could be a couple of years before you realise that some of the programmes, and even the DVD writer, are still in mint condition.

Actually, what most of us need is a much-cheaper netbook and not a full-fledged notebook. Something that lets you connect to the Net seamlessly, lets you listen to music and watch movies, play games, write new posts for your blog and do other light-weight stuff, all things you can do without lugging around a laptop that weighs nearly 2 kg.

In fact, netbooks these days have become more Net savvy. Companies have started realising the key requirements of their users and clustering them together, pushing the other, boring or underused functions and applications behind the scenes. Here is a look at two netbooks that have evolved for the better.

The Lenovo S10-3s: S10 IdeaPads have been Lenovo's netbook workhorse for a few years now, but the third generation likes to flaunt what it likes to do best. In fact, just beside the 10.1" LED backlit screen is the Quick Start (QS) button which takes you to online in under 20 seconds —yes, I timed it. The screen that pops up is not the Windows 7 on which the 3s works, but Lenovo's proprietary Quick Start application which looks a bit like the desktop of the Mac OSx. Below it is a bar that links to applications most-used like Facebook, Orkut, Flickr, Gmail and Skype. You can add or remove the apps from the collection provided, or get your own if you know the URL.

To go online on this mode, you will need a Wi-Fi, LAN, DSL connection—I had trouble getting it to work on the Tata Photon. You can always use data cards by switching over to the Windows OS. But on Wi-Fi - you can always plug in your data card into a router - the QS mode works like a dream.

Even without the QS, the S10-3s is a good netbook, certainly the most stylish in this price range. It is a tad smaller than regular netbooks and weighs just 1.1 kg with the 3-cell battery. It comes with an Intel Atom N450 processor, up to 2GB DDR2 memory, 240 GB storage, three USB ports and a 5-in-1 card reader. The all-white full-size keyboard is among the best I have seen in a non-Mac laptop and has an ease-of-use factor only people who spend over 10 hours a day in front of computers will be able to describe. The S10-3s has built-in protection against drops and falls as well as a one-touch backup button.

To make space for the keyboard, the speakers have been pushed under the body, which muffles the sounds to a great extent. As the netbook has a Dolby headphone certification, it is better to buy a good pair of earmuffs along with it. The touchpad is cool, but not multi-touch, so you will have to adjust a bit if you are used to pinching and flipping on your larger notebook. But, what all do you need for Rs 19,625?

Samsung N210: The N210 is also a Windows 7-based netbook. Once you boot up the OS, there is the option of switching to the Hyperspace mode, ideal if you just want to surf the Net, and maybe jot down some notes. This mode fulfills most of your computing needs provided there is a Wi-Fi connection for it to play around with. The main page has tabs to your favourite websites and pages, shortcuts to Realplayer, a browser and even a very handy notepad. It also gives you one-touch access to your mail accounts and social networking sites as well as news applications. You can also change the layout of the page, and add or remove shortcuts as needed.

Inside is an Intel Atom N450 processor, 160 GB storage, and 1 GB DDR2 SDRAM. The N210 comes with a full-size all-black keyboard and a touchpad with separate left-right clicks. The speaker is among the best you will find in a netbook and gels well with the 10.1" display.

Though slightly on the heavier side at 1.34 kg, the N210 promises around 11 hours of juice. But there seems to be no one-touch access to the Hyperspace mode, which is actually a waste of a very good idea.

Then, the designers don't seem to be all that good with buttons, for I had some serious trouble locating the main power button - good thing you only have to find it once. Overall a good buy for Rs 20,952.

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