Monday, February 16, 2009

Bought a Samsung NC10 Netbook - First Impressions

On Saturday I bought a Samsung NC10 Netbook. I was in NYC and stopped by J&R, one of the few stores that actually carry the device. Amazon and a few other online stores carry them but its always nice to put your hands on one. The one I bought is black (also comes in white and blue) and comes with the 6 cell battery.

The reason I bought a new computer was because my Acer C110 tablet PC which I bought in 2004 is starting to show some problems. The touchpad works on and off and there was a crackling sound coming from the device every now and then, I think from the speakers. I have been reading many positive reviews about the NC10 and since I was impressed with the Samsung Q1 I decided to go with the NC10 over other netbooks.

As you may remember I switched back from to the Acer from the Q1 because I missed the larger screen (10" v 7") and the keyboard (Acer has one, Q1 doesn't). I blogged that the only things to make the Acer a perfect machine for me was to have better battery life and a better screen. In these two areas the NC10 delivers. The battery is advertised to go 8 hours. I haven't done any formal tests but I have no doubt it can go at least 6 hours under my normal usage scenarios. The Acer was limited to 2 hours. As for the screen, it is much better than the Acer. The Acer was a bit washed out and the NC10 is very bright and vivid. Doesn't seem as good as the Q1 but the NC10 screen is much better than the Acer.

So is the NC10 the perfect machine for me? Unfortunately no. The NC10 has a 10" widescreen and the Acer had a normal 10" screen. While the Nc10 screen is a bit wider it is not as tall and to me its more important to have more height than width when it comes to laptop screens. Its not a showstopper but I would have preferred the Acer screen at least with regards to dimensions.

Other impressions are similar to what others have written. The overall build quality is great, the hard drive capacity is large (160 GB), the touchpad takes a bit to get used to, the keyboard is easy to type with, and it was extemely easy to upgrade the RAM to 2 GB.

These are some first impressions, I'll write more after a few more days of use.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Still Sticking with the Acer C110

I'm itching to get a new computer, specifically a netbook especially after everytime I read a review of the latest devices. James Kendrick just posted a review of the new HP Mini 1000 and Laptop magazine reviewed the Samsung NC10. As a reader of this blog you know that I am using my Acer C110 which I have had for 4 years now and is actually 5 years old since I bought it refurbished. Even with sub $500 prices I will keep using the Acer. While it would be nice to have a built in cam, bluetooth, a better screen and much better battery life, the deal breaker is the screen size. My 10" screen on the Acer is larger than the wide screen 10" displays on the Samsung and HP. My resolution is set to 1024 x 768 while the others have a 1024 x 600. That makes my Acer 28% longer. The loss of this screen real estate was made clear to me while I was watching the Laptop video of the NC10. With the tool bar on the top of the browser there wasn't much web page to see.

Perhaps one day a netbook will come out with the larger screen, I can only hope!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Is My Acer C110 a Netbook?

Netbooks seem to be the rage with bloggers these days from Kevin Tofel loving his MSI Wind to Chippy having concerns about Netbooks. I actually thought about upgrading and getting the new Samsung NC10 netbook but then I thought, isn't my upgraded Acer a Netbook? Netbooks are supposed to be suited for web browsing, email and other low processing intensive tasks such as word processing and spreadsheets. These are basically the things I do with my Acer. Also, these devices are meant to be small and mobile, similar to my Acer. So lets see how my Acer stacks up with the Samsung NC10.

Acer Samsung
Weight 3 lbs 2.8 lbs
Screen 10" 10"
OS XP Tablet XP
Processsor Intel Pentium M .9 GHz Intel Atom 1.6GHz
HDD 160 GB 160 GB
Wireless WIFI rev G WIFI rev G and Bluetooth
Battery Life 2 hours 5 hours

As you can see from these key specs, the Acer is very similar in size, form and function. However, it would be nice to have bluetooth as I do have some bluetooth devices (headset and gps receiver). It would also be very nice to have the 6 cell battery which some claim will last 8 hours but others think it would only be 5+. But I'll take the 5+ over my sub 2 hours with the Acer.

But the best part may be the sub $500 price tag. I paid about $1200 for the Acer in 2004 and it was refurbished and that only included a 40 GB disk drive! But of course the Acer is a convertible Tablet; no inking with the Samsung!

For now I will stay with the 4+ year old Acer which is working fine for my needs. But its nice to see that when I do need to get a new laptop, I can get one that meets my needs for less than $500.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

First Impressions of the Tekkeon MP 3450 and Mamba XS

I purchased the Tekkeon myPower All MP3450 external battery and the Booq Mamba XS messenger bag and received both over the last two days.  Initial impressions are favorable.  In fact I am typing this post at a Starbucks with my Acer C110 connected to the MP3450 and I brought all of my gear in the Mamba XS.

When I was posting earlier about the MP3450, I was concerned that the battery would not charge my Acer internal battery.  Fortunately that is not the case. Right now my Acer is indicating that it is 'plugged in' and has been at 100% battery level for the last 30 minutes that I have been 'plugged in'.  So good news there. It was important to me because at times I know I won't want to have the MP3450 connected to the Acer any longer than needed.  Right now its not a big deal.  I am sitting at a table with the MP3450 placed on the table right next to the Acer.  However if I am walking round and have the tablet in slate mode it would be easier to not have to be tethered to another device, even though it is small and lightweight (< 1 lb).  And if the MP 3450 didn't recharge the internal battery I would be limited to the time without the MP3450 to the lifetime of the internal battery which is about 2 hours.

I also like that it has a 5V USB outlet which allows me to easily charge my  phone (Moto Q) and my Ipod Nano.  The power cord connecting the MP3450 to the Acer is coiled which I also like.  Its easier to store and less clutter when in use.  Nice touch Tekkeon!  Its also a nice looking design.  So nice that I would hate to scratch it up so its good that the battery comes with a protective pouch with a plastic window over the indicator lights and voltage selector button.

The Mamba XS seemed smaller than I thought when I took it out of the box.  Which is nice since its a smaller foot print when carrying but my concern was that it wouldn't be big enough to carry all of my gear.  So I emptied my Case Logic case that I have been using for 3 years now and packed the Mamba XS only to find I had room to spare.  Which was good since for this trip I was also bringing the MP3450 battery and a notebook for the writing workshop I will be attending today.

I also like the easy access pouch at the top which is where I will keep my iPod and I like the 'pockets' under the flap which nicely fit items I want to easily get at without the concern of those items falling out.  One thing I think I will miss is the zippered compartment in the back of my Case Logic bag  It was only wide enough for documents or magazines but it was a good place for those items without cluttering the main compartments.

I'll write more after a few days of use.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Portable Power Options

I have been looking at two companies that sell external power supplies and batteries, The Battery Geeks and Tekkeon.

Lets start with The Battery Geeks offerings. First off, they offer a free battery audit. You fill out a simple form and they will email you with recommendations. For my Acer C110, they recommended their external battery and portable power supply. The external batteries come in two capacities, 118 and 130 WH. Since my Acer battery has a 27 WH capacity, theoretically these will increase battery time four or five fold. Since I get 2 hours with the Acer battery I should get about 10 hours with these models. The prices are $170 and $200 for these two batteries. They weight about 1.7 pounds and the dimensions are 7.75x4.5x.75(in).

The external power supply offered by The Battery Geeks also come in 118 and 130 WH as well as 200 WH. These power supplies are only a tad bigger (8.93x4.84x.87(in) 1.87 lbs) but offer more voltage outputs, 3 - 28 Vdc as opposed to only 15 - 21 Vdc for the batteries. The advantage is being able to power other devices other than the laptop. As you can guess, the prices are a bit more, $250 and $300 for the 118 and 130 WH versions.

Tekkeon offers the myPower All 3450 external battery which is rated at 50 WH which would theoretically last 4 hours when used with my Acer C110. Its a bit smaller than the battery geek devices (3.28 x 6.80 x .92) and much lighter weighing just under 1 lb. Also, with the smaller capacity its less expensive $120. And unlike the Battery Geeks external batteries the myPower All has a USB port so anything you can charge via your computer USB port you can charge with this device. The disadvantage is that the 3450 will not charge my Acer internal battery. The Acer C110 is rated for 20 Vdc and the 3450 only charges devices that are rated for 16V or less.

Currently I am leaning toward the myPower All 3450 mainly because of the lower price and smaller size but may hold off right now. In the two weeks I have been using the Acer I have not had a need for the extra juice. At home and at work I am mostly plugged in and at the end of my daily train commute I usually have 30% left on the internal battery. Where this device would be needed is when I travel for off site training or conferences.

I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My Acer Tablet Not in Perfect Condition; But No Complaints

As you can imagine, my Acer C110 is not in perfect condition I bought it in August 2004 and at that time it was even a refurbished unit. One of the reported weak spots is the swivel and latching mechanisms. Mine is holding up strong. However the tip of the latch that latches the screen to the base when in the traditional closed laptop position broke off right before I switched over to the Samsung Q1 in February. Also, the rubber protectors for the port replicator and USB ports have separated from the device. In both cases I think crazy glue will do the trick. Or I can order replacements at this site I found.

The most annoying problem is a recent one. I recently removed the keyboard to clean it and now, everyone once and a while a key will stick, usually the own arrow and the delete buttons. Physically they look fine and don’t appear stuck and the only way to clear the problem is to hit another key. So perhaps there is an electrical connection problem or software issue. I will post in one of the forum and see if anyone else has had this problem and knows of a fix.

Overall, not too bad for a 3+ year old device!

BTW, I am typing this on the train something I couldn’t have done with the Q1P since it doesn’t have the attached keyboard and inking is almost impossible with all of the movement on the train.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Extending Battery Life - Power Banks

Its been a week since I switched back to the Acer and I am truly enjoying the larger screen and attached keyboard. Battery life has been better then expected, about 2 hours. This is working well for my daily commute. In the morning I sometimes will read the NY Times via their reader for about 15 minutes at Starbucks and then an hour on the train for a total of 75 minutes. At that point I usually have the battery indicator at 33%. However, I'm sure there will be times when I will need more power. These two power banks may do the trick when I need that extra juice. Here are links to reviews of each:


Battery Geek Portable Power Station

I'm going to dig deeper into each as well as possible other contenders and let you know what I decide.