In this case, smaller is better

So today, it is with deepest regrets to say that my relationship with Shiva Ratri has ended prematurely. We had fun on our dates, logged many late night hours on the Internet, travelled together to various places in Nepal, etc., BUT it just didn’t work out as I was looking for something different to compliment where life is taking me at the moment. So with the help of a friend, we were able to find Shiva Ratri a new home and quickly purchase our latest addition to the family (drum roll please) little Dal Bhaat – the Toshiba’s NB200 mini-notebook.

(yes, I give nicknames to my computers)

Why you may ask? Well, maybe it is because I am getting a little older, wiser, and having less tolerance dealing with crap, and the thought of lugging the HP Compaq 6530s around (starting at 2.27 kg plus accessories) during our travels is as appealing as listening to a Celine Dion album 24 hours a day. I physically “could” do it but why punish myself (my SLR camera gear already weighs that much)?

In my mind, trading it in was worth it because within a year or so we’ll be digitally planning our travels at the beaches, comfortably blogging at French cafe’s, sharing photos with the Pope, and keeping ourselves entertained during long Eurorail rides (now you can download digital editions of Lonely Planet’s entire collection).

Why this netbook

I’ve been keeping an eye on the netbook scene for a few years now, ever since the first Acer Eee PC’s came out followed by attempts from HP (they also have a tablet PC), Dell, MSI, and Sony – one of the first models but so typically Sony-esque expensive (the One Laptop per Child project is still the visionary pioneer). Being mobile yet powerful at the same time was high on my list, especially now. However, these first generation netbooks, although portable, were still awkward to use, power skimpy (500 MB of RAM and 8 GB hard drive?!?!? C’mon!?!), and still VERY expensive (a few hundred dollars more and you could have yourself a power notebook). Speaking of which, who could forget the Macbook Air (I must admit I fell into the media hype).

Then one day, I stumbled upon an advertisement in The Kathmandu Post about Toshiba’s NB200 mini-notebook line. I don’t ever recall hearing about Toshiba making a netbook before so I was immediately intrigued and quickly sought out a computer store to see this product in person. I was utterly amazed – for the price, power, and upgrade possibilities, you definitely can’t go wrong (others seem to agree, see Laptop Magazine & PC World). It looks like Toshiba took a wait-and-see approach as this netbook looks flawless, even perhaps taking a page out of Apple’s design playbook.

Noticeable features:

  • Of course, it’s light (a little less than 3 lbs / 1.4 kg) and easy to handle – literally like a notebook.
  • The keyboard layout is the big draw as it is just spacious enough without making your hands feel cramped. The raised keys also makes typing much more comfortable.
  • USB Sleep-and-Charge ports – you can charge peripherals even when the netbook is off.
  • Typical yet essential: integrated web cam, enough USB ports (with 3), mic and head phone sound jacks (built in speakers suck), SD Card Slot, WI-FI / Bluetooth.
  • Upgradeable RAM and HD (already packed in 2GB of RAM – upgrades are inexpensive here).
  • Bright LED-back lit screen.
  • 9-hours of battery life?!?! (6-cell battery)
  • They power adaptors is significant smaller as well – looks like a small stick of butter and thus lightens your total carrying load.
  • The overall design has an artistic look to it – the chrome bar is a nice touch.
  • Did I mention it was light? Weighing almost the same as the Macbook Air, the NB200 is much easier to handle with it’s compact, smaller dimensions.

As a long-time HP fan, I will miss the Lightscribe technology and their 6-in-one integrated media card reader. However, there are a few HP netbooks on but they are slighlty heavier, slightly more expensive, slightly less RAM, and slightly “3-cell lithium battery power” !!!! (not acceptable).

My other big concern of course was the lack of an optical drive. But after pondering about this for a bit, I realized:

  • How often will I be watching DVD movies on this thing? I can always get a digital copy.
  • I seldom create CD/DVD’s as backup. Most of my data is backed up or transferred via external hard/flash drives or online.
  • Finally, I can always get the 13-ounce external optical drive (it’s cheaper on and leave it at home when I don’t need it (done).

I won’t miss it that much.

Adjusting and new revelations

I find myself more intimately closer to the screen of my NB 200; my head is posed in a way like I’m peering through a microwave oven and my hands are more ergonomically upright like playing a piano. The new weight is God send as, like night and day when comparing how easy it is to carry around. Just like how parents handle their second, third, or fourth child, I can be more care-free in terms of handling little Dal Bhaat.

As well, seeing the World Wide Web and other applications through a 10.1 inch screen isn’t as bad as I had thought and it also gives me a better appreciation of good, solid user interface design. and this blog actually looks better and my favourite news web sites are more compact and easier to read. Google Chrome is definitely the best web browser to date that works well in a netbook environment (although I hear Firefox isn’t far behind). Space on a netbook screen is so precious and doing away with the application title bar, creating the all-in-one address/search bar, and performing tasks easily with the least amount of keystrokes and clicks is just another Google innovation.

One awesome space saver is the “Always show bookmarks bar” (CTRL+B). Turn that off under the Tools section. Why do you need to see it all the time? The best part is, when you open a new tab or window, the bookmark bar temporarily displays until you browse to a web site.

In terms of web development and software, Gimp, although annoying and I want it to act like Photoshop, works fine and I’m quite content with Microsoft Visual Web Developer EE. I have all the browsers and utilities installed and I’m testing out iTunes. On another note, VLC Media Player works amazingly well as Quicktime is choppy.

I’m still getting little Dal Bhaat ready for prime time use and at the same time drooling at customized accessories on the Toshiba web site (I still have a few things on my radar).

Toshiba has come a long way in terms of their innovation and design. Overall, the Toshiba mini NB200/205 blows the competition away.


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