What happened to the netbook?

Yes, this is probably an “I’m getting old / get off my lawn” post.

What happened to small form factor - screen dimensions of 7"-10" - , cheap computers?

My netbook history

Asus Eee PC 700

My first netbook was an Asus Eee PC 700.

It came from Clove Technology, pretty much immediately on release in the UK. I was in London the day they became available - for some reason, I seem to recall that I was in the QEII conference centre, for some kind of Free / open source software event - and I found a few minutes in a break to call Chris and order one.

It was an odd machine, mainly because of the massive bezel around the screen, and the speakers either side of the screen. Imagine computing while looking through your letterbox.

But it was small, if a little chunky, and the battery life was fine (although I seem to recall others complaining).

It ran Xandros Linux, and, out of the box, it ran a “simplified” UI, which I think was more akin to a phone’s launcher. One could change it to a more normal desktop environment quite easily, and I did.

I used it loads, despite - well, perhaps because of - the small screen size. It was not quite pocketable, but it was readily slipped into a small bag.

My love of netbooks was born.

Acer Aspire One

In mid-2008 (I think), I got an Acer Aspire One.

I was not intending to get one, but I happened to be in Dixons one day, and they had one for a massively reduced price because it would not boot properly. I recall looking at it in the shop, and thinking “this would be an easy fix”.

I installed Ubuntu on it, and that was that.

It had a much larger screen than the Eee PC, and I preferred the keyboard too, so my Eee PC was relegated to the storage cupboard.

Samsung NC10

Not too long after I had the Acer Aspire One, I was given a Samsung NC10. I can’t remember why, but I’ve another vague feeling that it wasn’t booting at it was too much effort for the owner.

It had a good screen, and a good keyboard. I think I upgraded the RAM almost immediately, and bought a massive battery, which gave almost day-long battery life. Wow, I miss that.

The Samsung NC10 was my favourite netbook, and I used it for ages. I’ve still got it, but it’s really showing its age now; I got a modern Linux distro running on it with very little effort, but it wasn’t a great experience.

Netbooks I would have liked but didn’t have

Sony P Series

I was rather envious of Sony’s P Series machines. They looked sleek, and if someone made one today, with a modern spec, I would probably be very interested.

But, back then, it was way out of my price range. And it would probably have such a premium price today that I wouldn’t consider it - one of the joys, for me, of netbooks was that they were pretty cheap.

Samsung Q1

Again, massively out of my price range. And, in hindsight, it was probably a bit of a dog of a machine.

Where are the netbooks today?

The seems to be a dearth of netbooks today, perhaps because of the rise in popularity of tablets?

Microsoft Surface Go

This is what I am using at the moment, when I want a very small machine.

Not quite pocketable, but it slips into my smallest bag, and it weighs hardly anything.

It runs Linux really well, although it is a little underpowered. Just a bit more would be welcome.

And the Microsoft pen works well too, so I can scribble away on PDFs.

In addition to a bit more power, I’d really like a longer battery life. It’s fine, but nothing special, and certainly not an all-day-long machine.

But they are pretty cheap on eBay - £120-150ish - and really are quite good little machines.

iPad Mini with a Bluetooth keyboard

I pondered an iPad Mini with a Bluetooth keyboard.

It would have had the right sized screen, and would have had a pretty impressive battery life.

I haven’t used an iPad with a keyboard for years, so perhaps it would do the job.

I must admit I’m not a fan of the iPadOS interface, and - picky me - I’d prefer something which ran Linux.

An Android tablet with a Bluetooth keyboard

Is there a decent Android tablet out there?

If/when Google releases the Pixel tablet, I might take a look, once GrapheneOS runs well on it.

Planet’s range of communicators

Planet makes the Gemini, the Cosmo, and the definitely-not-a-personal-lubricant Astro Slide. Yes. Seriously.

I’ve had lots of fun with the Gemini and the Cosmo, but they’re just a bit too small for my needs. And I haven’t managed to get full disk encryption working with Linux.

And the Android elements are out of date.

Much promise as a replacement PDA - think Psion 5 - but not as a netbook.

GPD Pocket 2

Again, one I found secondhand for an almost unreasonably low price, because - again - it didn’t boot.

Again, it just needed an OS installing.

This device was really quite promising, except for one thing: the absolutely awful keyboard layout! And not just the keymapping - the physical layout makes it a pain to use.


They all seem quite a bit larger than I’d like.

And, well, personally, I don’t want ChromeOS.