7

I have a fairly known and consistent use-case. My laptop does almost no computational work. I do a ton of heavy computational work, but it all happens on big multicore servers which I access/control via Jupyter, SSH, remote desktop etc.

Even doing word-processing will not normally be on my laptop. I have access to several desktops. Doing things locally is generally a case of reading something while in a cafe, taking notes in a meeting, or watching a movie in bed.

Software to run locally:

  • Web-browser (with Flash)
  • LyX
  • PDF Viewer
  • Video VLC
  • OpenOffice

As you can see there are no requirements regarding Linux or Windows.

I have been very satisfied in the past with Dell Inspiron Mini 9 and with Toshiba NB550D, each of which lasted 3 years before some part failed. For the Dell Mini it was something in the keyboard, and for the NB550D it was something in the screen (I suspect a wire broke and am going to investigate). Both withstood serious amounts of trauma without incident. If I could find a mint condition NB550D still for sale I would buy it without hesitation.

We are talking about low spec'ed laptops here:

  • ~1GHz processor
  • < 10-inch screen
  • No optical drive
  • < $500
  • 2-4GB of RAM (I have a 4GB stick to swap in from my NB550)
  • Cheap

These kinds of requirements are what the netbook brandings were all about, but they seem to be going away. I see a few Chromebooks still for sale, but I have no experience with them.

  • Why "< 10-inch screen" but no weight requirement? Is your aim really to save on occupied surface, or just to have a light computer? – Nemo Oct 11 '15 at 7:24
  • It is just what I am used to through their are several advantages: (roughly ranked). The smaller the screen the: Tougher the screen (less leaverage on a bend, and less size to be knocked off something), the cheaper the laptop, the lower the power use and the smaller occupied surface (handy for on one leg with a book on the other, or on a tiny coffee table). Weight is the least concern as cheep laptops tend to have heavy batteries and other components. It is not a strict requirement I'ld settle for a 11inch – Lyndon White Oct 11 '15 at 9:04
  • Ok. I'm asking because nowadays for 200€ you can get a 15", 2 kg laptop with AMD Beema double-core APU and 4GB RAM, i.e. the 4th technology update on the same line of your Toshiba. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Nemo Oct 11 '15 at 10:00
  • your listed software requirements are actually close to null, and I can not think of any computer that can not run these ( and that includes the Raspberry PI !! ) so if the only requirement is size ( BTW why ) and price I know a lot of models that will be around 600us$ , but most are Chinese made, if you have an access to buying one .. – Obmerk Kronen Oct 11 '15 at 17:00
  • @Obmerk $600US is insanely expensive when my software requirements are basically none (I answered why above). I paid $300 for the Dell mini, and the NB550 – Lyndon White Oct 11 '15 at 22:56
8

There's chromebook class "windows for bing" boxen that fit most of your needs. I'm pretty happy with my HP stream 11 and there's a new, lighter version coming out soon. Lenovo has a similar system and I seem to remember dell did (tho the smallest screen I can find is 15 inches) and there may be others so most of this talks about the current (2014) and future generations of these. MS is actually pushing this class of systems in competition with chromebooks, and least with mine, the freebies basically covered half the cost of the system, including a year of office 365.

These things are typical for the class.

  • a low end bay trail celeron 2840. While it is 2 cores at 2.16 GHz to 2.58 GHz (burst), you can expect 6-8 hours of battery life. That said, these things are thin, light, and have something like a 6 hour battery life. Its obviously going to get replaced by brasswell. You might also find one with a quad core atom chip, but those are supposed to be lower end processors. They're fanless and run pretty cool. You can't find any modern sub 1ghz processors, but these things are insanely efficient, and probably give you less heat and battery life than the older atoms.

  • 32gb of storage built in - which is a weakness compared to a proper olderschool netbook. It should be enough for your use though. While a chunk of that is the recovery console, part of your OS is stored there, compressed and read only to save space. This is EMMC and on mine, it benchmarks faster than spinning rust, but slower than a typical SD card. This is what I got on the stream 11

enter image description here

  • They come with windows for bing (which is essentially exactly the same as windows 8 home. Upgrading to windows 10 is doable, but I had some issues with the touchpad driver.

  • 11 inch screen with a fairly thick bezel. That said, its lighter and thinner than my dad's Dell mini 10

  • Ram's soldered on I believe. I have 2gb of it on mine, and that's typical for the class

As for the specifics of the stream 11

  • Its actually got one of the better laptop keyboards I've typed on, and for a chiclet keyboard, very usable. The extra screen size also gets you a less cramped keyboard.

enter image description here

  • Build quality is solid. I throw it in a pretty cheap, thin sleeve (and for 2 weeks, wrapped it in a cloth shopping bag...), throw it in my backpack, and use it while commuting. Its still in perfect condition. This is surprising considering HP's reputation.

  • You can get it in any colour you want as long as its pink or blue. Its matte plastic, and stickers stick to the outside well (which is an important thing for a hacker system!)

enter image description here

  • screen's matte and 1366x768. Its not a great screen, but it works well enough.

  • one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 port, HDMI out. Its not a lot, but there's only so much you can cram in a system that small.

I've managed to get fedora running on it without needing to change anything (since it has secure boot enabled, and I was too lazy to turn it off).

Not quite a plug for my blog but the images here, and a more complete review of my stream 11 can be found here.

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  • Can you tell me, if the RAM is soldered in place? I'ld like to be able to swap my 4Gb stick in – Lyndon White Oct 19 '15 at 6:20
  • I believe that's true for anything of that class I'm afraid. And from the service manual, it seems to be soldered on,They're essentially better tablet class CPUs. The X220 is a much better option if you want upgradability. – Journeyman Geek Oct 19 '15 at 6:23
  • It wasn't true 3 years ago :-(. Something like the X220 is only in the price range if second hand. (and wouldn't need the upgrade) – Lyndon White Oct 19 '15 at 8:33
  • Alas, that is no longer the case. I guess its a very different set of tradeoffs. Oldschool netbooks had removable hard drives and batteries. This has something like 6-8 hours of battery life, depending on what you do, as compared to 4, and nearly nothing upgradable. I actually miss the replacable battery more than anything else since when the battery eventually dies, replacing it will be a pain. Its a VERY nice machine however, and least for what I do, very snappy. – Journeyman Geek Oct 19 '15 at 10:52
  • yeah, times are changing (I blame the tablet market shift). Seems the HP11 is out of stock literally everywhere in my city (I guess they have just ended production prior to the new version you mention). Looks like I'll be going with a Lenvo 100S which is spec wise very similar the the HP 11. No USB3, and swap the celeron for a Atom. – Lyndon White Oct 19 '15 at 11:22
6

Although this is a lot more powerful than you have asked for, for $195 you can pick up a used Lenovo X220 with a dual core 2.5Ghz i5-2520m off Ebay

x220 image

Specs:

  • 12" 1366x768 display
  • Windows 7 Pro OEM licence
  • No optical drive
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM, mine only had one slot used too
  • MSATA SSD support
  • 250GB standard HDD
  • Quite easy to find one with ~6h battery life

I got one a few months ago to take to college with me, and it can quite happily handle anything you would ever want to throw at an ultraportable (hell, video editing is even doable if you are patient).

Also, they are near enough bullet proof, in true ThinkPad style. Mine has fallen out of my bag straight onto tarmac on its corner from ~1m, granted you can see some of the black matte coating has worn off so you can see the shiny metal, but it still works just fine.

The trackpoint is fantastic on an ultraportable, the matte screen is great as is the trademark ThinkPad keyboard. More ports than you know what to do with: 3 USB 2.0, SD slot, VGA, DisplayPort, ExpressCard (!?), fingerprint and an easily replaceable battery unlike some new laptops.

I have Windows 10 and Linux dual booting on mine (have put an SSD in it) and it really flies.

Certainly worth having a look at EBay.

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  • I have an X220. Great laptop. Swapped my onboard HDD for a SSD tho. which is a pretty good upgrade considering it was the old, free ssd from my desktop. Built like a tank it is! Its also one of the last thinkpads with the old 'classic' keyboard. – Journeyman Geek Oct 17 '15 at 15:06
0

A few years ago I took the cheapest machine I could find (300 Euros with no OS), put Ubuntu on it and am quite content. Use it as a development web server and when I´m abroad.

15" Asus K53U: 2 GB RAM, AMD C-50 dual core CPU at 1 GHz, DVD writer, VGA and HDMI, camera, 3xUSB, card reader, Ethernet, WLAN and a Kensingtom Lock. Swapped the hard drive with an SSD some day.

Doesn´t really fly, but it´s sufficient for Open Office, DVDs and video streaming, a good deal of browser windows (I´m avoiding Firefox though) and a LLMP.


There are better machines nowadays for the same price. I would probably get a Lenovo B50 today, if I needed a new machine ... or do the same I did three years ago:

Look around my current location for the cheapeast machine I can find, and see if it meets the needs.

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