We're about two years into the era of "netbooks" -- mini-laptops that trade the higher performance of robust laptops for lower prices and much smaller form factors. Because, really, to surf the Net, check e-mail, and do some light word processing, what else do you need? Particularly if you're keeping those documents "in the cloud" (i.e., letting your services such as Google Documents store your word processing files, spreadsheets, and presentations)?
Being that the Web is the key to netbooks' effectiveness, they are almost exclusively manufactured with on-board Wi-Fi capabilities. That way, you're connected in many homes and public libraries, as well as cafes, bookstores, and other businesses.
But ultra-portability just got a little more ultra-portable with the Hewlett-Packard Mini 1151 NR. Verizon is the first major carrier in the U.S. to embed an EV-DO chip directly into a computer. In other words, the 1151 NR works a lot like your smartphone when it comes to the Web. It can dial up blazing speeds on Verizon's 3G network just about anywhere. And like a smartphone, Verizon is subsidizing the cost of the machine when you sign up for a one- or two-year commitment.
Comparable units from HP -- which are basically the same, minus the dial-up broadband -- run consumers about $300. The 1151 NR, with a rebate and a wireless contract, checks in at $199 -- a heck of a deal for a solid little machine with added capabilities. Of course, that contract will cost standard rates of somewhere between $40 and $60 a month, depending on which plan you select. And, be warned: Data overage charges apply.
I honestly wouldn't suggest the 1151 NR as an all-in-one computing solution. While its screen and keyboard are sizable and slick for a netbook, more than a couple of hours of typing/surfing/reading at a time can really wear you down. And, as mentioned, overutilization of the dial-up Internet can result in extra charges.
Instead, the 1151 NR is an ideal second computer. With a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270, 1GB of RAM, an 80GB capacity hard drive, the 1151 NR won't be great with editing your videos or other heavy-duty activities. But with the flexibility of two USB ports, for external devices like a mouse or flash drive, an SD slot, and multiple ways to access the Internet, it's extremely flexible.
It'll be convenient around the house, accessing your own wireless network, so you can catch up on some e-mails in bed, read a recipe straight from the screen in your kitchen, or reference a DIY video from YouTube out in the garage. And it's a fantastic way to be productive on the road, whether you're on a trip or in the car waiting for soccer practice to end. The ability to tap into Verizon's network means that this machine is there when your main machine can't be.
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