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A netbook with Linux? Here are six options

By   |  April 1, 2009

When it launched the netbook phenomenon a couple of years ago, the most noticeable thing about the Asus EEE PC, apart from its size, was that it typically ran Linux. Suddenly everyone was predicting the demise of Windows and the rise of Linux. Microsoft, naturally, quickly backtracked on its end-of-life plans for XP and threw itself into the netbook market with the result that Windows now accounts for about 90% of the netbooks market and Linux the remaining 10%. So buying a netbook with Linux is not as easy as it initially promised to be. We scouted around to find a selection of mid-level netbooks that could be bought in South Africa with Linux pre-installed.

Most of the specs on the machines below are comparable – some may have slightly more hard drive space and others an extra 512MB memory – but none of them ship with built-in 3G which would make them simply too expensive.

Toshiba NB100

Not the best known of the netbooks on offer, the Toshiba NB100 is a relatively new entrant to the market. It ships with a choice of Windows XP or Ubuntu Linux installed. As with most of the netbooks it is built with Intel’s Atom processor and sports 512MB of memory. Under Vista that would be woefully underpowered but with Ubuntu and Netbook Remix – Ubuntu’s netbook interface – is more than adequate. An 80GB hard drive and a standard 8.9-inch screen rounds out the package. Locally the Toshiba NB100 costs around R3 900.

HP 2133

HP’s 2133 was one of the first netbooks on the market – after the Asus EEE PC – and was also one of the first to offer Windows Vista as the default operating system. Which proved to be a mistake as Vista simply overloaded the machine. HP quickly revised their approach and now offers XP or Suse Linux. The model we looked at had Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 and 512MB of memory. Also with an 8.9-inch screen, the HP 2133 sports a larger Sata hard disk at 120GB and a heftier price tag at around R5 500.

Acer Aspire One

Locally the Aspire One has a big following. It is, admittedly, a lot nicer looking than most netbooks and has a great, almost full size,  keyboard. Also built on the Atom processor, the Aspire One sports Linpus Linux – which is not all that bad – or XP. The Linux version normally ships with an 8GB flash drive although it’s worth keeping a look out for one with a larger hard drive. 512MB of memory and an 8.9-inch screen make the Aspire one comparable with the other machines on this list, although you could also opt for the more expensive versions with include more memory and built-in 3G, and which could set you back more than R7 000. Which is a little more than we would pay for a netbook. The version we looked at with the specs above came in at around R3 500.

Asus EEE PC 901

In many ways the Asus EEE PC started the netbook phenomenon. Its 701 machine was ultra-compact and ultra-cheap, which quickly won over consumers. In truth though, the keyboard on the 701 was way too small for most users to do much on, as was the screen. Fortunately Asus has the 901, which is bigger and better and looks the part of a real challenger. With 1GB of memory, 20GB of NAND storage – split over two drives – and an 8.9-inch screen the 901 is a real competitor to the Aspire Ones and the HPs. Asus has its own version of Linux on the machine and costs around R4 200 locally, which is a lot more than the 701 version but it is also a whole lot more machine.

Dell Inspiron Mini 9

The Dell Inspiron Mini 9 is one of the nicer looking machines on the market. Although also available with Windows XP, the more affordable option is the Ubuntu-based version which can be found online for around R5 200. Which puts it into the high-end of the netbooks considered in this list. Depending on the specs, however, the price could be a lot more than even this. Official Dell pricing we received put the Mini at over R7 000. The version we considered shipped with 1GB of memory, an 8GB solid state drive and the standard 8.9-inch screen. Dell lists the Inspiron on its local website but doesn’t actually allow customers to buy the machine from there for some reason.

Lenovo IdeaPad S9e/10e

We’ve been long time fans of the Lenovo (originally IBM) ThinkPad notebooks so news of the IdeaPad netbook from Lenovo was enticing. Over the past couple of months the IdeaPad has shown up on numerous online shopping sites and Lenovo highlights it on its website locally. The problem is that we haven’t actually seen one yet and the ones available online are all Windows XP-based. The official Lenovo website does, however, say that a Linpus Linux version is available. We also haven’t seen the S9e version available locally, only the bigger S10e, with the 10.1-inch screen. Apart from the larger screen the IdeaPad is specced out fairly similarly to the other netbooks here, edging towards the high-end with 1GB of memory and a 160GB hard drive.

Disclaimers: Prices reflect the pricing available on the listed sites at the time of writing. We don’t vouch for, nor have any relationship with, the listed sites, but we do take their offers as genuine. Many of these netbooks are available in different configurations and this list is not exhaustive, so you may find better, or worse, prices than these.

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4 Responses to “A netbook with Linux? Here are six options”

  1. Christopher Brunsdon
    April 1st, 2009 @ 12:47 pm

    If your looking at getting one and you are worrying about what wife will say – just get it. Woman love netbooks :) and my wife is now jacking mine on a regular basis.

    They are so handy and no true geek should be without one. Brand choice? Well, they are using the same underlying architecture for now so you cannot go wrong on any brand. But do upgrade your RAM to at least 1,5GB if you’ve gone the SSD route.

  2. Nick
    April 1st, 2009 @ 6:10 pm

    Sahara Computers recently launched their new netbook which will be available with Ubuntu Linux or MS Windows XP Home as options – see link below for details:

  3. PC Direct
    April 1st, 2009 @ 6:20 pm

    Thanks for linking our website and products.

    Nice site, bookmarked! :)

  4. Francisco Costa
    April 7th, 2009 @ 12:52 pm

    I’ve bought an Asus EEE 1000HE and installed Ubuntu Remix!

Comments are closed