PC Magazine

The folks at PC Magazine have put together a series of tests demonstrating something that I’ve been saying all along: The name “netbook” is misleading. Cheap ultraportable computers may be ideal for surfing the web, but what really makes the current generation of mini-laptops exciting is the fact that they can do almost everything a full sized laptop can — just not as well.

But that’s hardly surprising. If you want a computer that weighs three pounds or less and costs half or a third the price of a traditional laptop, you can’t really expect it to be a speed demon, can you? PC Magazine pitted an Acer Aspire One and Dell Inspiron Mini 12 against a few higher end machines including an HP Pavilion dv3z, a Dell Studio 15, and a Lenovo IdeaPad Y650. The three tests consisted of ripping an audio CD, transcoding a video from WMV to MPG, and resizing photos using Photoshop Elements 7.

The verdict? The Acer Aspire One and Dell Inspiron Mini 12 were able to perform most of the tasks. But they took substantially longer to finish them than the more expensive machines.

But you know what? How often are you going to use a netbook to rip an audio CD anyway? Almost every netbook on the market today comes without an optical disc drive, so you’d have to plug in a USB disc drive before you could even get started on that task. And while batch photo resizing jobs using Photoshop Elements might be a bit rough, I find I can crop, resize, and edit one photo at a time for blogging purposes just as quickly with Irfanview on a netbook as I can with a full sized, dual core laptop.

The surprising thing for many people is that even though netbooks are marketed as if they were portable web browsers with keyboards, you can perform additional tasks on them. Just make sure you don’t purchase one with unrealistic performance expectations.

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13 replies on “Shocking news: Netbooks slower than other PCs at tasks they weren’t designed for”

  1. reading such sort of elaborates i’m like hell tempted to say: what the f*** did i all these 20 years passed on/with computers ? …. dreaming ? never read more bullshit stuff from so called it pro’s (in journalism) than since there are netbooks .

  2. I would be interested in seeing a netbook compared to some older machines. In my case, the netbook replaced my old laptop, and it’s actually faster.

    1. I did something like that about a year ago – posted somewhere in the bit-bucket called the ‘net.
      Did a simple comparison of the HP-2133 with 1.2Ghz VIA processor vs
      a HP Vectra with an 800Mhz P-III – – –
      You could *measure* small differences – but the subjective result was: “seems the same”.
      And the NetBook weighs about 40 pound less. 😉

  3. Everun Note is known to be one of the fastest umpc/netbooks. Why is it never included in these speed tests? Are they afraid of the results?

  4. All this really means is that users will get more inventive. We’ll find alternatives. Your example of Irfanview is perfect. Do more with less. Realize that certain jobs are better with other systems, but that doesn’t mean you have to exclude entire systems of operation from your PC usage.

    I really think these guys just needed to step back and realize that we’re not all trying to do everything at once, and that there are alternatives to the behemoths of creative software.

  5. actually I do use my aspire one to rip DVDs. OK, it’s only half the speed of my desktop. I knew that when I got it.

  6. 1) Thanks for mentioning Irfanview…great program that deserves more exposure…been using it for years.

    2) I have never ripped a cd on my netbook, but I do download/transfer Audiobooks my library provides to my MP3 player. Eight hours of audio in about 90 seconds. That is more then fast enough for me.

  7. So their tests did nothing but push the CPU. What a surprise – a 1.6Ghz single-core in-order execution unit like the Atom won’t perform as well as a Core 2 Duo at >2Ghz. Color me shocked.

    Personally, I find a netbook functions just as well as a full laptop – once you put a fast SSD in it. Most of the time your faster processor is bottlenecked by the slow I/O of the hard drive, and a fast SSD bypasses that.

    My Eee 901 certainly boots faster, launches applications faster, and experiences fewer “beachballs” than my MacBook Pro, and it’s all due to the faster I/O provided by the RunCore SSD.

    But we wouldn’t expect actual technical expertise from the “technical” press.

  8. In fact, for a while I was using an HP mininote (the original, without ATOM) as my primary machine. With an external monitor it worked just fine (I use ubuntu, and spent most of my life in Firefox, OpenOffice, and eclipse. All worked great!). My only issues were I finally just ran out of room on the ssd, and the short battery life, so I’m back to a macbook.

  9. NEWS!

    Core2 Duo’s and Turion’s are faster than a single-core Atom.

    Next week we compare a Ford Focus with a Porsche Cayman.

  10. That HP Pavilion dv3z doesn’t seem much faster than the Dell netbook.

  11. Say what? I can’t recompile OpenOffice on my netbook?
    Sure I can, although it might take all weekend. 😉
    (My C2-quad can do it in about 3 hours.)

  12. a netbook is a netbook, thats all. but with a fast ssd it is much more. i dont like those tests the are not good they are not significant for me.

    “How often are you going to use a netbook to rip an audio CD anyway?”
    right words 🙂

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