Mr. HalfFull and I have been pondering the packing list for our 30/40 World Tour, and have decided to purchase a netbook.  Our home computer is an iMac, which of course is not portable.  We each have work issued laptops — a MacBook for Mr. HalfFull and a Dell for me.  My Dell is too big and heavy for travel, and Mr. HalfFull is unwilling to risk loss or damage to a laptop he doesn’t own.  So those are out.  Thus, we have settled on a netbook as the ideal travel computer for us.

Our primary uses for a netbook on the road will be blogging, email, photo storage/editing, banking, trip research, and booking accommodations and ground transportation.  Remember that we are each taking only one carry-on bag, so size and weight will heavily influence our decision.  Mr. HalfFull has been researching netbooks with dual core processors and came up with a few contenders.  He pokes fun at me for being thorough, but this pre-quest research seems to have tapped into a dark OCD corner of his brain.  Netbooks are intruding into his daily thoughts, and even affecting his sleep.  Can you please help us?

Netbook Price Weight Depth Size Battery RAM Storage OS Cool?
MacBook Air $1200 2.3 lbs 0.7″ 11.8″ x 7.6″ 5 hours 2 GB 128 GB Mac yes
ASUS Eee PC 1008P-KR $500 2.5 lbs 1.0″ 10.3″ x 7.0″ 5 hours 2 GB 320 GB PC yes
Lenovo IdeaPad S205 $550 3.3 lbs 1.1″ 10.6″ x 6.6″ 5 hours 4 GB 750 GB PC no

You may be looking at this list thinking, only 5 hours of battery life?  Aren’t there netbooks that can last for 10 hours?  This may be part of some sinister half full plot to keep me on vacation, as opposed to ISTJ work mode!  We will not have 24/7 electricity in some of our destinations, so my computer time will be [should be, suggests Mr. HalfFull]  limited by my netbook’s battery life.  In fact, when we listened to the Lost Girls speak back in March, they discussed Amanda’s incessant drive to work online during their trip.  Thankfully, her friend Jen finally persuaded her to live in the moment and experience their trip outside an internet café.

MacBook Air

11-inch MacBook Air

We loved our hands-on experience with the MacBook Air, but it’s over $1000, making it one of the most expensive netbooks (Steve Jobs would not approve).  One of our major concerns with such a costly investment is theft.  We don’t know what kind of physical storage will be available as we travel the world, but it’s unlikely that we will have a safe everywhere we go.  Also, the Mac brand is highly recognized and sought after, increasing the temptation for would-be thieves.  But we do have an iMac at home, so a MacBook Air would ensure complete compatibility for software and files from one to the other.  It is simply a beautiful machine — slim (0.68 inches at the thickest point) and lightweight (2.3 pounds) — despite being the biggest in terms of length and width.  But the Air is scheduled for a speed boost with the new Sandy Bridge processor.  So we would like to wait for that, but it’s not expected to be available until June.  Will it be in the first few days of June before our trip???  If we wait until June and it isn’t released, we will probably have lost our window of opportunity to order one of the other less expensive netbooks online due to shipping time.

Asus Eee 1008P Netbook

ASUS Eee PC 1008P-KR

The ASUS Eee PC 1008P Seashell Karim Rashid Collection Netbook was designed by an artist.  I consider myself to be very rational, but I also have a deep appreciation for aesthetics.  In the past, Mr. HalfFull has accused me of valuing form over function, which I don’t think is completely true.  The entire surface of this netbook is covered in Karim Rashid’s soft-touch “Techno-chic Digi-wave design,” which has the added benefit of not showing fingerprints.  This is form AND function!  The waves in this basket-weave design “adhere perfectly to the golden ratio” with a material similar to the soft matte rubbery coating usually found on mobile phones, which seems like it will be a great protector for travel.  To top it off, it comes in a color near and dear to my heart:  coffee brown!  Do you think Karim Rashid designed it just for me?  That’s genius…sorry, Genius Bar.  Another awesome travel feature of this netbook is that all the ports are covered, which could be handy in sandy locales.

Lenovo IdeaPad S205

Lenovo IdeaPad S205

Finally, the newly released Lenovo S205 includes far more memory and storage than the other models at a similar price to the ASUS.  In comparison to the others, it’s a bulky machine with a shiny cover that will surely show fingerprints, but it’s power lies inside.  This netbook is even capable of HD video editing.  I don’t plan to do a lot of videos, but I may want that capability in the future.  If I were purely tech focused, this would be the obvious pick, but it is a pound heavier than the others, which matters when your whole life is on your back for ten weeks.  But Lenovos are known for their excellent full-size keyboards, whereas the ASUS is only 92% of full-size.  Size may not be a big deal for me [Mr. HalfFull:  That’s what she said!], but a certain sausage-fingered gentleman could find himself constricted.

Mac vs. PC

Another thing that concerns me is cyber security.  Since we will be relying solely on open networks while traveling, will the Windows machines be more prone to viruses and hackers?  I guess there will be an added expense of procuring anti-virus software for the PCs.  The Mac tech geeks I know don’t install anti-virus software or software firewalls.

Of course we had to at least consider buying a used netbook on Craigslist.  There are a few MacBook Air machines for sale, but I’m not sure why.  Most of the posters claim that it’s a new machine, which seems suspect.  If I bought an older non-Mac netbook on Craiglist, I would be worried about the battery life, which is critical for travel, not to mention expensive to replace.  But at least in this case I would be paying a lot less upfront, and probably not care as much if it was stolen.

What’s the right answer?  We’ve only got 4 weeks left!

  • Which netbook do you recommend?
  • Is a computer critical travel gear these days?
  • What qualities are most important for a travel computer?
  • Do you consider the 11-inch MacBook Air to be a netbook?
  • Where do you fall on the form over function spectrum?
  • If you own a Mac, what security do you use?
  • Are you a Mac or a PC?
Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!