2009, NetBooks, and the Ancestral DNA of the Low-Power Compute Solution
I’m giving up on ChromeBooks as being my go-to solution for the Writer’s Best Tool. I’ve been using the Lenovo ChromeBook 500e for the past six months or so. It’s had its own set of problems that are not solely due to the fact that it is a Chromebook. I think I have most of those figured out, but not the things that are kind of centric to the overall Chromebook form-factor as a solution. And most recently, I’ve been strongly questioning why I am not writing everyday. In that time management schema, I will typically write on one of four devices. My current DutyPC, my current Duty Tablet, the Acer Predator Helios 500 (as a means of not lighting off a full-blown desktop and its 6+ fans), or the Chromebook 500e. And over the past two weeks, there has not been a tablet in the mix as that equipment slot has been occupied by my Amazon Kindle (no, it has not resulted in me reading any more), and so I’ve been using the Chromebook even more frequently. This morning, my desire was to crank out the blog post about the media’s use of the term “flagship phone” within 15 minutes using the 500e. It took a lot longer than that.
Here are the main things that I feel like are hampering my productivity, and hence the things I’ve been targeting to be fixed by whatever I choose to replace the 500e:
ChromeOS and the 500e are just slow. Things work fine when I am on the laptop and using its display (more on that constraint later). But in most cases, I have the Chromebook connected to two 27” displays, and when I do that, everything bogs down, and I can see the windows stutter as I drag them across the two screens to optimize my work environment
Missing my usual Windows and Microsoft keyboard shortcuts (or even just regular Windows keys), especially the ones I use while writing
The display is 1366 X 768 and at the low res I cannot split the screen with Windows and use the normal arrangements I would to work efficiently
The screen is too small to effectively manage a multi-window work environment
Not a great keyboard and I am slower when typing on it
Using the Chromebook is just suboptimal for the degree of productivity I'm trying to achieve. I need to be able to build posts quickly and the Chromebook struggles when it is in SquareSpace’s workflow. It’s time to start the search for a replacement.
I’ve been doing a good chunk of research since I started untying this knot last night. Of the laptop solutions that meet most of the requirements, they are saddled with 1366 X 768 resolution. It’s a spec I cannot compromise on. My budgetary cap is $300. There are a few units out there that are just outside of that budgetary cap. But I don’t want to exceed the cap. The end result, having resolved that I need a 15” Windows-PC laptop with 1920 X 1080p resolution, and at least an Intel Core i3-4th generation or higher, is that I decided that I am going to have to wait. I want to get back to a level of usability that I experienced on my most productive platform ever, my 2008 15” MacBook Pro, but I really do not want to pay more than $300.
Part of this was stirred up by me finding the original draft of a blog post that I wrote back in 2009. NetBooks had piqued, and as a result revenues across the computer industry were down. Manufacturers were doing so much to fight it, that they were changing the expectations and target baseline of a $500 laptop, building entry-level laptops that had better screens and processors and more RAM than the historical norm. I postulated that I was already experiencing the positive effects of this trend as PC component prices, and those for laptops, were steeply declining, making my world a better place as it meant buying review units was suddenly less expensive. But I also owned three netbooks during this time-frame and while I loved the portability and coffee-shop convenience of these little writer’s notebooks, I got rid of every single one. They all wound up in the same place as I am now with the 500e, for the most basic of tasks they were fine. But then they would not scale up one iota to take things just slightly more challenging. Low-power compute is tricky. It’s very easy to miss the mark in your race to the bottom.