The Netbook Diaries: Day 4 (Air Travel)

Last Updated Jun 2, 2009 7:10 PM EDT

The Netbook Diaries chronicles our day-to-day experiences with the Acer Aspire One. Click here to read the previous installment.
I'm in a sardine can -- sorry, a coach seat -- and it's here that a netbook really shines. The small form factor allows me to work in relative comfort, without the need for painful contortions like with a full-size laptop.

Indeed, because I'm in a center seat, with the seat in front me fully reclined, I have about as little space as it's possible to have outside of, say, a coffin. But, amazingly, I'm typing along just fine. I've criticized netbooks for being too small, but one fact is now abundantly clear: These things are made for air travel.

I've also dinged them for being glacially slow, but the Intel Atom-equipped Aspire passes one important performance test: It can play full-screen video. (Hey, I'm not planning to work the entire flight.) The HP Mini 2133 I reviewed a few months ago couldn't. It had Vista; the Aspire runs the nimbler XP.

Unfortunately, after just 20 minutes of word processing and a single episode of The Simpsons, my battery is down to 60 percent -- and dropping fast. And this with screen brightness set to minimum and Wi-Fi turned off. A laptop with a small screen and low-power processor should get killer battery life, not the meager two hours I'm expecting from the Aspire.

To me this is almost a deal-breaker. Granted, Acer offers a a 6-cell battery to replace the stock 3-cell, but then I'd have a heavier, bulkier system -- and isn't the whole point of a netbook to let you travel lean and light?

Check out some other netbook-related posts, including Guy Vs. Guy: The Net Value of Netbooks, Turn Your Netbook Into a Kindle, and Six Ways to Make Your Netbook More Like a Notebook.

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    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.