Asus Eee PC 901  (Source: Asus Marketing)
The first in a series of netbook blogs.

This is the first part of a series detailing my experiences with netbooks. All products mentioned were purchased at retail by the author.

Netbooks have been out for almost a year and a half. Their portability and low price make them attractive to a whole new market of people who won't or can't purchase laptops.

Sales are expected to top 35 million this year, and Intel may be starting to regret introducing them since they are now cannibalizing high-margin notebook sales, thus lowering their ASPs (Average Selling Prices).

With my return to writing, I needed a solution that was portable, lightweight, had long battery life, and came with rugged storage.  It was time for a netbook, and I figured I might as well blog about it.

Since I do a lot of travelling, I need something with a Solid State Drive (SSD) for the highest level of mechanical reliability, whether I'm on a plane, on the subway, in a truck, or in the field.

My regular notebook is a Lenovo T500, which I like because of its Hard Drive Active Protection software. It stops the hard drive from spinning if it detects motion in any axis, with user definable thresholds.

Performance is not a big issue, since I will be mostly using it to write articles. I do like to multitask and keep multiple windows open, so a RAM upgrade might be in order.

Unlike most notebooks, which are generally desktop replacements and plugged in most of the time, netbooks need maximum battery life for maximum usefulness.

The most important feature for me is battery life. I'm looking for something in the eight hour range, which should last me for a weekend in the field or a week of commuting. Weight and size are also important to me. If they weren't, I probably won't be getting a netbook.

So, I'm looking for something with a 6-cell battery, SSD, and a nine-inch screen.

My choices are narrowed down to the Acer Aspire One AOA110-1698 and the Asus Eee PC 901, both with Atom N270 processors, 8.9 inch screen, and 6-cell batteries.

The Aspire has less battery life (by an hour), but has an extra 512MB of RAM soldered on. The 901 has only 1GB in a single SODIMM slot, but is upgradable to 2GB, the maximum supported by the chipset.

Acer's model is wider by an inch. This makes the keyboard a little bit easier to type on since the keys are bigger. The Aspire has a 0.3 megapixel webcam, but the 901's webcam has 1.3 megapixels.

The Aspire One, however, is $100 cheaper.

After considering my usage model, the superior specs of the Eee PC 901 have won me over.

Next Week: My first impressions of the Eee PC 901

"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher
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