Therefore I've been looking at netbooks. They generally run in the $300-350 range, and are small. They don't have great screen resolution or speed, but they make up for it in low weight and long battery life. Since I primarily want it for writing (and web browsing), that should be fine. I particularly like the Dell Inspiron 11z. I've looked at the reviews, and they almost universally say not to buy it, because the touchpad is unusable. Fortunately, Dell got the message and replaced the touchpad a couple of months ago, but I haven't seen many reviews done on it since then (customer reviews on the new touchpad are generally positive, though).
At $350 the cost is reasonable. Unfortunately, $350 is for the very basic model, and it'll probably end up costing more than that.
I've been trying to figure out what I really need and what I can do without.
First, there's the non-negotiables:
- Windows 7 ($30 for upgrade) - The default is Windows Vista, and I'm unwilling to inflict that on myself. All the reviews say that Windows 7 is better in every way, so I'll shell out extra for it.
- External DVD drive ($65 separate) - As it doesn't come with an internal drive, this is necessary if I want to install any of my old software on it.
Then there's the definitely want:
- Processor upgrade ($75 for upgrade) - According to all the reviews, this makes a definite difference. It certainly sounds worthwhile, and it's the sort of thing that's not easily changed later.
- 6-cell battery ($35 for upgrade) - This I'm a bit more hesitant on. I want the battery life, but this apparently sticks out a bit and makes it heavier. However, longer battery life helps it to fulfill my main objective--a portable computer for writing.
- WiFi n card ($25 for upgrade) - Not that I have an 802.11n network, but it'd be nice to be able to use them.
- Internal bluetooth ($20) - This one would be nice to have, but I can do without.
UPDATE: And... I've changed my mind. This review convinced me that the M101z is a better choice. It has a more expensive base price, but many of the features I was willing to pay extra for, so the total price is lower.