I don’t really “get” shopping at Costco. For starters, you have to pay to become a member, which essentially means you need to buy the right to become their customer.
Then when you get there, you feel you have to buy in quantities that rival army rations. And on your way out, they practically frisk you to make sure you’re only carrying what you paid for.
I guess they want to make sure you don’t have 394 pounds of hamburger hidden somewhere.
Still, the place is crowded with shoppers whenever I’m there, so it can’t be all bad. That was the case the other evening when my wife and daughter dragged me out to look at some mini laptop computers.
What I saw pleased me. In my view, mini laptops are great. They cost very little, run standard software and are extremely lightweight. Although small, the screens are high-resolution and easy on the eyes. And the keyboards are plenty big for touch typing.
I was already familiar with one of the models, the Acer Aspire One. A few months back, a friend bought one and asked if I’d be willing to test drive it for a few days in exchange for loading up all her software. Since one of my Nicom employees got to do the software installation and I got to do the testing, this was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
At about 25 centimetres by 18 centimetres by 2.5 centimetres thick, this is one small laptop, but it is full-function, with a real keyboard and a high-resolution display. The model I tested (1283) comes with one gigabyte of memory (upgradable to 1.5) and 160 gigabytes of hard-disk storage, both of which are quite nice for the Windows XP Home Edition that comes with it.
The only problem with the Home Edition is you cannot connect it to a Windows Server domain, so if you have a central server at the office you might need to upgrade to Windows Professional. I found the Aspire One to be quite rugged as laptops go, and, at $300, a good deal for the money.
The other mini laptop was even cheaper: $250. This was the HP Mini 1000. It is quite similar to the Acer with a few things that may explain the price difference: a hard drive half the size (still no slouch at 80 gigs) and no connections for an external monitor or a hard-wired network. The keyboard is flatter but quite nice. (HP calls it “near full-size” at 92 per cent.)
If all you really need is a highly portable computer for Internet browsing, email and Office applications while you’re on the go, you can’t beat it. But it is limited to just about that, and for that reason Costco folks tell me they’re not replenishing them once the current inventory sells.
One limitation I don’t like in either computer is the screen resolution, maxing out at 1024 by 600, whereas 1024 by 768 is more of a recognized standard. This means more up-and-down scrolling than you would normally do.
Also, don’t expect to be running these machines all day on the batteries that come with it. These have three cells, which should get you a couple of hours but not much more.
I’m not about to turf my trusty notepad for either of these computers. In fact, full-size laptops are coming down in price so much that they are starting to squeeze into the mini laptop space. Still, with either machine you get an amazing amount of computing power for very little money, and they are extremely lightweight. Easy on your back and your wallet.
By the way: other places around town sell these as well. My friend got her Acer at Best Buy. So you don’t need to take out a Costco membership — unless of course you like buying supplies for three years at a time.