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The cost of being connected

April 18, 2009

The title of this post may give the impression that I am here to give a dire warning about ‘The cost of being connected’. The cost to your soul. Your. Very. Soul.

However, I am not. This is not my ‘Susan Greenfield moment’ — this is just about the cost in money. Phew!

Now, I am a careful user of technology and treat laptops as delicate items, which they fundamentally are. My £1,000+ Sony laptop did not have the same feeling of mutual respect, however, and fell to bits anyway (literally). And it’s going to be at least two months before I can get a new fancy one that will edit videos without going into Slug Mode (TM).

I can’t be left without the ability to go online, email, or write, obviously, so something had to be done. So I got one of those little netbooks, an Eee PC 1000, from Amazon for £290.

£290! That’s the same price as a half-decent digital camera.

asus_eeepc_1000_1On Westminster Media Comment we’re not here to do product reviews. But it’s worth noting this change in affordability. My first laptop, in 1995, cost over £2,000, and its processing and storage capacities were, of course, a teeny tiny fraction of anything you can buy today.

I’m sure your grandad has told you many stories just like that. But more surprisingly, my new £290 netbook has got twice the storage capacity of my supposedly-fancy (but fallen-to-bits) Sony Vaio from 2006 (160 gb, compared to 80 gb)… it’s got 3 USB ports (Sony: 2)… and it seems more robust.

OK, you’re saying, this ‘Eee PC’ was cheap and has some lots of storage, but does it actually work? Well, funnily enough, it does. I always thought these cheap laptops must run very slowly. But it very sensibly runs Windows XP — the version of Windows that actually works (TM) — and runs very well. It connects to wireless internet with no problems and does everything pretty quickly — faster, probably, than my poor old Sony. The keyboard is good. The battery life is unusually long for any laptop (up to seven hours are promised … but even if that’s only four in reality, that’s still good). I could go on…

It doesn’t come with a build-in CD/DVD drive, so you have to find an external one to plug in if you want to add software (…or you could download it), but that’s part of what makes it cheap – and light. And I thought it was a well-known fact that you pay more for smallness, in laptops… but, apparently, no longer.

So for £290 you can get one of these, go to one of the growing number of places with free wi-fi (for instance, I spent yesterday on the internet for free at the British Library), and participate in social networks, blogging, writing Wikipedia articles about disused railway stations, or whatever takes your fancy.

There are even cheaper ways to get online, of course, but I have been impressed with this one. Very good. Asus did not pay me for this blog post, honest.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. onmejack permalink
    April 20, 2009 1:43 pm

    Out of curiousity, and at the risk of asking a stupid question how are you connected to the wi-fi, have you had to get a deal with a mobile phone company?

  2. April 20, 2009 2:01 pm

    If you had been willing to sign up to a 3G broadband network for a £30 monthly fee you could have had the laptop for free of course, and if you hadn’t minded an even lower spec you could have had a Dell for less than £200. Yes, it’s a brave new world!

  3. April 20, 2009 2:45 pm

    Thanks for the comments. Yes, there are *even* cheaper ways to get online. In this case I was impressed by the quality of the hardware, as I tend to think you get what you pay for, so was surprised by the power, speed and robustness of this cheap item.

    As ‘onmejack’ rightly notes, connecting to the internet may not be free in itself … in the case of my example, you’d need to be in a free wi-fi hotspot (such as the British Library that I mentioned).

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