Do great looks and an almost full-sized keyboard make the Toshiba Mini NB200 the perfect netbook?
It seems like only yesterday that the netbook was a niche product with limited appeal due to the trade-off between portability and fire power. However, at this stage, many moons have passed, with most PC manufacturers having released their own models, and Toshiba is already onto its second generation, the NB200.
The NB105 marked Toshiba’s foray into netbook territory and typical of most netbooks still on the market, the low price point was reflected in a somewhat cheap, clunky, plasticy finish. However, if the NB105 was a Ford Escort, then in terms of style and substance the NB200, with bigger screen, better processor and more storage, is surely a somewhat nicer car (I admit, I know nothing about cars, but isn’t comparing it to a Porsche just clichéd?)
On first glance, the Mini NB200 is beautifully finished and quite slim-line, and meeting my prerequisite for finding a netbook any way usable, it has a 10.1-inch screen with a good hard drive at 160GB.
It has the new, more powerful Intel N280 Atom processor and runs on Windows XP Home Edition, so no annoying grinding or lag when opening applications. In fact, it is quite silent, but let’s get straight to the heart of the matter – is it any good to use?
The best way to test any hardware worth its weight in salt is to give it a baptism of fire that will instantly test its strengths and weaknesses.
What does any good netbook promise? Portability and convenience with more or less the benefits of a full laptop, minus trimmings such as a powerful processor, high-end graphics card, large hard drive, full-sized keyboard and optical disk drive.
The Toshiba NB200 has the portability and convenience down to a tee. Like most other netbooks on the market, you really can lop this into your bag (it weighs only 3lbs) and carry it around without feeling the extra weight.
My first time using it was to take notes at a conference, and I wanted it to boot up quickly and quietly. I was also crossing my fingers that the screen and keyboard would be adequate to type away, perched on my knees, and not have me squinting at the screen and bashing the wrong keys by virtue of being used to a full-size keyboard.
The screen is bright, clear and doesn’t give you the urge to lean in and peer closer. At 10.1-inches, this is fine for staring at things like word processing, web pages and all the other day-to-day things you would normally use a laptop for.
The only downside – and this is something I have come across in other brands of netbooks – is that you cannot rest your hands on the body while typing because it has a tendency to hit off the mousepad and the mouse jumps back to another place onscreen while you are in the middle of typing, so without even noticing you are inserting your words somewhere else. Annoying.
Like I said, this is a problem with netbooks across the board because there is only so much space you can afford to the keyboard and mousepad in a limited size. Having said that, you tend to get used to it quickly and learn not to accidentally brush the mouse pad mid-typing.
With notebooks that drain quite quickly after powering them fully, I welcomed the battery life of the NB200. Granted, I only had Word and Firefox (lots of tabs open though!) open, but this little baby lasted for hours and I was able to continue tying up notes in the sunshine, post-conference.
Now, onto the more interesting and unique features of the NB200 – it has a great USB ‘sleep and charge’ functionality that allows you to plug in your MP3 player, phone or any other portable device that charges via USB to power up while the netbook is switched off.
This is an invaluable feature for the frequent traveller who doesn’t want to be lugging lots of different chargers around with them. It gets a big gold star from me for this feature alone.
I also found internet connectivity to be hassle-free: I liked the way there was a radar-like representation of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots floating around the atom that is your netbook, spread out on the various rings in order of signal strength. Handy of you’re nipping in and out of different places with unknown Wi-Fi availability.
As per usual for a netbook it has a webcam of 0.3-megapixels, which sounds bad in comparison to a camera phone, but this is pretty much standard and is simply for video chatting.
In terms of connectivity, the NB200 has a three USB ports, a network port, headphone jack, microphone jack, an RGB monitor port, Bluetooth on selected models, and a bridge media adapter slot, so no shortage there. Everyone needs at least two USB slots on their notebook or netbook.
Verdict: I have held lighter netbooks, but this one was pretty nippy and as stylish as they come.
Price: From €319 (ex VAT)
From: Selected retailers