Old School Ultraportables: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Old School Ultraportables: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Can’t decide between an Eee and a Wind? A Mini note or an Aspire One? Believe it or not, there’s a bunch of old school smaller laptops that may do the job for less money. We took a look at 7 old school ultraportables.

Old School Ultraportables Roudup: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Some of these models may appear a little clunky or by today’s standards, but each were chosen on the basis they fulfil at least two of these specifications:

- 12” (or smaller) screen
- Priced on the 2nd hand market (eBay) at $699 or less.
- Decent processor and memory specs (that would compare with the Eee PC 701 at least)

Old School Laptop Checklist

- Check the weight
Don’t expect all these models to be extremely light – some weigh as much as 2.2 kilos, and that was considered to be fairly luxurious compared to the heavier bulky ‘brick’ models from the 15.4” range (or larger). Some of them, including the Lenovos and the IBMs weigh little more than the Eee PCs and still make great little workhorses.

- Check your battery charge
Most sellers on EBay specifically mention the state of the battery and it’s important to ask them if they don’t. Usually they will specify if the battery can hold a full charge. Some won’t even be able to do this as they age. The best way to ensure no battery hijinks, is to consider purchasing an extra brand new battery.

There are plenty of sellers on EBay offering spare batteries for older models at less than $40 in most cases.

- CPU differences
Most of the old school ultraportables we listed utilised the Intel Celeron or Pentium M CPU. These days you’ll find current ultraportables powered by a battery efficient (but less powerful) Intel Atom or Via chipset.

Ironically, today’s ultraportables are still not as powerful as some of the best old school models in raw performance (i.e. – a 1.6 GHz Pentium M is still better at most calculations than an Intel Atom, based on this performance table bench test.

- Non standard specs
Obviously, some eBay sellers are keen to soup up their old school notebooks by inserting more RAM or a bigger HDD to increase interest. Furthermore, different models released in different countries can carry wildly different specs from another released elsewhere.

- It’s okay to feel used
It’s okay to feel used, even if that means buying a pre-loved model. Most of the old school models out there are refurbished or used units. You’d be very lucky to find a brand new unit less than 2 years old.

Furthermore, they still make good investments for students or business people hoping to run XP office, DivX movies and music. Check for screen damage and always ask questions if you’re unsure about anything.

In the tradition of the great westerns, we ranked each of the eight notebooks we selected, according to their best (Hit) and weakest features (Miss).

Three catagories – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly show off the best and worst of old school ultraportables in general (the list is numbered in no particular order).

Let the Old School ultraportable duelling begin!

------------The GOOD--------------

1) DELL Lattitude D400

Hit: 12” screen, 1.6 GHz Pentium M 1.6GHz processor, 1 GB Memory, WIFI, XGA Display (1024 x 768 Resolution) 64MB Intel 855GM Video Adapter

Miss: External CD Drive, 20GB Hard Drive. No DVD/RW.

Price: $212.50 on eBay

Verdict: This is one sweet notebook. It’s fast, it has decent memory and it still holds up by today’s standards. Those prices on eBay make it a dirt cheap alternative to the higher priced Eee PC range. A decent buy.

2)Lenovo 3000 V100 - top pick

Hit: 12” screen, Centrino Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 100GB HD, DVDRW+DL , WIFI, BlueTooth, Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire, Finger Print Security.

Miss: Extremely hard to find on EBay Australia or similar local auction sites.

Price: $699 (Buy it now) on eBay USA.

Verdict: Probably the slickest and highest spec ultraportable in our old school roundup. It’s the newest in our list and wouldn’t have made the cut, were it not for its surprisingly good price ($699), which puts in firmly in touch with the MSI Wind and Eee PC 1000H. That makes it's phenomenally good value and one of our top picks.
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