I happen to be in the market for a portable PC at the moment, which means I'm viewing each notebook, netbook, and desktop replacement that crosses my desk for review from a slightly more personal perspective. Each one is a possible contender for my money.
The latest one to come my way is Gateway's new 1.25 kg LT22 netbook. After lugging around a succession of pricey 17-inch laptops, I'm strongly leaning toward something much smaller - and cheaper. Priced at $349.99, the LT22 makes for a tempting option.
I've always liked Gateway's computers. The Acer subsidiary's performance-to-price ratios seem to hit the sweet spot; they're often a little more powerful and cost a bit less than you might expect. Sadly, they've typically been difficult to find in Canada. However, the American computer maker made a bit of a push north of the border this summer, with several new machines popping up in local big box electronics stores. You can find the LT22 at Future Shop.
Its 1.7 GHz AMD Athlon II Neo K125 processor won't break any speed records, but it let me navigate between web pages, e-mail, and a photo gallery with little in the way of noticeable delay. And a gig of DDR3 memory and ATI Mobility Radeon HD4225 graphics let it play well with multimedia and even some (very) basic games. I downloaded and played the recently released strategy game Worms Reloaded over the Steam platform with no complaints.
HDMI and VGA outputs let you jack into external monitors as necessary (though be prepared for a performance dip in certain applications if you move to a higher resolution screen), while a trio of USB ports ought to be enough to handle most people's peripheral needs. Wireless N should do the trick for the majority of networking situations. An Ethernet port handles wired connectivity.
I didn't formally test the six-cell lithium-ion battery, but there was still plenty of juice to spare after the three hours I initially spent putting the LT22 through its paces by surfing the web, checking e-mail, and downloading and consuming a variety of media.
And it looks nice. The interior sports a classy and minimal black and grey theme, while the lid is made of a dark brownish metal featuring an etched square pattern. Suitable for work or school, with just a dab of panache.
The screen bothered me, though. It's bright enough, but I could make out a mesh grid of pixels in white backgrounds and light grey navigation bars. At 10.1 inches and with a resolution of 1024-by-600 it's about on par with competing devices, but I don't recall the screen door effect being quite so apparent in other netbooks I've tried.
However, the biggest problem I ran across with the LT22 - and this applies to 10-inch netbooks in general - is that it feels too small to do any real work. On trips and at events I need to be able to punch out and edit hundreds of words quickly, comfortably, and efficiently. I just can't do that with a cramped screen and smaller-than-standard keyboard. The LT22's keys are spread out over a smaller area than those of a traditional laptop keyboard, and some - such as the forward and back slashes - are uncomfortably tiny.
The LT22 is a great for surfing the Internet, squirting out e-mails, and even playing the occasional casual game. But, as my wife pointed out during my deliberations, I can do all of these things with our iPad. In my situation, a netbook simply doesn't make sense. I need something a bit more conventional.
As for those with different circumstances? The LT22 is worth consideration. It doesn't lead the pack in any significant way, but it's functional and affordable. It fits the bill for casual commuter and couch computing.