Best Netbook OS: Ubuntu vs. XP vs. Windows 7: Page 2

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I’d expected Windows 7 to be a dog on a netbook. After all, the bloated system requirements of Vista make it a no-go right from the start. To my surprise it wasn’t, and I’d installed the Ultimate “all-bells-and-whistles” rather than the more frugal Starter or Premium editions.

In fact, once again the performance was better than that of the original OS. Other than from a cost point of view, I can see no reason to run the cut-down Starter edition of Windows 7 on netbooks. That lowly 1.6GHz Atom CPU and 1GB of RAM is happy powering the OS as well as running multiple applications simultaneously.

Installing Windows 7 wasn’t without issues, though. But things were made easier by the fact that Samsung has Vista versions of the proprietary Easy Battery manager and Easy Display manager software that are loaded on the NC10 (it’s not specifically for the NC10, but instead aimed at Q1 users). This works fine under Windows 7.

Oddly enough, while the Wi-Fi adaptor worked great under 7, the wired LAN adaptor initially wouldn’t work. Turns out that the Marvell Yukon drivers for the 88E8040 network adaptor had to be installed manually. Another issue related to sound not working after resuming from sleep. This was resolved by installing the Vista drivers for the Realtek HD Audio.

So, which OS is best?

So, which OS is best suited to netbooks? That’s a tougher question that it seems. All three work on the netbook and my take is that the one that suits you best depends on your circumstances.

If you’re after performance then you’re not going to get the best out of your netbook if it’s running on XP. The choice of whether to go with Ubuntu or Windows 7 really depends on whether you’re going to be using the netbook as a stand-alone device or whether you’re integrating it into an existing Windows or Linux-based ecosystem.

It also depends on how comfortable you feel experimenting. If you’re after a quiet life, just stick with the OS that came pre-installed with the system. That way there’s no hassles and no surprises.

Bottom line, though, is this – current netbooks are very capable devices and when it comes to running the very latest desktop OSes they seem to be quite future-proof.

While many Linux-based netbooks ship with distros that have been customized for netbooks (such as Linpus Linux Lite that ships on the Acer Aspire One), you can deploy a full desktop Linux solution onto a netbook without any real performance loss.

Equally, if you’ve bought one running XP and feel that it might become obsolete once Windows 7 is out, there’s no need to fear as the hardware is capable of handling the new OS (in fact, by the time Windows 7 is released it should be even easier to install it onto netbooks as the driver issues should be sorted out fully by then).

It’s reassuring to know that a netbook you buy now (or bought over the past few months) won’t be obsolete once Windows 7 is out. (Or, for that matter, the next incarnation of Ubuntu, which also runs well on netbooks.)

Which do I prefer?

Which OS would I choose? Well, I’ll be honest with you and say upfront that I don’t get along very well with netbooks because of my giant Shrek-like hands. So I prefer something that’s a little bigger.

But having had face time with the three operating systems, my choice would be Windows 7. However, my worry when it comes to Windows 7 is that OEMs will push the Starter edition of the OS in users to save money. The drawback of this edition is that it has a built-in “three applications running at any one time” limit and netbooks would really be held back by this artificial limit.

If I was inclined to on a Linux-powered netbook then there’s no doubt in my mind that I’d forget about all the cut-down versions and install a proper, full-blown desktop flavor.

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Tags: Linux, Ubuntu, Windows 7, netbooks, XP

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