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How-To: Upgrade Your Netbook, Easily

Making the Upgrade Call

If you’ve got a Dell Mini 9 or an Asus Eee PC 1000HE, this story will show you exactly what you must do to upgrade some key components. You can give yourself a nice performance bump for as little as $25 for extra RAM, and spend another $60-$80 for more storage. For most netbook owners, this is a real no-brainer. Just be sure to dig up the service manual for your netbook to help you figure out how to get at its innards, if what we show you here doesn’t do the trick for your machine.

For the Mini 9, we think that unless you’re willing to spring for the fastest replacement SSDs, you should probably stick with the STEC SSDs it includes. According to the cognoscenti at MyDellMini.com and TestFreaks.com, the RunCore aftermarket SSDs are the fastest ones available right now. Internet benchmarks show read/write performance about 8% faster for read and over 100% faster for write on the Mini 9 as compared to the STECs. But you’ll pay $80 for a 16 GB and $120 for a 32 GB unit. Our real reason for liking the Mini 9 so much is that it works flawlessly as a so-called “Hackintosh.” All its devices are compatible with OS X, and it’s a very affordable way to put an Intel Macintosh together (see this tutorial for a nice step-by-step). If you head in this direction, you don’t need to buy a Mini 9 with XP installed on it, either, which should cut your price by $50 or so.

For the 1000HE, the Seagate Momentus 7200.4 gave us a nice performance bump at a very reasonable price, and increased our storage capacity by an additional 50% as well. The SSD is faster, especially during boot-up and shutdown, but the cost is greater and the storage capacity is smaller. Where it might make sense to spend $325 on an SSD for a bigger, more power notebook, we’re hard-pressed to justify that kind of outlay at a cost that is comparable to the price of the netbook itself.  And contrary to our expectations, Battery Eater showed that the 1000HE got very good battery life from both conventional hard disks (4:46 for the 250 GB and 4:51 for the 160 GB versus 5:14 for the SSD). There’s only a modest improvement in runtime for the SSD (9% compared to the 250 GB drive and 7% compared to the 160 GB drive), but again, it comes at a high cost.