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In Use

Much praise has been heaped on the NC10's keyboard (Figure 5). As noted earlier, it's as wide as the MSI Wind's, but slightly taller. The extra height seems distributed throughput the keyboard and the bottom row keys are slightly taller than the other rows.

NC10 Keyboard
Click to enlarge image

Figure 5: NC10 Keyboard

Figure 6 shows the Wind's keyboard so that you can more easily compare the two. The NC10's layout is more like the Fujitsu P7120's with the arrow keys pushed down into the bottom row and compressed so that they jog down less than half a key. This makes room for nice wide Shift keys on both sides and also leaves room for full-sized comma, period and slash keys.

But for some reason, the NC10's keyboard ends up with smaller Backspace, Tab, Enter and Caps Lock keys than the Wind and swaps the positions of the left Ctrl and Fn keys, but puts the wider Ctrl key on the left side.

MSI Wind keyboard
Click to enlarge image

Figure 6: MSI Wind keyboard

Even with these changes, however, typing on both machines felt very similar, requiring the same careful hand placement before typing. Once I got going, however, my error rates were similar to those I get on a full-sized keyboard.

The real problem, once again, is in the trackpad. The shorter trackpad has already been mentioned by other reviewers. But since it is a Synaptics pad, I was able to turn off the tap-to-click function and didn't experience the point jumping that I had on the Wind.

But I could not get used to the one-piece mouse-button bar, that I really hope will disappear from the repertoire of Netbook designers. Once again, the buttons were hard to press and my thumb always seemed to naturally sit as the exact wrong position for a proper click.

The real problem I had with the NC10's "buttons", however, was that the button bar sits slightly below the palm rest surface. I found my thumb constantly hitting the narrow frame below the bar and many times had to look at the bar before pressing. And even when I hit it right on, the narrow frame dug into the side of my thumb. So not only annoying, but painful, too!

Verdict

Truth be told, I was so disappointed with the mouse bar that I didn't use the NC10 much before boxing it back up for return. So I didn't get to experience the NC10's superior battery life reported by other reviewers. For $500, I shouldn't have to struggle with mouse clicks and it shouldn't be painful, either! So whatever Netbook that I try next, it will have to have separate left and right mouse buttons.

I'd next like to try the Dell Inspiron Mini 12, but not until the XP version becomes available. (What was Dell thinking putting Vista on a Netbook?!) So we'll both just have to wait and see what I end up trying next!

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