What is the best netbook operating system?

Justin Pot March 1, 2011
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It’s long been my quest to find the perfect netbook operating system. I thought it was Jolicloud Jolicloud: The Operating System Download for Netbook You've Been Looking For Jolicloud: The Operating System Download for Netbook You've Been Looking For Read More , but the way their HTML5 interface hides important system functions annoys me quite a bit. So what to check out? I own an EEE PC 900a, Intel Atom processor, 1 gig RAM 16 Gig SSD.

I’d rather not use Windows 7, but am open to arguments for it. This device can’t run OS X without a replacement wireless card, and I don’t think the experience would be great regardless. So that basically leaves Linux.

Part of me wishes Moblin/MeeGo was further along the development path, because I like a lot of what they’re doing, but doing simple things with that system requires some hacking (article link How To Get Dropbox, Skype, Adobe Air & Codecs Working on Meego (Netbook OS) How To Get Dropbox, Skype, Adobe Air & Codecs Working on Meego (Netbook OS) Read More ).

I currently use Ubuntu 10.10, but the Unity interface slows things down a lot. Maybe 11.04 will be faster, but I don’t want to use a beta system right now.

So what I’m wondering is this: is there a simple, netbook-centric operating system out there that’s light on resources but powerful enough for day-to-day usage? Fill me in, MUO readers!

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  1. Mhpathfinder
    December 23, 2011 at 5:05 am

    As of today, Dec. 22nd, 2011, my choice is Ubuntu 10.04 LTS, Netbook Edition.  I run an Asus EEE PC 1000HEB.  Ubuntu Netbook Edition 10.04 boots quickly, within 20 seconds.  Runs smoothly, efficiently, and with good speed.  The menu system is comfortable and easy, and programs open up maximized to fill the 10.1-inch screen.  Multiple programs easily accessible via their respective icons on the one taskbar at top of the screen, or via alt-tab on the keyboard.

    Within the past year, I've had Ubuntu 11.10, Mint 12, Ping-EEE and Bohdi linux on this netbook.  Bohdi is a very scaled-down version of Ubuntu, to which one can add only the apps and programs he or she wishes.  A bit too lean for my liking, but for an older PC or laptop with limited hardware resources, it should fare well.  Ubuntu 11.10 has the problem of Unity, which is too demanding for an Intel Atom processor.  Mint 12 and Ping-EEE are both Ubuntu-based distros, running on Gnome 2, which is good, with an option for using Gnome 3 in Mint.  Better than Unity, but still has a few extra steps to get to apps and programs rather than from the main desktop.  The developer of PInguyOS created Ping-EEE, scaled down from PinguyOS for the netbook.

    In my opinion, nothing comes close to the ease-of-use, efficiency, quick boot-up time, and speed of Ubuntu Netbook Edition, 10.04 LTS. 

  2. Anonymous
    October 1, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    curios. if you're looking for a simple light day to day os then why is the hidden system functions in joli os bad? simple day to day would seem to indicate that hidden system functions were not a priority. i guess it depends on what the day to day functions are.

  3. Ashok Kannivadi
    October 1, 2011 at 3:48 am

    i have used Ubuntu, Windows XP, Windows 7 and Joli OS... of these i really like Joli OS... it seems great with features mainly for netbook... i currently typing this comment using netbook...

  4. Wiresnake
    August 10, 2011 at 6:06 am

    Puppy (()) 

  5. Antigherkin
    July 31, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    I have had four OSs running on my emachines 350. It came pre-installed with XP, which I'm obliged to keep for work but is quite poor, in terms of speed particularly (it takes ages to boot up and sign in). I also have Joli OS installed, which I really like for basic browsing due to its speed and sleek appearance but like you find the interface limiting. I have also had some problems with drivers for this system: I have still not found a way to get it to work with my Vodafone wireless dongle. I did also have Ubuntu Netbook for a while, which I didn't like at all due to the sidebar, which couldn't be hidden and severely hampered my browsing experience as each page needed to be scrolled across as well as down. I replaced this with Linux Mint, which is much better. It's faster and less bloated than XP and has more functionality than Jolicloud. I have mine skinned to look like Mac OS (using Macbuntu), so it looks great too.

    One other I'd mention is EasyPeasy Linux. I installed this on my mum's desktop, even though it is a netbook OS, because of its speed and simplicity. It seems like a very smart and straightforward Ubuntu-based distro which combines simplicity with functionality, but doesn't seem to get much attention compared to other netbook OSs for some reason.

  6. Mhelliott
    March 6, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    I've found the best combination of speed and hardware support in several Debian derivatives. The new Mint Debian Edition is very stable and fast. The newest CrunchBang is faster, but not as elegant feeling. I had hardware issues with Aptosid that I was too lazy to look into. I liked the KDE netbook interface much better than Unity, but neither were as fast or as easy to navigate as a regular Desktop edition. Right now I'm using CrunchBang because I'm hungry for speed.

  7. Wingo
    March 5, 2011 at 5:38 am

    I have tried a huge variety of operating systems on my eeepc701 and settled for sidux which is now aptosid. It seems the best blend of speed and features when running xfce.

    I have a Toshiba NB200 with the standard Atom processor and again have tried a large number of operating systems. Your choice will always be a compromise. I have tried the netbook remix versions and don't really like them, for me I always come back to Linux Mint using either xfce, lxde or fluxbox, or crunchbang linux. I have just tried archbang live on a usb and I think it is a winner but I can't get it to install without completely wiping my hard drive partitions and starting again. I will do this when I have time because it seems very good for the way I use my netbook. Good luck.

  8. iwanttoknow
    March 4, 2011 at 3:41 am

    Ubuntu net book edition

  9. Roy
    March 2, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    As has been mentioned already, this is largely a matter of personal preference. I have the same model and have tried Ubuntu Netbook Edition, Ubuntu Desktop Edition, Linux Mint and Windows XP. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. I found Ubuntu Netbook Edition a little too simplistic, but the performance was better than the Desktop Edition.

    I'm currently still running Linux Mint and it's working well. The performance is definitely acceptable.

    One thing that has increased performance for me is that I don't use the SSD as my boot device. Instead, I bought a high-capacity SD card that is actually faster, and installed the OS on it. Since doing so, performance has been acceptable with every OS that I've run. In the case of Ubuntu Netbook Edition and Linux Mint it's been more than acceptable; I'd even go so far as to call it quite good.

  10. Mike
    March 2, 2011 at 10:13 am

    I guess it always depends on what your aiming to use the Netbook for and if you have any requirements [like specific software you want to have access to].

    Chrome OS is a very nice operating system for Netbooks but you are bound to everything Google.
    Meego is nice too if you are into social networking and instant messaging.

    In fact any Linux Distro is able to be a powerful companion on a Netbook. Some of them just require some initial tweaking to be performant.

    The same goes for WinXP with a few tweaks and maintenance in terms of background services and startup items it will perform great.
    My Dell Mini 10v boots WinXP in <20 seconds thanks to customizing all Windows Services (settings I've been working on since the release of XP)

  11. Aibek
    March 2, 2011 at 8:17 am

    Hey Justin,

    I was searching MUO for related article and guess who article I found :-)

    4 Netbook Operating Systems Worth Checking Out, http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/4-netbook-operating-systems-worth-checking/

    Did you check out the article from Lifehacker?

    Five Best Netbook Operating Systems
    http://lifehacker.com/#!5471394/five-best-netbook-operating-systems

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