Netbooks for translators

With my previous laptop having finally succumbed to old age, it was time to find another tool to allow me to work remotely. At home, a self-built desktop PC serves me well in my comfortable chair, but on sunny days when the garden calls, or when travelling anywhere else for any reason, the smartphone doesn’t quite cut it, even if I did manage to get a CAT tool running on it.

The alternative was another laptop or a netbook. Netbooks were my ideal first choice, but given that we (as translators) type thousands of words a day, keyboards, screen sizes and processing power were major concerns. But early on in my search I came across the AMD Fusion chipset which provides cheap dual-core processing to netbooks. I found a range of netbooks having just been released at around the £300 mark and set about reading reviews and user experiences online. One product stood out; the Lenovo X120e. It had won awards, generated a buzz and looked good to boot.


With this new-fangled processor, up to 8GB of RAM, a full size keyboard and a matte screen for working in sunlight, I was amazed to see that much power in a device no larger than a sheet of A4 paper, at the same price as my desktop cost to build last year. The buying process was slightly complicated as the matte screen version was only available in the States, with no international shipping option, so I set about arranging the purchase with the help of friend in New York. I ended up paying extra shipping and taxes, but still within the realm of reasonably priced mobile working. 5 weeks later the order arrived and I got to work setting it up.

Set up

I installed MS Office, MemoQ, Skype, Chrome, Firefox etc. and it all went as well as can be from that perspective. Initially I had trouble working with the US keyboard, having switched from a French one, but remembered where everything should be after a few emails. I then copied over my TMs and project files for a large translation assignment and got started. It was absolutely fine. A little slower than on my desktop, but only marginally, when loading gigabyte-sized TMs for example.

The machine came with 2GB of RAM which I have now, after several weeks of usage, upgraded to 6GB using a 4GB module from Crucial (£30 only, shipped next day!) and now the performance of the machine has leaped forward. And it performs marvellously on even the most complicated of projects.

Out and about

The battery life, around 6 hours, works well when there are no power outlets around. It’s not often that I’m anywhere without power for that long, but when out working in Nottingham city recently I found it lasted for as long as I wanted to work, giving me a freedom I didn’t have with my laptop which consumed a lot more power for a lot less performance.

Another improvement to my working environment, apart from that freedom to change office location at will, is the ability to create a stand-up desk wherever I can put the netbook down at chest height. My office chair is comfortable and protects me from all manner of aches and pains, but now I can actively stand, as I am while writing this, which I’m hoping will have some positive health benefits.

So as you might be able to tell, I’m happy with the new computer. It should last for many years to come and allow me to keep up productivity while freeing me from the desk.

Thanks for reading. I do translation from French and Swedish to English, so if that's useful to you, feel free to connect and message me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Published by and tagged translation using 602 words.