Netbooks are a type of laptop designed with portability in mind. These tiny laptops can cost as little as $200 all the way up to $600 and sometimes more. They typically feature a much smaller keyboard and screen than their full sized counterparts and can weigh as little as one or two pounds. These machines may be much smaller and lighter than your average laptop but, in the world of computers, mobility comes at a price. Netbooks are generally far less powerful than full sized laptops and don’t contain an optical drive. This means you won’t be able to read CDs or DVDs on a netbook without an external drive.
Netbooks are perfect if you just need a lightweight machine for surfing the web, checking emails, and chatting on instant messengers. They’re not really suited to heavy multitasking and usually won’t handle high definition video too well. 3D Gaming is completely out of the question as netbooks lack the hardware to handle a lot of 3D rendering. If a netbook sounds like the right kind of laptop computer for you, here are some things you should look at before deciding which one you want to purchase:
Battery life is obviously a very important factor if you’re looking for a laptop you can use on the go and all netbooks are definitely not created equal in this aspect. Netbook battery life ranges from just around 2 hours all the way to about 11 hours. If you plan on carrying your netbook around with you to places where you won’t have access to a power outlet, you’ll definitely want to invest in one with a longer battery life.
Hard Drive Capacity
Some netbooks on the market today have hard drives as small as 8GB (gigabytes). These smaller hard drives are solid state hard drives. While solid state hard drives have no moving parts and therefore are much more durable than standard hard drives, they’re also a lot more expensive. A netbook with an 8GB solid state hard drive can cost as much as a similar machine that contains a hard drive over 100GB.
To give you an idea of how much a gigabyte is, one gigabyte is equal to about 200 songs or 2 hours of standard definition video. If you’re just going to browse the web, create some documents, and don’t plan to install much, a smaller hard drive. On the other hand, f you plan on installing a lot of programs and storing media files, be sure to pick up one of the larger capacity netbooks.
Keyboard and Screen Size
Netbooks come with LCD screens as small as 7 or 8 inches (measured diagonally). While this makes the machine smaller and easier to carry around, it also means text on the tiny screen will be difficult to read. If you don’t have good eyesight, stick with a netbook that has a 10 or 11 inch screen. Also, pay attention to the type of screen the netbook you plan to purchase has. Look for netbooks with an LED backlit LCD screen. These screens have more vibrant colors, darker blacks, and save battery life.
Another important factor to keep in mind when you make your purchase is the keyboard size and layout. If you have large hands, you’re probably going to want one of the larger netbooks. The smaller ones will have smaller keyboards, which you may find difficult to type on. You’re also going to want to look at the keyboard layout. A lot of netbook manufacturers alter the position of some keys to make the small keyboard fit better on the tiny machine. Having certain keys out of place can make typing difficult so be sure to check for this beforehand.
Mobile Broadband Support
If you plan on accessing the internet while away from your home wireless network, you’re going to need a netbook which supports mobile broadband. Wireless broadband is usually accessed on netbooks via a 3G/4G sim card or USB mobile broadband adapter. You can often purchase a netbook at a discount if you also purchase a mobile broadband plan along with it.
Included Operating System
The only way to install an operating system on a netbook is to purchase an external CD/DVD drive. If you don’t plan on purchasing one, you’ll definitely want to make sure your netbook comes with the operating system of your choice. Most netbooks sold today have Windows XP or Windows 7 Starter installed on the device. Rarely, some netbooks will have Windows Vista installed when you purchase them. I can’t recommend Vista on a netbook as most netbooks don’t have the system resources to run it very well. If you have the choice of what operating system is installed on your netbook, stick with Windows XP or Windows 7 Starter.
Of course, you’ll also want to check out key components such as the processor speed and memory when buying a netbook but these are more or less standard. Netbooks typically have a 1.6GHz Intel Atom Processor or equivalent AMD processor and 1-2GB of RAM. Make sure you’re fully informed and know what you’re buying before dropping a few hundred dollars on one of these mini laptops. If there’s anything you’re unsure about, take the time to ask a store employee questions or check out reviews of the model you’re interested in, if purchasing online.