Netbooks have been selling like hotcakes since 2007, when Asus introduced what many consider to be the netbook that started the craze, the Eee PC. This article will explain what netbooks are, what they can and can’t do, and what the advantages and disadvantages are.
So, what is a netbook? A netbook is basically a mini laptop, both in size and specifications. This means that a netbook weighs very little but they are also less suitable for complex tasks, such as video rendering or graphics.
What’s the difference between a netbook and a laptop? There are a few key differences between the two: A netbook is a lot smaller than a laptop. The price of a netbook varies from about $300 to $600 USD, and the hardware is usually less powerful than a laptop’s.
Here is a list of hardware specifications available in a typical netbook. Like most technology, advances in netbook hardware can happen rapidly. As a result, better hardware may be available.
* Screen 7″ to 10″ wide (diagonally).
* Processor speeds from approximately 400 MHz to 1.6GHz.
* WiFi capable.
* Keyboard is between 80 and 90% smaller than a normal keyboard.
* Either a conventional hard drive, or a Solid State drive. (See below for more information.)
* Many have bluetooth and a built in webcam and microphone.
* Memory card reader supporting SD, SDHC and MMC cards.
* 250 MB to 4 GB of RAM.
* Battery duration of about 2 to 4 hours.
* Weighs between 1.5 and 3 lbs.
Conventional drives often have 80 GB or more of storage. SSD drives generally hold less, but they have no moving parts, and are lighter and more durable. Of course, you can always buy an external memory (flash) card to save your data on.
A major drawback of most netbooks is that they have no optical drive. This makes it impossible to access anything from a CD or DVD (including movies) unless you buy an external drive. Fortunately, a netbook usually comes with the software needed to work properly.
Like laptops, most netbooks have a pre-installed operating system. Linux and Windows XP are the two most popular, and Windows Vista is gaining in popularity. Beginning in 2010 netbooks will be released with Windows 7, the new operating system from Microsoft. Linux already has a powerful office suite called Open Office, which is available for download on Windows too. If you prefer, Microsoft Office can easily be installed on a netbook by either using an external drive or downloading the trial version from the Microsoft website.
A netbook is perfectly suited for e-mail, browsing the Internet, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, chat, and many other applications. Google now offers a wide range of software, such as an online word processor, spreadsheet program, and more. This software is excellent for use on a netbook.
A netbook offers the advantages of being extremely portable and relatively inexpensive. A netbook weighs less and is therefore ideal for business travel. Most netbooks have convenient built-in features like WiFi, Bluetooth, some even have a webcam and microphone.
Of course, netbooks have some drawbacks, too. Most netbooks have limited storage. Software and data such as documents fit fine, but a movie or large music collection probably wouldn’t. Also, the lack of an optical drive is inconvenient at best. A netbook is not suitable for running programs such as AutoCAD or Adobe Creative Suite that require a lot of memory. The final downside is the battery life, which for a device intended for portable use, is short.
Before you purchase a netbook, ask yourself the following questions:
* What do I want to use the netbook for?
* Do I want a Windows or Linux system?
* Do I use the computer on-the-go enough to benefit from it?
If you want to be able to work from outside your home or office without lugging around a heavy laptop, then a netbook is a good alternative given the size, price and features.
Sources: Wikipedia, “Comparison of netbooks”
Clive Thompson, “The Netbook Effect: How Cheap Little Laptops Hit the Big Time”, Wired Magazine