Netbook Mania. Everyone’s Gotta Have One, But What is it?
By Robert McMillen, Koin’s Tech Guru
How many times have you been at the airport with your laptop and thought, “I wish this thing wasn’t so big”? Well, cue the Superman music, because almost everything you ever wanted in a tiny laptop has hit the store shelves. Prepare to be underwhelmed!
What? What do I mean by that? I ask myself this a lot when I have these conversations with myself. Let’s get to the question of the week and see if I make any sense. And, if I don’t, then I blame it on the cold I caught after getting off the plane last week.
Q- “I am looking for a cheap laptop and I see these little netbooks for a few hundred dollars. Should I get one of these? How do these compare to regular laptops? The guy behind the counter wasn’t able to explain much.” Jeremiah P. from Portland
A- Well, Jer, can I call you Jer? You don’t have to answer that. (Whew! That cold medicine is good stuff.) Netbooks are a whole new breed of small computers utilizing new technology because of small power sipping processors which are mostly made by Intel. I’m sorry the guy behind the counter wasn’t nerdy enough to answer this for you, but I don’t have that problem.
The plus side to netbooks is that they are very small. This makes them easy to travel with and whip out at the airport security line. They also help out when I have that guy in the airplane that always sits in front me who reclines as far back as his chair will allow (you know who you are). With a regular laptop, I would be so jammed up against it I couldn’t get the angle right to even see the screen. Don’t worry, though, because I always jam my knees up into the back of his chair and hum “It’s a small world” in his ear until he puts it back up.
Netbooks are lightweight and pretty fast too. Some have solid state drives that are small but very fast, while others opt for a big hard drive that runs a little slower. Most have network, wireless and Bluetooth connections to get you on the internet in multiple ways. They’re also very inexpensive, and I will give you some examples later on. The batteries can last the entire work day, depending on how you setup your power settings. They can run multiple different operating systems including Windows XP, Vista, and Linux of many flavors. They’ll also run Windows 7 when it’s released. You can download books on them and turn the netbook sideways to read it like a vertical page. This is a lot less expensive and more versatile than a Kindle from Amazon. Most netbooks come with built in cameras for quick and easy video conference meetings on the go, although resolution won’t be very high.
One of the big downsides to netbooks is that they have no CD or DVD player, so watching movies on them will only work if you lug around a USB CD/DVD drive. You can pretty much forget about installing high end programs on them as well. You’re not going to be editing movies, CAD drawings, or websites much on these guys. They are mostly good for sending and receiving emails and surfing the web. Sure, there will be people who figure out a way to install some of these programs and get them to work, but it won’t be at the same speed, and that could drive you crazy. And this week I know crazy.
Plus, the great advantage of them being small is negated if you can’t see things that tiny. The screen sizes vary from around 7-10 inches. If you already need coke bottle sized glasses to read this article on a regular sized screen, then you can forget about a netbook.
Don’t buy a netbook to save money. You will just be frustrated about all the things you can’t do on them.
Don’t buy a netbook for kids, because they won’t be able to load all their obnoxious games on them or play their videos. They won’t have a very good time editing their My Space and Facebook Pages on such a small screen either. (But if you’re a really mean uncle, then by all means go for it. Watch their faces go from being all lit up to being all bummed out. It serves them right for breaking all your stuff.)
Do buy a netbook to travel with and get work done if you live and die by email, and your smart phone is just too small for you to type on. Another great use is for college students when taking notes in class.
Here are a few examples of some netbooks on the market:
HP 2133 Mini-Note - C7-M 1.2 GHz - 8.9" TFT Price $279.99
1.2 GHz - RAM 1 GB - HDD 120 GB Hard Drive- Gigabit Ethernet - WLAN : 802.11a/b/g, Bluetooth 2.0 - XP Home Basic - 8.9" Widescreen TFT 1024 x 600 ( WSVGA ) – camera
Acer Aspire ONE A150-1049 - Atom N270 1.6 GHz - 8.9" Price $325.99
1.6 GHz - RAM 1 GB - HDD 160 GB Hard Drive- WLAN : 802.11b/g - Win XP Home - 8.9" Widescreen TFT 1024 x 600 CrystalBrite - camera
HP 2140 Mini-Note - Atom N270 1.6 GHz - 10.1" TFT Price $573.99
1.6 GHz - RAM 2 GB - HDD 160 GB Hard Drive- Gigabit Ethernet - WLAN : Bluetooth 2.0 EDR, 802.11 a/b/g/n (draft) - Vista Business / XP Pro downgrade - 10.1" Widescreen TFT – camera
For more great tips, check back here and listen to me on the All Tech Radio show at 9:00 Sunday mornings on AM 1360 KUIK and at 10 AM in Seattle on KOL, or listen online at http://alltechradio.com.
If you would like your technical question answered here, just email email@example.com. Even if it doesn’t get answered in the column, I will always answer by email.