5 Things To Consider Before Buying A Netbook

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intro4   5 Things To Consider Before Buying A NetbookFor anyone with even a mild addiction to the online world, a netbook is an attractive bit of kit. The ability to surf the net anywhere with a wireless or 3G connection, using a real keyboard and operating system whilst retaining lightweight portability is… well, awesome.

However, there are a couple of things worth remembering if you’re considering dropping your hard earned cash on one of these go-anywhere mobile internet devices.

Here’s a thought-provoking list of questions to ask yourself before reaching for your wallet and buying a Netbook.

What Operating System Do I Want?

Many netbooks these days come with either Windows XP (which is usually pretty speedy on the hardware supplied) or Windows 7 (which much of the time isn’t). If you’re anything like me, you’ll be just as interested in using your netbook with one of a variety of OS choices that are freely available online.

windows linux   5 Things To Consider Before Buying A Netbook

Hardware compatibility and driver issues can cause a lot of problems if you’ve not properly thought this one through, so if you are leaning towards Linux or a cloud-based OS (like Jolicloud or Google Chrome OS) then you might want to check your model’s compatibility before taking the plunge.

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As each OS is different, search engines are your best friend for this. A quick search should reveal the information you’re looking for. Don’t assume because your netbook comes with its own stripped-down Linux distribution the rest will just work.

What About Tablets?

Yes, yes, netbooks are cool ““ we’ve established that ““ but tablets are pretty cool too. If you’ve already got a laptop you might want to consider whether an even-smaller one is the right choice.

tablet   5 Things To Consider Before Buying A Netbook

After all, if you’re spending all that money, you might want to think about a tablet instead. The market is saturated with affordable tablet PCs these days, from Apple’s iPad (which you can jailbreak) to the many hundreds of Android devices and even those running Windows 7.

A tablet PC might seem like a silly idea, but if you’re only going to use your netbook for reading RSS feeds, Twitter and the odd email then a tablet might suit better than a netbook. If you think you’ll be getting a bit more text-heavy then a USB keyboard is always an option, depending on your OS.

Do I Need RAM?

Of course you need RAM, but it’s the amount of RAM that can cause an issue. Many netbooks come with the bare minimum amount, which is usually 1GB. The very same netbooks often come with Windows 7 pre-installed, and Windows 7 eats RAM for breakfast and is hungry again by lunch.

ram   5 Things To Consider Before Buying A Netbook

If you do want to get that little extra performance out of your potential new purchase then a RAM upgrade might just do the trick, just be sure to budget for it when making your purchase.

Just be sure to check that opening up the case isn’t going to void your warranty.

Is Typing Difficult?

I discovered my main issue with netbooks one afternoon whilst borrowing a friend’s ““ the size of my hands. I don’t have freak-show sized hands, but as a male with a larger-than-average hand span typing made for an interesting experience and plenty of typos.

keyboard   5 Things To Consider Before Buying A Netbook

If possible, have a play with your chosen model in a shop (even if you buy it cheaper on the net afterwards). There’s a good selection of models (like Asus’ latest EeePC additions) that have revised ergonomic keyboards that heavily rely on the function key to make everyday typing that little bit less frustrating.

If you have smaller, nimble fingers then you’re less likely to run into this problem.

Will My Smartphone Suffice?

If you’re the proud owner of a snazzy new smartphone, then you might find yourself asking whether a netbook really provides that much more portability. 3G and wireless, GPS and the myriad of apps available for the latest Android, iOS and Blackberry devices put some netbooks to shame.

smartphone   5 Things To Consider Before Buying A Netbook

There’s no substitute for a real keyboard but in terms of communication and power in your pocket, smartphones are becoming irreplaceable. Whether we’ll all say the same about netbooks in 10 years remains to be seen.

What About My Girlfriend/Pets/Friends?

The only drawback to an awesome piece of tech is the time you lose whilst playing with it. If you literally don’t know when to stop, then buying an ultra portable web browser might just turn you into a cyber-hermit.

geekkitten   5 Things To Consider Before Buying A Netbook

The time you often spend on the couch with your family or in the park with friends probably won’t be more enjoyable with a netbook. It’s worth thinking long and hard if you actually have the time to use another online device and maintain plenty of offline time in your life too. Sometimes the web can wait.

Conclusion

Netbooks can be quite expensive for the hardware provided, and this means you’re paying for the convenience, portability and battery life. This can be just what you’ve been looking for, an excuse to leave your roasting-hot laptop in the study and kick back with a silent new toy.

But like every new purchase you should always evaluate and decide whether your money is going to be a well spent. Hopefully you can now think a little more realistically about whether a netbook is the right tool for the job.

Images: Intro, HP Slate 500, Lego RAM, Keyboard, Smartphone, Geek Kitten

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21 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Tina

Imagine you had to rely on the netbook for anything you do with a computer, what would you change? Ask yourself that before it’s too late. Now that I’m stuck with my netbook while my laptop is in for repairs, I wish I had looked into installing Linux.

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Schieffer55901

Nice article Tim. I believe you’ve made valid points and I’m sure your article will help folks to make a wise decision to buy or not buy a netbook.

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Saikat Basu

It’s one of the most difficult choices to make – Tablets vs Netbook vs Smartphones. But now I have a clearer idea. The world is a bit tablet mad right now, though and netbooks seem to be falling by the wayside. But when it comes to on-site technical tasks, netbooks (if not laptops) are better alternatives to tablets and smartphones.

Tim Brookes

I’d agree Saikat, for practicalities (e.g. when you absolutely need a keyboard to do some proper typing, or when a real OS is better than Android/iOS) netbooks are better.

I’m just a sucker for laptops so I will never be without one, and it’s for that reason I’d be tempted by a tablet for fun internet stuff and checking email.

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Jessica Cam W.

I honestly think convertible/tablet netbooks would be much better than tablets. You get the full web (not mobile) experience, desktop programs, and get to write on the convertible netbook with the stylus like a physical notebook (and draw if you’re into designing). They’re on par with the iPad as far as prices go too.

I have a tablet laptop which is very handy for school and that I use to take notes for classes, but at 4.5 pounds, I still think it’s a bit heavy like a really thick textbook. I bet a tablet netbook would be much lighter and you can just whip out to review your notes on the train or bus.

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Jessica Cam W.

I honestly think convertible/tablet netbooks would be much better than tablets. You get the full web (not mobile) experience, desktop programs, and get to write on the convertible netbook with the stylus like a physical notebook (and draw if you’re into designing). They’re on par with the iPad as far as prices go too.

I have a tablet laptop which is very handy for school and that I use to take notes for classes, but at 4.5 pounds, I still think it’s a bit heavy like a really thick textbook. I bet a tablet netbook would be much lighter and you can just whip out to review your notes on the train or bus.

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Tim Brookes

I’d agree Saikat, for practicalities (e.g. when you absolutely need a keyboard to do some proper typing, or when a real OS is better than Android/iOS) netbooks are better.

I’m just a sucker for laptops so I will never be without one, and it’s for that reason I’d be tempted by a tablet for fun internet stuff and checking email.

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Matt Williams

Netbooks are awesome, but mine spends most of it’s time attached to the back of my TV with a wireless keyboard and mouse plugged in and used as a Media Center.

Also, over a Tablet for reading/RSS/twitter etc, I’ll take the Kindle any day (as a recent Kindle convert) – masses cheaper, easier to read, hardware keyboard…

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Matt Williams

Netbooks are awesome, but mine spends most of it’s time attached to the back of my TV with a wireless keyboard and mouse plugged in and used as a Media Center.

Also, over a Tablet for reading/RSS/twitter etc, I’ll take the Kindle any day (as a recent Kindle convert) – masses cheaper, easier to read, hardware keyboard…

Tim Brookes

I’d be tempted to use a netbook as a Boxee Box or even stick XBMC on it for networked media to be honest. It’s small enough so that when you go to bed you just unplug, pick it up and go.

Glad you’re pleased with your new Kindle Matt, and hope you had a good Xmas!

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dave winter

Most netbook’s use windows 7 starter which is a less power hungry version of windows 7 but annoyingly because of this you cannot change the desktop background. I really enjoy my netbook, easy and quick allowing you to be on the net within 7 seconds, awesome. Do not see the appeal of tablets or slabs. But once combined with a netbook I do and I think they will do well in the market these ‘netbook tablets’

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Aibek

Great article Tim, should be very helpful for many of our readers. I remember people asking on MakeUseOf Answers whether to buy a table or a smartphone.

Tim Brookes

Thanks – btw I’d love a wifi table xD

Reply

Appelsin_saft

If you cannot decide between smartphone, tablet or netbook, there’s always the Smart Book, which aims to be all at once:
http://www.alwaysinnovating.co

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Tim Brookes

I’d be tempted to use a netbook as a Boxee Box or even stick XBMC on it for networked media to be honest. It’s small enough so that when you go to bed you just unplug, pick it up and go.

Glad you’re pleased with your new Kindle Matt, and hope you had a good Xmas!

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