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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.