Netbook Or Laptop?
A netbook is a mobile computer designed to take advantage of the Internet and wireless communications. WiFi is built in, of course, but it’s more than just a nice-to-have option. A netbook is deliberately built with a minimum of computing resources, and relies on the Internet to make up for what it lacks in storage and computing power.
The RAM memory is small. The CPU is slow. The hard drive is tiny, barely big enough for an operating system and a few applications. A netbook is built cheaply. Netbook prices are in the $200-$300 range. Check out the Asus EEE PC, the Acer Apsire One or Dell Mini series for some examples.
So what good is a netbook, if it’s such a wimpy computer? Plenty, actually.
Netbooks are good for cloud computing, a buzzword that means accessing computing resources out on the Internet. A netbook doesn’t need hard disk space for lots of data and bloated applications. It can store your data on a server out there on the Internet. Through a Web browser, it runs applications online that would take up gigabytes of disk space and RAM on the netbook itself. So if a netbook has enough resources to run a Web browser, it can do a lot. See my related articles Free Online Word Processors and Online Photo Editing for some cool examples.
It’s No Biggie…
Peace of mind is one reason to use a netbook. If you lose a netbook or it’s stolen, most of your personal data is not on it. It’s out there on the Internet where you can reclaim it from any other computer.
Mobility is another advantage of a netbook. Netbooks are much smaller and lighter than laptops. But netbooks are bigger and better for Web browsing, email, and typing than smartphones. Have you ever tried to do any serious web browsing on a 2-inch screen? Oh, and you can use a netbook as a phone, with Skype or some other Voice over IP (VoIP) service and a portable headset.
Cost is another attraction of netbooks versus laptops. Many netbooks run some version of the Linux operating system, shaving at least $100 off a netbook’s cost versus using Windows. The applications that come with a netbook are often free, open-source substitutes for commercial packages. OpenOffice and other free office software packages can serve very well in place of Microsoft Office.
The very small size of a netbook’s keyboard and monitor are probably its biggest concerns. You should test drive a netbook thoroughly to make sure your fingers will work with its keyboard and you won’t go blind reading its screen.
A netbook is a good choice as a second, mobile computer that will be used primarily for email, Web browsing, and reading. It’s great for entertainment or light work while commuting. It’s not good for HD movies or heavy number-crunching work such as graphic design and editing, CAD, simulations, 3D games, etc. A netbook is also a good first computer for a young person, or a starving college student.