If you haven’t been in the market for a new notebook computer in a few years, you may be wondering just what in the world a “netbook” is.
While there is no hard and fast definition, it’s safe to say that a netbook is a low-cost, lightweight notebook. Some manufacturers avoid the term “netbook” entirely and refer to them instead as mini notebooks.
To achieve their slim size and svelte price, netbooks have to make a few trade-offs that their full-sized notebook cousins don’t. Here’s an exclusive Adorama look at some of those trade-offs, and a few of the distinguishing features of a netbook.
Photo © David Clark/istockphoto.com
As with all technology as it matures, products in both netbook and notebook categories have trended down in the pricing, with netbooks remaining the low cost offerings in this area. While the drop is not huge it is still a relief in a consumer’s pocket.
Netbooks now come in around $250 for a very nicely featured offering that has plenty of storage and processing power. As with all products there can be hidden additional costs, in this case if you wanted something like a CD-ROM drive, standard on many notebook computers, you would need to pay extra as they are usually only available as an accessory.
Notebooks have a significantly bigger price range than netbooks, with starter models here in the mid $300 range, but for powerful offerings that can handle a graphics or video professionals’ needs look to pay as much as several thousand dollars.
Slender & Portable
Next to the price, the physical size of a netbook is undoubtedly its biggest selling point. Netbooks can weigh anywhere from two pounds to about three and a half, depending on how you configure them. Batteries, in particular, affect the final weight with longer-lived batteries adding a few more ounces. Still, even with a six-cell battery, it’s truly an ultra-portable computer, making it an attractive option for students and road warriors alike.
To achieve this slender figure, a netbook has to cut some corners: Both the screen and keyboard are smaller than your average notebook. While notebooks boast screens in the 14-inch range, netbook screens are considered large at 10-inches. The smaller displays are suitable for YouTube video watching. Many netbooks lack a CD player. In most cases netbooks can’t handle high definition content.
Netbook keyboards are also tiny. It’s not the computer to buy if you intend to pound out the great American novel, although some netbook manufacturers have responded to customer feedback about too small keyboards and are now touting “full sized” (i.e. traditional notebook-sized) keyboards on some of their models – but that’s the exception, not the rule.
The netbooks have not changed much in terms of processors, many still using the 1.6GHz Intel Atom N2600 processor, which is a solid offering but would not deliver top gaming performance for those looking for that. In the notebook space the offerings are considerably more robust, with the high end Apple, Sony and other high end systems using a 2.6GHz Intel Quad-Core i7 and entry level models using a variety of AMD and Intel processors that are running in the 1.6GHz range and above.
The netbooks are now coming in with 320GB of storage; very good for the limited uses that they are designed for. The drives vary between traditional hard disk drives and solid state drives. At the entry level for notebooks the capacity is roughly the same as with netbooks but can shoot up to 750GB and beyond.
Like traditional laptops, netbooks offer built-in wireless networking (802.11G/N), flash memory card slots (typically for SDHC cards) and several USB ports. Real estate is at a premium on a netbook, so you won’t have as many ports as you’d find on a full-sized notebook, but there’s enough to handle average tasks.
Given their portability, a number of netbooks come with the option of cellular networking as well, giving you a mobile Internet connection from a wireless provider such as Verizon or AT&T. Some mobile providers have started to subsidize netbooks as they do cell phones, but you’d have to commit to a pricey data contract to get a good deal on a netbook through a carrier.
At $299, a netbook is a tempting “first computer” if you don’t want your school-age kids pawing at your more expensive desktop. Because they’re small and low cost, some manufacturers have even developed netbooks specifically geared at kids. Disney, for instance, has teamed with netbook maker Asus for the Disney Netpal. The computer is adorned with Disney themes and inside features parental controls and some pre-loaded Disney content.
A Portable Player
If you’re on the move, short of space or short of cash, a netbook is a good option. They’re not robust enough to handle intense graphics, and they can be too small for those of us cursed with fat fingers, but they still manage to pack a decent processing punch inside a portable package.
Whether you decide on a netbook or a notebook, remember that Adorama carries plenty of choices of both kinds of computers. When you are ready to buy, be sure to visit the Portable Computing store at Adorama.