Before tablet computers were reborn, everyone was enthused about netbooks. And while tablets are enjoying their moment in the sun, there's still plenty to love in a netbook.
What's a Netbook?
A Netbook is essentially a laptop computer that's shed its weight, size and some of its performance features. In this exclusive Adorama buying guide, we'll look at the pros and cons of Netbooks, along with several key models we like. Be sure to visit the Adorama Netbook store for our complete lineup of Netbook computers.
Tablets seem to dominate the news these days. yet what is rarely heard is that they often do not fit into the corporate environment, or even handle documents that might have been generated from your main work or personal computer. In this exclusive Adorama buying guide, we’ll look at the options available as well as several key representative models, all of which are available through the Adorama Netbook store.
Netbooks are a low-weight, low-cost alternative to laptops and are designed not as a primary system, although they can be used as one, but rather as a secondary system, providing an easy to carry portable system for work or play on the road.
Tradeoffs: Size vs. Functionality
To cram a notebook down to netbook size (and cost) requires some tradeoffs. The first is screen size. You'll typically find screen sizes in the 8-11-inch frame in a netbook. That's far smaller than what you'll get on your average notebook, where screens come in at the 13-17-inch range. Processing power is also feebler. Netbooks tend to employ Intel's entry-level Atom processor (or AMD's Athlon Neo), while traditional notebooks use multiple core processors for enhanced performance when playing games or editing photos and video. Netbook processors are fine for basic tasks such as email and Web surfing, but performance can slow when tackling more processor-intensive activities like video editing or HD video watching.
Hard drive capacity is also pretty spare, usually in the 160GB-250GB range (though you can bulk up if you want). Don't bother looking for an optical drive (DVD or Blu-ray) on a netbook, as there isn't one, nor are there as many USB ports and outputs that you'd find on full size notebooks. Most netbooks do offer slots for SD memory cards, however, so you can transfer files from cameras and camcorders.
The keyboards on netbooks used to be cramped, and some still are, but an increasing number of manufacturers are touting "full size" keyboards or ones that are just south of what you'd find on a typical notebook (if you plan on hammering out the Great American Novel, be sure to consult the specs on keyboard size closely).
So, if you're just interested in a lightweight, low-cost computer for travel, web surfing, email, and some light office work (word processing, spreadsheets, etc.) netbooks are a good choice. If you're a gamer or plan on doing any intense photo or video editing, you should opt for a full-sized laptop computer. See the Adorama Laptop Computer Buying Guide 2012.
Nothing But Net
Here's a look at some hot netbooks on the market. Pricing and information is accurate as of October 15, 2012.
Asus Eee PC Seashell 10.1
Adorama Price: $252.99
When looking for an entry-level netbook, the Asus Eee PC Seashell is a solid option. The netbook is powered by Intel’s dual core Atom N2600 processor, designed for use in portable systems where power conservation is an issue.
The 2.2 pound, 10.1-inch netbook features a .03 megapixel webcam for video chat, has a 320GB hard drive along with 1GB of RAM and a 3 cell battery that can provide as much as 4.5 hours of active usage between charges.
Acer Aspire One AOD270-1835
Adorama Price: $259.99
The Acer Aspire One AOD270-1835 is a lightweight solution for a road warrior that needs the extra battery life that the netbook offers. It has a maximum battery life of eight hours with its six cell lithium ion battery. It comes with all of the other features that one has come to expect in a solid netbook, such as 1GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi support, and a 0.3 megapixel webcam.
The 2.87 pound system is powered by a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N2600 processor and has a 10.1-inch screen. It supports 3 USB 2.0 slots so that a user can add peripherals as needed and 10/100 Fast Ethernet is supported.
Apple MacBook Air
Adorama Price: $1,089
While not labeled by Apple as a netbook, the MacBook Air certainly fits into the category quite well, aside from the higher price point. The 11.6-inch computer is powered by Intel’s 1.66GHz Core i5 processor and comes with 4GB RAM, a 128GB flash drive for storage and an Intel GMA HD 3000 graphics processor.
The 2.2 pound MacBook Air features an 11.6-inch display that feature a native resolution of 1366 x 768 - delivering the same amount of pixels as the standard 13.3" MacBook Pro. Other features include a FaceTime webcam, dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and built-in stereo speakers as well as a host of Apple applications such as iLife ’11 and AirDrop.
Hewlett-Packard Mini 110-4250nr
Adorama Price: $299.99
The Hewlett-Packard Mini is another solid choice for business travelers. Featuring 1GB of RAM that is upgradable to 2GB and an Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3600 which is designed for use in mobile devices and can support up to 218MBs of graphics memory it is a great system for use as a presentation platform.
The 3-pound netbook has a ten hour, six cell lithium ion battery and includes HD audio stereo speakers along with a 10.1" diagonal WSVGA anti-glare LED-backlit (1024 x 600) display. Among its other features are three USB 2.0 ports, an integrated mini webcam and 802.11b/g/n support.
Acer Aspire One AO725-0635
Adorama Price: $349.95
Looking for a larger display than the 10.1 -inch offerings on many of the entry level models? Then the AO725-0635 with its 11.6-inch display might be what you have been looking for. Powered by AMD’s 1GHz C-60 processor it has the power to stream HD video as well as YouTube and Internet clips and output them at 1080p via its HDMI port.
All of that video capability requires additional RAM, and it has it with 4GB standard, and it also features a 500GB hard drive for additional storage capacity. It includes two USB 2.0 ports and a single USB 3.0 port and comes with Windows 7 Home Premium that is upgradable to Windows 8 Professional for $14.99.
Adorama Price: $499.99
Asus is not about to leave the high end of the netbook market alone, and has targeted it with the 1225B-BU17, an offering that comes with a storage bonus for users. The basic netbook is powered by AMD’s 1.65GHz Fusion E-450 processor and4GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive for storage. For users with greater storage demands it also includes complimentary lifetime ASUS WebStorage account that gives you 3GB of online storage space.
It features a 11.6-inch display with 1366 x 768 resolution and has a 16:9 aspect ratio. The netbook includes two 2.0 USB slots and one 3.0 slot as well as a four-in-one card reader. It comes with Windows 7 Professional operating system.
As we said up front, the models above are a representative sample, and there are more to choose from. Be sure to browse and buy at the Adorama Netbook store!