Buying Guide: Netbook Computers
Known as mini notebooks, a netbook computer is a smaller, lighter version of a laptop for surfing the Web, emailing and performing basic tasks, while maintaining maximum portability. They're ideal for students or as secondary computers.
What Size Is Right For You?
If you're after a machine that's small enough to throw into a handbag, school bag or briefcase, then a netbook could be right for you. Netbook computers are small — typically between 7-inch and 12-inch — which makes them perfect for children and students. If you're after something a little bigger, then 10.2-inch or 12-inch netbooks could be a good option. The extra width fits Web pages and movies across the screen. If you're planning to work outside a lot, then the matte finished screens will reduce glare.
Light Weight Makes Carrying Your Netbook Easy
Netbooks typically weigh around 1kg, which makes them portable; they're great for travel as they're a breeze to carry around. As a rule, the bigger the hard drive and battery, the more the netbook will weigh, but even the most powerful netbooks should weigh less than 1.5kg.
Battery Life For Longer Use
Netbooks use less power than a laptop, so they have a very good battery life. With a range of different batteries available, netbooks offer between three to eight hours of battery life, which is more than enough for the average person.
The Power Of The Processor
Processors are the brain of a computer. In the case of netbooks, the processors are perfect for surfing the Web and running basic programs, like email and watching downloaded movies. Don't expect a netbook to be able to edit photos and videos, or play graphics-intensive games.
Random Access Memory – The Bigger, The Better
RAM (Random Access Memory) helps your processor perform tasks by acting as a temporary storage point. In short, the more RAM you have, the more programs you can keep open at once, and the faster your computer will go. Netbooks range from around 512MB up to about 2GB of RAM.
How Much Do You Need To Store?
Think of your hard drive as a shed; the more storage space you have, the more you can fit in it: photos, documents, videos etc. The storage space is measured in GB (gigabytes) and netbooks offer two types of hard drives: HDD (Hard Disk Drive) and SSD (Solid State Drive).
- Hard Disk Drives generally offer more storage, and are cheaper, than solid state drives.
- Solid State Drives (often called "flash drives") are considered to be the future of hard drive technology, often lighter and faster than their hard disk cousins. They have no moving parts, so they malfunction less and can handle being bumped around a lot more.
Whichever drive type you chose, we suggest opting for the biggest hard drive possible, handy when storing your photos etc. Anything over 100GB is a good amount.
The Operating System Runs Your Netbook
The operating system is software that actually runs your computer. Many entry-level netbooks use Linux because it is less demanding on the computer to run. Microsoft Windows 8 is also available on 26 October 2012, which makes life much easier for people who are accustomed to using Microsoft operating systems.
Connectivity Is Key
This simply means what you can connect your netbook to. If you want to connect multiple devices at once — such as an external CD-DVD drive and an iPod - you'll need multiple USB ports. If you want to connect to a larger monitor, you'll need VGA outputs. A WiFi connection will allow your netbook to connect to the Internet wirelessly.
Which Brand Should I Choose?
It's a safe assumption that the bigger the brand, the more research and development will have been done on a specific topic. Choose brands that you trust, and that receive good feedback through reviews and user comments. It's also worth noting that well-known brands often have better warranty and support.
How Much Does It Cost?
It's important to remember that netbooks are meant to be cheaper than laptops.
Match Your Lifestyle
- Size: A 7in netbook is fine for small hands.
- Hard drive: Solid State Drives (SSD) are more durable and shock-resistant.
- Weight: Shouldn't be over 1kg.
- Size: Upgrade to 10in (or 10.2in) for the larger keyboard and screen.
- Hard drive: At least 16GB (for temporarily storing photos and video).
- Operating system: Microsoft Windows 8.
Business (Secondary Machine)
- Hard drive: 60GB (or more).
- Operating system: Microsoft Windows 8 Pro.
- Connectivity: Multiple USB, Audio In and Out, plus VGA out.
Simple Netbook Choices
Weight: Netbooks should only weigh around 1kg.
Processors: Netbooks are built for surfing the net, not for running graphics-intensive programs.
Battery life: Aim for upwards of five hours of battery life.
Connectivity: Multiple USB ports, audio lines (in and out), VGA outputs.
Hard drive space: At least 80GB of storage when looking to store large files (like photos).