Netbook Structure: Most netbooks sport small LCD screens, 8.9-inches to 10-inches, versus an average of 15.4-inches for normal laptops. Netbooks generally weigh around 2.2 lbs (1 kilogram) each, far lighter than most laptops, and carry batteries that last up to 8 hours. They cost between US$199 and $799 and lot more benefits.
Here are useful tips for your first netbook:
1. Make sure you want a netbook and not a full-fledged laptop computer.
What do you want to use this netbook for? Do you want a lightweight device for easy Internet access? Or are you really looking for a device to carry around that you can edit video on, play games, or use for other applications that test the computing limits of a netbook?
Don’t buy a netbook if you’re really looking for a laptop, it would be a mistake.
To ensure longer battery life, some key components on a netbook, such as the microprocessor, are less powerful than common laptops. That’s why they’re good for surfing the Internet, sending e-mails, or doing homework.
2. Buy a netbook with an 8.9-inch screen or larger.
Tested an Eee PC with a 7-inch screen, the Surf, and found screen too small. I was not able to view an entire Web page on the cramped display. On a screen that small, you have to scroll left and right as well as up and down to see an entire Web page. Scrolling up and down is normal, but left and right was annoying.
That’s less of a problem on the slightly larger-sized screens and, in the 8.9-inch screen size, the weight and size of the netbook is nearly the same as devices with 7-inch screens.
The 10-inch screens are even better, yet add size and weight to the netbook.
3. Make sure you get a 6-cell battery for your netbook, although you may have to pay $50 more and the device will weigh more.
Most companies started out offering netbooks with 3-cell batteries as the standard, but that doesn’t offer a whole lot of run time, just 2-3 hours. A 6-cell battery doubles that, and in some devices designed around a 6-cell battery, such as Asustek Computer’s Eee PC 901, you can get up to 8 hours.
Another benefit of the larger battery is that it props up the back of the device, putting it on a slight angle that makes typing easier. Keyboards on netbooks are smaller than normal keyboards, and comfortable typing was one area I was not willing to compromise on.
4. Try out the keyboard and make sure it’s right for you.
None of the devices, I tested had a better typing pad than Intel’s ClassMate PC, which has a keyboard far smaller than the Eee PC 1000. Keys on the ClassMate PC’s keyboard are raised and there is a lot of space between them, making them easy to find by touch.
I really liked the keyboards on Acer’s Aspire One, Hewlett-Packard’s Mini 1000 and Everex’s CloudBook Max, but the best keyboard was on HP’s Mini-Note.
5. Software: See what comes preinstalled and consider trying the Linux OS.
There are two lessons on software.
First, some vendors have skimped on including software in their netbooks on the pretense that users can download a lot of free software on the Internet. That’s true, but it’s a bad excuse for not going the extra distance for customer satisfaction.
Who wants to spend time downloading when many netbook makers have added lots of software so users can play with their new netbook right away?
Second, it may be time to the give the Linux OS a try.
Most of the netbooks I tested with Linux booted up far faster than Windows XP or Windows Vista. Which reminds me, don’t buy a netbook with Vista — it’s just too slow.
There are also free Linux-based word processing programs and spreadsheets available on the Internet such as Open Office, Sun’s inexpensive StarOffice and Web-based software such as Google Apps.
Google also offers a nice package of free software, Google Pack, which includes several popular applications such as Adobe Reader, Skype, RealPlayer for music and video, Norton Security Scan and two browsers, Google’s Chrome and Firefox.
6. Price: if it costs more than $500, start looking at a regular notebook computer.
Companies have started promoting a wide range of netbooks at ever higher prices, but once you pass $500, netbooks start to compete with laptops, and a laptop will almost always give you more value for your money.
Laptop computers have far more powerful microprocessors and other components than netbooks, and sport DVD drives. BTW, there are no DVD drives on netbooks.
7. Look around at what’s available.
Many new netbooks have come out. There are a lot of look-alikes since newcomers have copied what the pioneers found to be the most popular configurations. The net effect is to put more good devices out there from a number of competitors. You may be able to pick up a nice machine for a very low price.
In any case, the 10-inch screen devices are a little bigger and more expensive than what I was looking for. Size is important to consider in terms of weight. Ten inch screens, hard disk drives (HDDs) and 6-cell batteries add a lot of extra weight to a netbook.
Several netbooks are now on sale with built-in 3G modules and mobile phone service providers are offering them with 3G (third generation telecommunications) contracts, so people can access the Internet from anywhere on their mobile phone network.
People can also buy add-on 3G or WiMax cards for any netbook.