01 December, 2009

Netbooks versus Notebooks

A friend of mine asked me to comment on netbooks versus notebooks, so I sent her the below message, slightly modified for this blog.

---------- Forwarded message ----------

    The main attractions I consider in a netbook are price, ease of portability, and battery life.  The down-sides are the inability of them to run any intense apps, especially games. For kids, that might be a big deal. Although it sounds like a good idea, netbooks without hard drives, the ones with the solid state memory, are almost useless. At least get one with a hard drive. Most netbooks of any worth have at least 160GB HD's, such as the Acer's seen here: http://www.circuitcity.com/applications/campaigns/campaigntemplate.asp?CampaignID=1192&SRCCODE=CCEM175MS&cm_mmc=EML-_-Main-_-CCEM175-_-circuit175 . None of them have CD drives, so basically, to install software one has to either copy it, to a thumb drive first, or use an external CD drive. I recommend the later, as it is much easier.  One can find an external CD/DVD drive for between $50-$60, but remember that when you're pricing netbooks.  Thus, the difference in price, between an entry-level notebook, and a decent netbook, might be the difference of an external CD drive.  The point is that, if you're looking at a netbook to get into a PC, for a kid, under a notebook price, one must consider the CD drive when doing so.

    A 6-cell battery lasts longer than a 3-cell battery.  For this reason, always go 6-cell if one can.

    Netbooks are great for accessing the net (thus their name), as they are compact, have long battery lives, and can run basic applications.  Some of them have Windows CE on them, which is the same OS that some hand held devices have.  I would avoid those and instead aim for something with true Windows XP or Windows 7, as they will run more apps.  Installing the fully free and compatible OpenOffice.org (www.openoffice.org) on them, for example, is a great idea, as they are great for doing papers and rudimentary spreadsheets.  However, large spreadsheets are cumbersome, on the little screens.  PowerPoint-type things...dunno, as I haven't tried them, and I don't have a netbook myself (I've just played with them).

    If I had a spare $200 I just might pick one up, for myself, as my aged Gateway laptop has almost no battery life left, and taking it to Starbucks involves plugging it in, holding the power cord in it, as its now loose, etc.  These little netbooks are simply convenient, for email, Facebook, and general Internet browsing, while on the go.  I cannot see spending more than $200-$260 for one though.  At that point one can really start to be in decent notebook country.

    A $299 notebook can be seen here [update: out of stock] (http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?Sku=A180-15614) .  Yeah, it's an eMachine; I don't think of it as a fully modern notebook; it only has one processor (versus dual), but it's got more balls than a netbook and satisfies the minimum requirements for running medium level games. and being able to store adocuments documents.

    Hope this helps.

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