I am a serious computer user, but I haven’t owned a desktop computer for years. Since 2002, I’ve owned what are known as “desktop replacement” laptops—those with 17″+ displays that weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 to 10 pounds. They’re not lightweight, but they’re certainly portable when I’ve needed them to be. However, when netbooks hit the shelves in 2007 or so, I was immediately intrigued. An ultraportable computer with the power to run a typical suite of office applications and graphics software, plus connect via wired or wireless connections, plus have a long battery life and it didn’t cost a billion dollars? Sign me up!
In January 2008 I bought an Asus Eee PC 4G, and then in November of 2008 I bought an Acer Aspire One. The links in the preceding sentence are a little misleading, as in the last year both companies have shot past the specs of my now antiquated netbooks and you won’t find my netbook specs at those sites. Case in point, for the same amount of money as I spent last year on a netbook with an 8.9″ display, 1GB of RAM, and 160HDD, I can now get an 11.6″ display and full sized keyboard along with twice the RAM and 1.5x the storage space.
But geeky specifications talk aside, what do I do with my netbook? Everything.
It’s lightweight—less than 3 pounds—but with a long battery life (6+ hours), making it absolutely perfect for taking to meetings, conferences, and into the classroom. In fact, that’s exactly how I use my netbook. When I take it to conferences, it is like taking a puppy to the park—everyone wants to play with it. When I take it to meetings, the speakers can still see my face as I type my notes or read from them. In class, I use it to connect to the projectors, but also to look up information quickly or show students some things after class. Of course, you can perform those tasks with a standard-sized portable computer, but my netbook fits in both of my small bags with the rest of my books and materials, and my back and shoulders have never hurt when carrying it around. Buy a netbook truly is the best $350 I ever spend (even if I did spend it twice).
When considering if a netbook is the right purchase for you, first consider how you will be using it. If it is as your primary machine, and you spend of a lot of time working with that machine, ask yourself if you can live with an 11.6″ display. The keyboards on netbooks are no longer the issue they used to be, as the newer base models of netbooks use a full sized keyboard and not the 83%-sized keyboard featured in the models I’ve owned. But seriously, before you put down the money, put your hands on one. Go to a Best Buy, or Office Depot or Office Max, or other similar stores. Check out the keyboard, the display, find the sizes that work for you, and then go to Froogle and find a better price online.
Earlier in this post I mentioned the 11.6″ display and full-sized keyboard of the new Acer Aspire One models (AO751h). Is that really a netbook? It has a netbook price tag, at sub-$400. A recent CNN article, “Time to drop the Netbook label” speaks to this issue: there is little distinction between a netbook and an ultralight notebook.
When I think “netbook,” I think Acer, Asus, and MSI. I think affordable, lightweight, powerful devices that ship with Windows or Linux, that I can use to get online anywhere, that I can hold in the palm of my hand without getting a cramp.
If you’re thinking about buying a netbook, check out the following links:
- PCMag.com “How to Buy a Netbook”
- CNet Reviews the Best Netbooks
- jkOnTheRun’s netbook category
Have a netbook? Tell us what you have and how you use it. Looking for a netbook and have specific questions? We’re here to help.