Netbooks: Laptops on a Diet?

Someone recently asked me my opinion on netbooks.  Several friends since have mentioned wanting more information concerning these tiny technologies, so I decided to post my summary and links.

The netbooks are a good route if you’re mostly interested in surfing the net or sending e-mails.  They don’t come with much memory, so if you are planning on storing music, games, and so forth (including any software), you’d need to consider an external hard-drive or in the very least a zip drive.  A drawback for some of the products I’ve seen is that they do not appear to have disk drives, so you would be unable to play CDs and DVDs or install any software, even if you had the memory.

They come with pretty small screens – the biggest is 13 inches, which is only an inch bigger than my little Mac.  The feeling I get for these is that they are a good “in addition” computer – used a lot for travel, but not so much as a primary computer.

I have a 12″ iBook (ca. 2005) and I love it.  You can get an educator’s discount at Apple if you are a student or educator, but even so the basic laptop is around $949.  You can’t really go wrong with a basic Dell, and they have very fast and helpful customer support.  In school (admittedly, a few years ago) I heard bad things about HP support, but they could have improved by now.

One thing to avoid is manufacturers’ websites, because they only list the newest (most expensive!) models.  Try Best Buy – just walk in, tell them you want something decent for cheap that plays games, DVDs, has decent virus protection, and an OK amount of memory.  They’re really good about meeting customer needs.  Circuit City is going out of business and is liquidating all of its stock, so if there’s one around you I’d at least check in with them – they were Best Buy’s biggest competitor.

Here is a really legit site to check out – it has the best reviews, as well as prices and even availability in stores.

One thing to consider is that although the laptops usually support WiFi (wireless internet), unless you have a friendly neighbor you’d have to get a wireless router for internet.  Another option is to buy a wireless card like this  They’re usually associated with a monthly rate, but sometimes that’s lower than your normal internet charge, and you would get internet anywhere.

Hope this helps!


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