We get a lot of questions from our clients trying to figure out the pros and cons of purchasing a netbook versus a full power laptop. What is a netbook? Think iPad with a keyboard.
Why? Well, it is quite obvious if you think about it – What does the world run on again? Oh yeah – CASH IS KING, and these netbooks are CHEAP! Now… that being said, what is that old adage that mom and dad always told us? You get what you pay for. And that is definitely the case in this scenario. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing either. Take a look.
Netbooks were built for one scenario: low cost, lightweight portability and long battery life. This is why they have small screens. Small screens mean less pixels to have to light up, and that means less power consumed, and that means longer battery life. This is also why they don’t have the processor types and names that you recognize from all of the laptop ads you have been scouring through looking for good prices. The processors these things use are SUB desktop speed/power processors. Why? Because the manufacturers know you want long battery life, and they are assuming you don’t use all of that extra processing power any way. So they choose to install these fancy LOW power processors that are basically built to run one app at a time, and use as little battery power as possible. What does that mean for you? It means if you plan on using them for one task (application) at a time, and these applications are not hugely processor intensive, you should be just fine with a netbook. If you simply must have Outlook, Excel, Word, graphics editing, video editing, and all the other apps open all at the same time, you won’t be fine – go for the full power laptop!
Some other interesting use case scenarios for netbooks are the corporate field personnel who basically only use their laptops as a local keyboard and display for a remote desktop connection to a server back at the home office. Think about it. All you are doing is sending screen prints of the desktop back at the office back and forth over the Internet. What processing power does that take at your local machine? Not much. You are using the processor and horsepower of the server back at the office, not your local laptop.
Now, that being said, make sure you pay attention to the details when you buy. If you are expecting your VPN and remote desktop software to run flawlessly on your netbook, just like it does on your laptop, make sure you get your netbook with Windows 7 PROFESSIONAL. Again, the manufacturers know we are looking for low cost in these netbooks, and therefore are drawn to the low license cost of Windows 7 HOME EDITION. Home Edition WILL NOT get you a pleasant VPN and Remote Desktop experience – it doesn’t have the drivers and support for this. Home Edition is just that, HOME edition. How many home users do you know that even know what a VPN or Remote Desktop Connection is?
There are a few other gotchas that you will want to start thinking about now, as opposed to after your purchase. Things that will only start weighing on your mind after a few weeks or months of use. These things are again, the cost savers of the netbook world.
–Small screen. Again, lower cost, lighter weight and longer battery – but greater eye strain, and more scrolling.
–Small keyboard. This equals some cramped hands sometimes. The netbook isn’t designed for all day every day use, it is for lightweight computing only.
–Zero expandability. You love those 4 USB ports on your laptop. Camera, iPhone, external mouse, memory stick. Not on a netbook – plan on one or two, tops.
–Small hard drive. 80GB of pictures, 40 GB of music, 20GB of files, all your kids games, etc… Not happening on a netbook. Again, these things are one trick ponies. One app at a time, not many of them in total, and purely lightweight quick computing. In fact, if you can get used to cloud computing (DropBox.com, GoogleDocs, etc…) go there! Netbooks are perfect for that scenario!
We will add to this article over time, as more use case scenarios come up, and more questions get asked. Please as always feel free to contact us at any time with any questions – we are always glad to help out with any technology need out there!
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(last update: 2011-04-10)