Most shoppers who decide to buy a netbook feel overawed by the sheer choice of machines available, especially here on the Internet. Hopefully this little FAQ will simplify your quest and help you narrow down the best netbook for you.

What is a netbook exactly?

A netbook is simply a mini version of a laptop computer. Netbooks are smaller, lighter, and do not contain a DVD drive. They're mostly used as a handy portable device to connect to the Internet when away from home or office.

What comprises a good netbook?

This depends on what you want from a netbook. Most users are looking for a lightweight machine that lets them surf the web, check email, and use word processors, spreadsheets, and other common desktop programs.

How can I connect to the Internet with my netbook?

You can connect in three ways. If you're in a wireless broadband zone, your netbook will be able to detect the wireless signal and connect automatically.

Alternatively, if you have access to cable broadband, you can plug a cable into your netbook's USB drive (or sometimes the Ethernet drive) and connect directly to the local broadband network.

The third way is to buy a "Dongle", which is a USB stick offering mobile Internet broadband for a monthly fee. Whatever the option, most netbooks come equipped to handle all three scenarios.

What's the recommended screen size for a netbook?

Although netbooks are designed to be small, too small can be a problem when reading the screen. This can happen with the smaller 8 inch netbook screens. To be on the safe side, choose a 10 inch screen. You'll find the fonts easier to read, and the greater screen area lets you see more info at one time.

What sort of processor should I look for?

The Intel Atom processor does a mighty fine job and is a preferred choice of many Netbook makers. But don't worry too much about processor power as netbooks aren't meant for intensive processor applications.

How long will my netbook battery last between charges?

Battery power is important for portable devices where you want to dispense with the heavy power cable as much as possible. Therefore netbook manufacturers usually place great emphasis on battery life. On a decent machine expect to enjoy between 6 to 10 hours use before your battery needs recharged.

To get even more from your battery, turn down the screen brightness - and turn off the WiFi when you don't need a web connection.

What's the best operating system to use?

The best is the operating system you are most used to. Most netbooks contain Windows, usually XP or Windows 7 (Starter). If you're more technical then you can choose to install the Linux operating system.

How much hard drive space should I buy?

Many netbooks now offer you at least 160GB of hard drive, which is more than adequate for ordinary use. Consider a 2-hour DVD comes in around 5GB, you're unlikely to run out of space. If you ever need more, you can buy an external hard drive to plug into one of your netbook's USB port.

What else should I think about?

Realize that the perfect netbook does not exist and never will, so don't fret too much or you'll suffer the paralysis of analysis.

Pick a machine you like the look of, has decent reviews, and satisfies all the above criteria. Then enjoy the freedom, familiarity and versatility that your new netbook provides.

Samsung N130