Netbooks can be ideal laptop computers for students. They’re ideally suited to being used in class for taking notes, or in the library for writing assignments and essays. Here are a few things to look out for when choosing a netbook.

Battery Life

Many netbooks offer excellent battery life, with some providing as many as ten hours on a single charge. If you’re likely to use your computer all day, make sure that the battery is sufficient. Battery life will vary depending on how you use your computer, so check independent reviews to see how accurate the manufacturer’s claims are.

Screen Resolution

Netbooks are brilliantly small and portable, but this means a small screen - usually less than 11 inches. This can mean lots of scrolling around websites and documents, but size isn’t the only factor. Look out for the screen resolution - this tells you how sharp and clear the screen will be and how much text you will be able to fit on screen. Most netbooks have 1024x600 resolution, but some 10” and 11” models offer 1366x768 which is a big improvement.


Especially on the smaller netbooks, manufacturers have a real challenge to fit a full-size keyboard into the space available. Often netbook keyboards have smaller keys, or have keys in different places than on a regular keyboard. Different manufacturers make different compromises, so it’s helpful to try out a few models in a store to see which keyboard you like the best. Lenovo and Samsung netbooks are considered by many reviewers to have exceptionally good keyboards.


Much like the keyboard, touchpads on netbooks are often smaller than on a full-size laptop. Try it out in store or check reviews on the internet, as a bad touchpad can ruin an otherwise good computer. If you struggle with the touchpad on a regular notebook you may want to consider buying a mouse to plug into your netbook.

Build Quality

Netbooks are excellent value and often the cheapest computers around, but build quality doesn’t have to suffer as a result. Look for a high quality plastic or metal chassis. Hinges are often a weak point on laptop computers, so be sure to check that they’re sturdily built. You can get a sense of the build quality of a netbook by picking it up and flexing it between your hands; Good machines should feel stiff and solid, with no creaking noises.


Netbooks are available in a whole range of colours and designs to suit your personal style, but don’t be dazzled by what looks great in the store. Think long term - will that glossy lid look so great when it’s covered in fingerprints and scratches? Will a candy pink computer be as easy to sell on as a machine with a more subdued color? Bare metal ages best and is most resistant to scratches. Matt plastic can last very well and is nearly as good as metal. Be wary of painted plastics - the paint can quickly wear through, leaving ugly patches of uncolored plastic.