What's in a Netbook?

Is a netbook worth it? That's the question many computer shoppers ask themselves when they compare the price of these little computers vs. the price of a full-sized laptop and see the difference. In order to answer the question and decide if a netbook is worth the cost for you, you will need to consider what you get for your money and if that is enough to meet your computing needs.

The first thing you must understand about netbooks is that they are watered down laptops. That doesn't mean it is no good. On the contrary, a typical netbook is a great computer if the way you use a computer throughou the day matches what it was designed to do well.

A netbook will work very well for doing common things like reading the news on a website, checking and sending email, or using typical office products like a word processor or a spreadsheet program. This is especially true if you use a cloud-based service like Google Drive, but Microsoft Office does just fine as well. If you use a computer to access information when you're on the go or maintain a blog, a netbook is a lovely tool.

For those who travel a lot or just want a computer when they are away from home and have these same basic needs, this small computer style is a good choice because it is so easy to carry from place to place and the battery lasts a long time. In fact, this little laptop only weighs around 2-3 pounds, which is quite light. The battery will run for half a day or more, so working in the coffee shop without access to an outlet will make a netbook work well for you where larger laptops may run out of gas.

Netbooks typically have a hard drive, so saving your work or creating new documents is easy and doable. Some netbooks still don't have a hard drive, however, so be aware of this in case you really need to be able to save things without access to the cloud.

Acer AOD270-1375 10.1" Netbook (Intel Atom Processor N2600, 1GB DDR3 SDRAM, 320GB hard drive, Windows 7, Espresso Black)
Amazon Price: $249.99 $230.00 Buy Now
(price as of Dec 14, 2016)
Acer has been a leading maker of netbooks since they arrived on the computing scene, and this little laptop is one of the staples in the family. It has a very sizable hard drive, it's quick, and a multi-card reader. Best of all, the battery lasts an impressive 8 hours or more but weighs less than 3 pounds. That's just what you want in a netbook.

What's Missing in Netbooks?

The main differences between a laptop vs. netbook are in speed, power, and inputs.

One thing you won't find in most netbooks is an optical drive like a CD/DVD drive. That may not be an issue for you but keep in mind that you won't be able to pop in a DVD and watch a movie or write files or photos to a DVD. You also won't be able to burn music to a CD. Again, for many people this is not an issue because they don't do this anyway.

Another thing you will be missing in a netbook is dedicated graphics. Instead, netbooks use integrated graphics to display the picture. For general computing you will hardly notice the difference, but if you plan to play a game or watch an online movie or a movie stored on your hard drive you will notice the difference. With its faster processor and graphics card, a laptop does a better job with demanding graphics.

The processor speed is another factor. In a netbook you will get fine performance for general uses, but again for demanding things like fast-moving graphics or even very fast typing you might find that the speed is different from what you experience in a laptop. If you need a lot of power for the way you use a computer, a netbook might be pushing it.

It is still true that many people will not require these demanding features in their portable computer, so a netbook is a perfect choice.

Samsung Chromebook (Wi-Fi, 11.6-Inch) 2012 Model
Amazon Price: $250.00 Buy Now
(price as of Dec 14, 2016)
There's a new kind of mini-laptop these days, and they are called Chromebooks. Samsung was among the first to make a machine that fits the mold, and it is a nice and inexpensive computer if you can live in the cloud. That means that this laptop has a small hard drive as it assumes you will store most things on Google Drive. In return, you get a slightly larger display, much lighter weight, and a great price. If you don't really need a big hard drive, give a Chromebook a good look.

Tablet vs. Netbook

Now that tablet computers have become so popular, it is valid to wonder if that is a better way to go. Again, this depends on how you plan to use your machine. A tablet is the ultimate computer for casual reading or access to on-demand information from your couch or anyplace that you don't needs the features a physical keyboard offers.

If it's simple internet browsing you're after, a tablet is hard to beat. The main features in a netbook that would make it superior are the physical keyboard and added inputs like a media drive, and it's more significant hard drive for local storage. If you plan to type, there is no question that a real keyboard will feel better than a virtual keyboard like those used on tablets.

Making Your Choice

The bottom line is simple. If you need a lot of power, are a gamer, or need an optical drive to read or burn CDs or DVDs, a netbook will come up short.

If you spend your computer time on general computing tasks like perusing the internet, checking email, working with documents, or even listening to music, a netbook is for you. Likewise, if you want the maximum in portability and battery life while still having a real keyboard, a netbook is a great choice. If this describes you, the answer to the question "Is a netbook worth it?" is yes!