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Netbooks buying guide

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Netbooks Guide - An Introduction

A netbook, also known as a mini notebook or ultra-portable computer, is a rapidly growing type of small, lightweight, inexpensive laptop computer. They are most appropriate for general computing and for accessing the Internet. They are also called ‘companion devices,’ because they are meant to augment the user’s other means of computer access, such as a desktop computer or full-sized laptop computer.

Introduced toward the end of 2007, netbooks typically omitted features from full-sized computers, such as the optical drive, in exchange for a lower weight and cost. They had smaller keyboards and screens, and they provided less computing power. As they have evolved, netbooks can range from a screen with less than a 12.5cm screen to larger than 25.5 cm, measured diagonally. They are usually less expensive than a traditional laptop, often significantly so.

In the few years that netbooks have been available, they have grown both in features and in size, and there is also an overlap between netbooks and the new notebook computers, which are also small and lightweight. Some computer experts feel that there is so little difference between the two categories that the terms can be used interchangeably, while others maintain the distinction between the two. A netbook may also be referred to as a mini notebook computer.

If you are shopping for a netbook, Price Inspector will help you find the best brand and model for you. Our buying guide gives you tips and information for choosing your netbook, and then our Inspectors make sure you get the cheapest price. We compare prices around the UK to bring you the best deal possible.

Netbooks - Sizes, Speeds, and Connectivity

Depending on how you plan to use your new netbook, you will want to consider different sizes, processing speeds, and operating systems.

  • Size: As with televisions, computer monitors are measured diagonally. Popular sizes for netbook computers include 7 inch, 8 inch, 9 inch, 10 inch, 11 inch, and 12 inch screens. Larger screens will, of course, give you greater visibility, as you can see more data without scrolling. However, the trade-off is that it will be larger and heavier, which may impact the portability.
  • Processing Speed: For computers, the processing speed is as important, if not more so, than overall memory. After all, for many computers, it’s relatively easy to add additional memory, while a slow processor will impact the computer’s performance and your satisfaction for the life of the computer. The higher the number on your processor, the faster it is processing your data. Speeds for netbooks range from 1 GHz to 3.4 GHz. In between, you’ll find 1.2 GHz, 1.3, 1.6, 1.7, 1.9, and 2.4 GHz processing speeds.
  • How you connect to the Internet is also an important consideration. A wireless netbook uses a Bluetooth or other wireless connection option to give you maximum portability. However, if you will be using your netbook at home or in the office, look for a netbook that also allows for an Ethernet connection. This will result in a faster Internet connection for those times when portability is not a factor.

Popular Brands of Netbooks

There are many popular brands of netbooks, including:

  • The Acer AOD250-1842 has a 10.1 inch screen and provides up to 8 hours of battery life. This netbook includes a 1.6 GHz Intel processor, a 6 cell rechargeable battery, and WiFi connectivity.
  • The ARCHOS 10 Atom netbook offers a 1.6 GHz progressing speed, Windows XP, and an integrated Web cam. The 10.2 inch screen provides easy viewing of your documents, but it’s light enough to carry easily in your purse or brief case. It offers 160 GB of storage, three USB ports, and both Ethernet and WiFi connectivity.
  • The ASUS Seashell netbook offers an amazing battery life, up to 14 hours. It also provides 10.1 inch screen, Bluetooth connectivity, 1.66 GHz processing speed, and 1 GB of memory. The pearlescent case is sure to attract attention, but you’ll especially appreciate the features such as the large palm rest, keyboard, and hot keys.
  • The Dell Inspiron provides a large 11.6 inch screen and comes loaded with Windows 7 Premium Edition. It has a slower processor than some other netbooks at 1.3 GHz, but it offers 4GB of memory. It has a built-in Web cam and integrated audio, high definition screen display, and a 6 cell battery.
  • Hewlett-Packards 210-1010NR has a 10.1 inch screen and provides 4.25 hours of battery function. It lets you view your email, upload photos, listen to Internet radio, and participate in video chats.
  • The MSI Wind has a 10-inch screen and a 3-cell battery. It features a 1.6 GHz Intel processor with 1GB memory storage. It comes with a built-in Ethernet and wireless connection option, as well as Windows XP Home Edition.
  • Samsung N150 has a red shell, 10.1 inch screen, and 7 hours of battery life. It comes with an integrated Web cam, Windows 7, three USB ports, and a 3-in-1 memory card reader.
  • Sony Lifestyle PC is extremely portable, but it’s full of advanced features. It comes with Windows Vista, and it offers different connectivity options depending on where you’re using it. The Lifestyle features a high-resolution 8-inch display screen, 60 GB memory, and a 1.33 GHz Intel processor. It’s available in black, green, red, and white.
  • The Toshiba Mini comes with Windows 7 and has a 10.1 inch screen. It’s available in a variety of colours, including Posh Pink, Sable Brown, Royal Blue, Frost White, and Black Onyx, and it provides 9 hours of battery function. The netbook has a 1.66 GHz processor and 1GB of memory storage.

Other popular brands include:

* Compaq
* Disgo
* Elonex
* Fujitsu or Fujitsu Siemens
* IBM
* Lenovo
* Nokia
* Packard Bell
* Panasonic
* Viewsonic

Tips to consider before buying Netbooks

  • First, consider the operating system. The Linux operating system is both inexpensive and user-friendly, but most people are more familiar with Windows. Windows-based netbooks, including Vista, XP, and Windows 7, offer a wider range of software and hardware choices.
  • Next, compare the type of hard drive. There are spinning hard drives and solid-state drives, also known as SSDs. SSDs are more durable and have a faster transfer speed, but they are more expensive. If a spinning hard drive fits your budget better, look for one that provides at laast 60GB of storage with a speed of 5,400 rpm. You can find a spinning hard drive that holds up to 160GB.
  • Compare the battery life. Most netbooks offer a three-cell battery, although some have upgraded to a six-cell unit. With the smaller batteries, expect between 2 and 3 hours from one charge, while the larger ones should provide between 6 and 8 hours. If you will use the netbook while traveling, the six-cell battery option is worth considering.
  • Netbooks are no longer limited to just checking your email or using basic software such as spreadsheets or word processors. Now you can find a netbook with programs such as Adobe Photoshop for downloading and editing your digital photos, or you can play video or transfer your MP3 music files. Decide which programs and functionalities are the most crucial to you, and then find a netbook that offers these features.

Jargon Explained

EthernetA widely used technology that uses cables for the high-speed transmission of large amounts of data.
BluetoothA standard that allows radio transmission of data between computers and other devices over short distances. It can be used to connect a computer wirelessly to accessories such as a keyboard.
GHzGigahertz. This is the common measurement of a computer’s processing speed. It is equivalent to 1 billion cycles per second, and it indicates how many instructions the computer can execute each second.
RPMRPM: Revolutions per minute. For a spinning hard drive, this is also known as the spindle speed. The faster the disk rotates, the higher the performance.
GBgigabyte. A measure of the computer’s storage capacity. It translates to about 1 billion bytes of data. A bit is the smallest data unit on a computer. Eight bits creates a byte, which is enough to represent one character, such as a letter or number. Therefore, a GB represents approximately 1 billion characters. 

Buying Guide to Netbooks
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