Netbooks: To Buy or Not To Buy?

At the last conference I attended, at least 20% of the people with laptops were using NetBooks this year.  The reason why I took notice, is because at the same conference the previous year there was not a single NetBook in sight.  So what is a NetBook? How do Netbooks coompare to Laptop comptuers?

  1. NetBooks typically have a small screen than a laptop: typically 10″ diagonally rather than 13″ or 15″.
  2. Netbooks also usually have slightly smaller keyboards, although the Dell Netbook I have been using has a keyboard almost the same size as my MacBook Air keyboard.
  3. Netbooks typically have slower processors and less memory than laptops (Photo Shop and video editing won’t work well on them).
  4. On the plus side, Netbooks usualy weigh less than laptops, and in some cases (as is with my Dell NetBook) have a longer battery life than most Laptops.
  5. Netbooks also cost a lot less than light weight laptops, but are close in price to lower end bulky laptops. My Dell Mini 10 cost $329 CDN.

Admittedly the CALI conference attracts a pretty geeky crowd of law school technical staff, law librarians and law professors, even so, going from 0% to 20% in one year is impressive.

So what do I think?  I agree with Michael Dell’s assessment that for most people a NetBook makes an excellent companion to a desktop computer.  If you need to travel, or take a laptop to a meeting, a Netbook will do an excellent job.  After a couple days of use, I started to get claustrophobic in the very small screen space that the NetBook provides (in my case 1024 x 600 as opposed to 1200 x 800 on my laptop, and 1920 x 1200 on my desktop computer).

My recommendation for students, staff and faculty would be to get a full size desktop computer for your home or office, and then use a NetBook for classes, travelling and meetings.  If you use Google Documents, or DropBox for synchronizing files, you’ll have everything you need to work on no matter which machine you are using.

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