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TECH Q&A

What's a netbook, and which one should I use?

from Steph McLoughlin, Melbourne, Australia

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I keep hearing about netbooks. What's a netbook? It just sounds like another fancy name for a laptop -- but I won't be fooled by nonsense! Please set me straight on this very important matter so that I can keep being the smart one among my peers. Thanks!

Expert Bio Picture

Tech Expert Chris Pirillo President, Lockergnome.com

Expert Answer:

Dear Steph,

I prefer the term notebook to laptop, but that's just my tomato to your... tomato. Remember the world's first portable computers? They were gigantic!

Netbooks are sort of the next step in the evolution toward leaner and cheaper notebooks. Think of a netbook as a sub-notebook that's a little lighter without doing the same for your wallet.

Sure, it may sacrifice speed and performance for being a simpler, cheaper beast of burden, but it's not really designed to do the heavy-duty lifting of a shiny new desktop or a notebook specifically designed for gaming.

Netbooks are perfect for browsing the Web, checking email, and...well, that's really about it. They're nice and portable for accessing the Internet (hence the "net" part of netbook) and keeping you in touch with the outside world when on the go, but you wouldn't want to use one to edit video or play a new, fast-paced, first-person shooter game.

I've used four netbooks at home:

The Asus Eee PC 4G (sent to me as a review unit). Slow, tiny keyboard, but extremely lightweight. I ran out of disk space quickly with it after all the Windows updates were applied, but...well, it certainly worked as advertised!

The HP Mini 1000 (sent to me as a review unit). It's got a more accommodating keyboard, and it's apparently quite Windows 7 beta friendly.

I wound up offering the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) as a gift to a friend's family. I purchased it outright for the cause.

The only netbook I've spent money on to date for my own use has been the MSI Wind U1000. There's quite a strong community around this brand, even if you've never heard of it before.

If you've got a letter to write home to mom, you don't really need a gold-gilded, 500-page, hardbound leather journal. If your needs can be met by something portable and inexpensive, consider a netbook instead of a notebook next time you're shopping for a new computer.

Does anyone out there have their own netbook experiences to share, or recommendations to make to the community?

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