On Netbooks

by Roberta Piket on June 23, 2010

in Messages from the Owner

A netbook is a class of laptop. They are cheap and light (about 2.5 – 3.5 lbs.) but don’t have much power. They are great for emailing, casual web browsing, and word processing. Unlike full laptops, they have a few disadvantages you should be aware of:

  •  No built-in CD drive. You can purchase an external USB drive or copy files and install programs via a USB flash drive. Of course this adds to the weight when carrying it.
  • Limited RAM means limited performance. Dell’s current netbook offering, the Mini 10, is only available with 1gb of RAM. It can be upgraded later to 2gb but it’s time consuming to install. It requires taking the entire machine apart (which is NOT the case with other Dell laptops). Not recommended. I did it on my own Mini, and after that experience I will NEVER offer to do it for a client at any price.
  • Slow CPU. Netbooks use the Intel Atom PC which is designed to be a low-power/low performance chip. Because of the combination of a low-performance CPU and limited RAM I would NOT recommend a netbook for: watching video; using professional graphics programs such as PhotoShop; gaming, etc.
  • No full version of Windows 7. Dell Mini’s are available with either Windows 7 Starter Edition or Windows XP Home Edition. Essentially this means you don’t get the cool aero graphics and you can’t join it to a domain (in a work environment).

I am not putting netbooks down. I love my Dell Mini so much I am thinking of posting a picture of it. It’s small and light so I always have it on hand when I visit clients. (Clients always comment on how “cute” it is.) I also took it to Europe with me and it was indispensable for remoting into my clients’ computers, checking email, and making cheap calls back to the states using Skype.  The bottom line is that if you don’t do heavy graphics processing and you don’t mind the inconvenience of not having a CD drive, a netbook is a fantastic travel companion.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Maggie McComas June 23, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Would you classify Apple’s MacBook Air with these others? I am thinking of getting one because my 5 lb. MacBook Pro is a bit hefty to carry along with other carry-ons for long-distance flights. But of course it is expensive, with some of the disadvantages you cite. It has a relatively small hard drive. Do you know anything about processing speed? thanks. Maggie


Roberta June 23, 2010 at 4:36 pm

No, the Air is a full-power laptop. Its HD is small because it’s a solid state drive. Those types of hard drive are still very new so the price hasn’t come down much yet. It’s true that it doesn’t have a CD player built in. If I’m not mistaken it also doesn’t have an ethernet jack. You can only connect through wifi.


serena uible June 26, 2010 at 11:00 am

You CAN hardwire connect with a Macbook Air – you just have to buy a special adapter that allows you to plug in the ethernet plug. From Apple it costs $29 (plus shipping plus tax). You probably also want to get a USB hub – there’s only one USB port. Make no mistake, I think the the Macbook Air is wonderful – cheap it isn’t. There are a few similarities between netbooks and the Macbook Air, but Macbook Air is miles and miles better . . . and more expensive.

Link for adapter from Apple http://store.apple.com/us/product/MB442Z/A

You may be able to get it cheaper elsewhere on the web, I didn’t spot on in the 10 seconds I scanned a Google search.


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