Current IT field related information

29 Dec 08 What are Netbooks?

Computers have come a long way. From the days when computers were hulking roomful of transistors and levers to now when computers can come in all sorts of colors, sizes and features. Lately, there is a new breed of computers that have become immensely popular. The netbook. Designed to be light, low-powered, basic and cheap internet computers, netbooks have become a staple for both techies and not-so-techies alike.

So what makes up these current little darlings of the computing world?

A typical netbook will have the following specifications:

  • Low-power processor like Intel Atom, Via C7-M, or AMD Geode
  • Screen size ranging from 7 inches to 10.2 inches
  • Hard drive from 2GB up to 160GB
  • Small form factor design
  • Keyboard with keys ranging from 83% to 95% of a full-sized keyboard
  • 256MB up to 2GB of RAM (Random Access Memory)
  • WiFi and bluetooth access.
  • 3-cell or 6-cell battery

Typically, netbooks are also cheap with price ranges below $400. With this price range and the portability of these devices, they have become very accessible and popular to a vast range of users. With everyone becoming more and more exposed to the internet, netbooks have become one of the most popular devices for people who want to get online while on the go. One no longer has to lug around a heavy laptop just to be able to surf the internet or do some work while sitting at your favorite coffee shop or bar with WiFi access. Parents who want to give their children a laptop they can use for school are also inclined to purchase netbooks instead. Some netbooks like the popular MSI Wind U100 also come in a range of colors that make them appealing to the younger generation. For rugged types who needs a laptop that can withstand wear and tear, netbooks like the Dell Mini or the ASUS Eee Pc with an SSD drive may be more appealing. An SSD (solid-state drive), compared to a typical hard drive, is less susceptible to damage due to shock or jitter because it has no moving parts. Surely, there is a netbook that can meet your basic needs for a portable computer.

Techies also love netbooks because these computers are highly customizable. Some netbooks with lower specifications typically have Linux installed on them. For most who have lost their love for Microsoft Windows, this is a major selling point. Computer enthusiasts and geeks usually fit this criteria. Some have even configured netbooks to run a hacked version of Mac OS X by Apple. Though the process of doing so borders on legality issues, it does prove that the netbook is indeed a very flexible machine.

One caveat to the netbook that many may find disappointing, is the lack of a built-in optical drive. Since netbooks are designed to be sleek and light, a CD or DVD drive will never be included in a netbook’s bag of tricks. Also, since the device is small, some users may find squinting at a small screen too much of a pain. Therefore, people with poor eyesight or people who need to view large presentations on their portable computers are advised to look somewhere else. Power users and gamers may also find the speed of netbooks to be less appealing. Compared to their bigger laptop counterparts, the processors usually included with netbooks are severely outclassed. Netbooks usually have processor speeds from 900MHz to 1.6GHz while the current breed of laptops now sport dual-core or quad-core processors typically running at 1.8GHz up to 3.0GHz. Playing high-end 3D games, producing Photoshop images, and creating CAD designs are out of the picture. But for playing games around 3 years old or for some basic gaming, the power of a netbook would suffice.

Despite these shortcomings, the netbook has taken the world by storm. All the major computer manufacturers have come up with their own netbook and we can expect that more are sure to arrive in the years to come. If you’re in the market for a portable computer, you may want to consider getting a netbook if your main use for it would be for surfing the web, desktop publishing or the occasional World of Warcraft fix. It would typically fill in the spot of your second computer or your main internet appliance and it definitely is a good choice for a computer you can give your children for school.

Some of the more popular netbooks you may want to check out are:

  • MSI Wind U100
  • ASUS Eee PC 901 or ASUS Eee PC 1000
  • Lenovo IdeaPad S10
  • HP MiniNote 2133
  • Acer Aspire One

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