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Lil’ laptops that can

by Archives February 3, 2009

It’s a well-kept secret, but the laptop blues is a serious academic condition. Sufferers endure sore shoulders from heavy backpacks, little space for textbooks in bags, and the compulsion to sit near electrical outlets. Well, your tech guy may have just the thing for you: the netbook.

What exactly is a netbook?

The netbook is a relatively new, slimmer alternative to the laptop. The first netbook, an ASUS Eee PC, hit the market in 2007. Approximately 300,000 of the electronic knickknacks sold worldwide. The Eee PC weighed a slender two pounds and prominently featured a seven-inch screen for viewing pleasure. The popularity of the portable netbook helped push strong sales in 2008. In 2009, it’s estimated that 21.5 million netbooks will be sold to students, professionals, and the average computer user looking for a basic computer.
Thanks for the history lesson, but other than size, how are netbooks different from laptops?
There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to netbooks. Emmett Moore, a graduate of Concordia’s computer science program, says a netbook has a better battery life since it’s optimized to save power, “its main advantage is portability.”
The battery life on a netbook tends to be better than its full-sized sibling because of the processor (think of it as the brain of the netbook). “Netbooks have specialized processors that don’t take as much [power] from the battery,” said Moore.
Portability and battery life sound like great antidotes to the laptop blues, but what about the disadvantages?
In order to fit a netbook into such a small package manufacturers had to make some sacrifices. The two biggest drawbacks are found in the amount of space on the hard drive and the lack of a CD/DVD drive. A netbook’s hard drive can range anywhere between four gigs to a sufficient 160 gigs. But keep in mind that most new laptops now have well over 160-gig hard drives. The lack of space on a hard drive can be made up by purchasing a larger USB flash drive or an external hard drive, but that’s one more expense, and one more thing to carry around.
The complete absence of a CD/DVD drive also poses a significant problem. What would you do if you wanted to install a program not pre-installed on the netbook? You would need to purchase an external CD/DVD drive, which adds another cost to your bill.
This also means the netbook would have very limited use for someone looking for a portable media player. You would not be able to listen to a CD without the external drive. And if you wanted to copy the album to your netbook’s hard drive, it would take up precious space. It’s the same thing if you want to watch DVDs: no external drive and no space.

Why do netbooks appeal to students?

The fact that netbooks cost less than laptops is one of major selling point for students. Another advantage is portability. Daniel Polmiotto, a fifth semester psychology student, says his netbook allows him to be “able to bring around all my notes. I just type them out in class.” To be able to have all your notes in one portable device is quite a bonus.
Moore believes the choice of computer depends on what the student plans on using the netbook for. “Netbooks can basically surf the Internet, type out class notes, and check out your Facebook page.” Moore adds, “I wouldn’t see anyone typing out a thesis paper or long essay on one, they’re more for taking notes and the odd Googling.”

What exactly should I look for in a netbook?

If you are looking for a netbook, Moore says the first thing to do is to try out the keyboard and mouse. The smaller size of a netbook can make typing and using a mouse a bit more awkward. Make sure you can be comfortable with the setup; you will be typing plenty of notes during class. Moore also suggests you look for a netbook that operates on Microsoft’s Windows XP. In terms of internal components, Moore says netbooks are “more or less the same.”
Netbooks are not for everyone. The netbook is for the student wanting a digital notebook. It’s easy to carry around, will take down the day’s lecture, and fulfill any online needs without breaking the bank.
Someone looking for a multipurpose and portable computer would most likely not be too happy with a netbook. Anyone looking for a media centre to kill time between classes might be happy with the Internet capabilities, but will soon frown. There is no space for any large-scale storage like music and movies on the hard drive. And there’s no way to burn an album or install a program on a CD onto your computer without a CD/DVD drive.
Sometimes the laptop blues may be worth it for all the extras you can find on a laptop.

+ Netbooks on the market now . . .

EEE PC 1000 H

Display – 10″ WSVGSA (1024 x 600) LED
Processor – Intel N270 (1.60 GHz)
Hard Drive – 160 GB
Total Memory – 1 GB
Weight – 1.45 kg
Price – $400 – $600

LG NetBook

Display – 10″ WSVGA (1024 x 600) LED
Processor – Intel Atom 1.6 GHz
Hard Drive – 160 GB
Total Memory – 1 GB
Weight – 1.19 kg
Price – $400 – $600

VAIO P Series

Display – 8.0″ (1600 x 768) LED
Processor – Intel 1.33 GHz
Hard Drive – 60 GB
Total Memory – 2 GB
Weight – 0.68 kg
Price – $900 – $1,000

HP Mini-Note KX869AT

Display – 8.9″ WXGA (1280 x 768) LED
Processor – VIA C7-M (1.2 GHz)
Hard Drive – 120 GB
Total Memory – 1 GB
Weight – 1.2 kg
Price – $600 – $700

Lenovo NetBook

Display – 10.2″ WSVGA (1024 x 600)
AntiGlare TFT
Processor – Intel N270 (1.60 GHz)
Hard Drive – 80 GB
Total Memory – 512 MB
Price – $400 – $600

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