Are you looking for a new desktop, a notebook or a netbook? That new term...
Are you looking for a new desktop, a notebook or a netbook? That new term has really made itself known since about early 2008. Netbooks are a new breed of ultra-portable computer that are still heavily emerging onto the market. So far, the models that are out there are incredibly well known and are being sold in almost unimaginable numbers. The unofficial definition of a netbook from umpcportal.com is “A small, low-cost, mobile computing device designed for consuming content, rather than creating new content.” In layman's terms; a netbook is a low-cost notebook style of computer that is designed for simple tasks like web browsing, emailing, web chat and document viewing/editing. Now it's time to take a closer look at these netbooks to see just what they offer for the low prices they are available at!
The first thing you will notice with most netbooks is the small physical size of them. Some of the first netbook offerings were available with exclusively 7” screens but newer models have expanded to include some models around the 8” size and also some that are slightly over 10” as well. These screens are almost always in the wide screen LCD format, almost gone are the days of a 4:3 display on a new laptop or netbook. Some models will even offer a built-in webcam in the top half of the bezel above the screen. These certainly aren't high end web cams, but for basic communication in a low-cost computer they are by no means “bad” either.
Storage is taken care of by means of several different methods depending on your make and model of netbook. Most netbooks are using a low power flash storage solution. For some of these models that means an actual 2.5” SSD (Solid State Drive) and for other models it means flash memory chips simply built right into the design of the system board. The only limit to flash storage is the current price to space ratio. Flash storage is still more expensive because it's such a new technology and netbooks that use flash storage usually only have around 4-16gb of storage space. The benefit of this design is the mentioned fact that it has lower power consumption than mechanical drives and it is also shock proof and faster because there are no mechanical moving parts like a hard drive. Other models are using a standard 2.5” hard drive for storage which means a much larger amount of space is available, from 80gb and up usually! Almost all netbooks have an SD card reader or two in them. By means of a high capacity SD card it would be easy to take an 8gb SSD-based netbook and expand it another 8+ gig with an inexpensive card. You could even have multiple cards with different types of data on them (media, documents, etc). Of course all netbooks have 2+ USB ports so you can not only connect and expand with more hardware but USB memory sticks are also supported.
Internet connectivity is one of the main focus' of netbooks and thus they all offer a variety of ways to get connected. Standard on almost all of them is wireless 802.11 b/g connectivity and a wired 10/100 LAN port. Some models are offering a 56k dial-up modem but this is something quickly becoming extinct, with most hotels and offices offering either wireless or wired internet connectivity to visitors. For those willing to invest a little extra for added freedom, you can now get netbooks with built-in 3G wireless network connectivity allowing you to connect to the internet almost anywhere on the 3G cellphone network (subscription of either cell phone or data services required of course).
The CPU and memory of netbooks is often not talked about in great detail as it would be with an actual notebook computer. Most netbooks are running on Intel's Atom processor which is a low-power, single core processor that runs around 1.6ghz. Since this is still a developing area, expect alot more to come in this Intel Atom series of processors. RAM usually varies between 512mb and 2gb. For Linux use a 512mb system will be more than enough because it's such a lightweight operating system. Those putting Windows on their netbook can usually benefit from at least a gig or more of RAM.
The operating system will be the biggest thing that will concern a lot of netbook buyers. To keep things low cost not all of these devices are offered with Windows as their primary operating system. A lot of these netbooks are choosing to use different variations of the free open source operating system Linux as their OS of choice. Since Linux is free, they don't need to raise the price on the product to help pay for extra licensing fees. Also, being open source allows them to fully customize the interface of the OS to better meet the needs of their device. We're seeing a lot of these systems running very simplistic Linux interfaces that even your most eldest of relatives could handle using. For a little extra, most netbooks are available with Windows XP as well, although most will find a slight performance loss because it is a bit more resource hungry than a lite version of Linux. Netbooks aren't currently shipping with Vista because of CPU and RAM limitations in their design. It's hard to say if we will see Vista appearing on netbooks anytime soon or if they will wait until the next release of Windows (maybe we'll even see a future netbook version!).
With these little (and sometimes colourful) machines starting to take on full size notebooks in full force, sales are projected to be nearly 50 million by the year 2012. For simple internet, emailing, document processing, blogging and many other simple tasks, a netbook is an ultra-low cost solution to getting the job done. If you don't need the power of a full desktop or notebook, then why buy one? Spin over to your local PC retailer and check out many of the great netbook solutions that are starting to come to the market!Close
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- Pros: USB 3.0 connectivity, good network connectivity.
- Cons: Windows 7 Starter Edition installed; only 1GB system memory.
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- Pros: - Performance, - Multi in 1 card reader, - Bluetooth 3.0, - HDMI out
- Cons: - Heating issues, - Mono loudspeaker with low sound output
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- Conclusion: The Acer Aspire D255 is something of a mixed blessing, as many netbooks are. Lightweight and with good battery life, it is annoyingly slow at times and awkward to use.
- Pros: Lightweight; good battery; adequate specifications
- Cons: Slow processor; small keyboard; no application store for Android
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