7 Reasons Netbook Computers are great for students

by Mike McEvoy on August 17, 2009


Is a new portable computer on your back-to-school shopping list? Netbook computers are great for students. If you are looking for a lightweight and relatively inexpensive portable computer for school or home be sure to take a look at netbook computers as a potential option.

Netbook computers are great for students because they are small, lightweight, cost effective, connected, easy to use, and focused on essential tasks. This post examines the benefits of  netbook computers for students and parents. For additional in-depth information on netbook computers be sure to see our previous post, Netbook Computer Primer.

What is a Netbook Computer?

Netbook computers continue to evolve at a rapid rate. As a starting point, a netbook currently is an ultraportable computer that:

  • Typically weighs 2.5 pounds.
  • Has a screen size between 7” and 10”.
  • Includes a built-in wireless networking adapter (g/n).
  • Has no internal optical (CD or DVD) drive.
  • Typically runs Windows XP Home operating system.
  • Utilizes a lower powered processor such as the Intel Atom CPU.

Netbook Computers are a great option for Students

As computers become more and more essential for students from grade school through college parents and students need to weigh a range of factors when purchasing a system. One of the last things a parent wants to hear from their child is that they left their $1,500 laptop “on the bus.” Here are seven reasons why a netbook computer may be a good fit:

Lightweight – With a weight between 2 – 3 pounds, a netbook computer is a very manageable load for kids and is easy to transport. The netbook’s weight is a fraction of a bulky 15” or 17” laptop computer.

Small size – Netbooks have a screen size of between 7” and 11” and are less than 1” thick. This makes for a good fit when carrying in a backpack, yet even with a small footprint netbook computers are still quite usable and functional.

Low cost – Most netbook computers cost between $300 and $400. Accessories such as an external CD/DVD drive or an extended life battery can add to the cost and some top of the line netbooks can range up to $700. This is still quite a bit less expensive than the $1,000 – $1,500 price point of some laptop computers. At $300 a netbook computer costs only a bit more than some smartphones.

Wireless networking included as standard – All netbook computers include a built-in wireless network adapter for speedy connections to wireless networks at school and home. Many netbooks also include a built-in wired Ethernet connector.

Smaller keyboard – Due to the smaller overall size of a netbook computer the keyboards are also slightly smaller than a standard laptop keyboard. While this may be a drawback for some adults with large hands, this smaller keyboard may actually fit a child’s hands better than a full sized keyboard. The relative size of netbook computer keyboards range from 85% to 92% of the size of a standard laptop computer keyboard.

Focused on essential tasks – Netbook computers utilize lower power CPUs that also have less computing power than those found on most laptop computers. Some people will consider this a negative since it limits the processing power of the netbook and more complex tasks such a photo editing or video viewing/editing will be slow or not feasible on a netbook. However, this also means that a netbook is not particularly good for computer gaming, thus making the system’s use much more focused on schoolwork.

Increased battery life – Most net book computers have a battery life of 3 – 4 hours per charge under normal usage. Many manufacturers offer an extended life battery that may increase the battery life to a range of 5 – 9 hours per charge. These larger batteries also add about half-a-pound to the computer weight as well as increase the system cost.

Netbooks and Laptops

Given their low price netbook computer sales have put significant downward pressure on the price of traditional laptop computers. Netbook computer sales have jumped dramatically since Asus introduced the first netbook (the ASUS Eee PC) in 2007 and netbook sales are projected to continue to climb rapidly. As newer technologies come to market and manufacturers evolve their product lines the differences between laptops and netbooks sometimes begin to blur. On occasion when some laptops are on sale they can be priced very close to the cost of some netbook computers. However even when a laptop computer is on sale a netbook computer will still retain an advantage in terms of size, weight battery life and cost over a laptop.

Specific Net book Computer Models and Recommendations

Given the rapid changes and evolution with netbook computers I refrain from citing specific models. The product lines change too quickly and fluctuating price discounts can vary significantly. Most of the traditional laptop manufacturers now produce netbooks, with Toshiba recently introducing its first netbook computer to a very positive response. One manufacturer that you may not be as familiar with is ASUS or ASUSTek Computers, the developer of the first successful netbook computer. ASUS makes quality systems and is well worth considering.

For direct unvarnished reviews, comments and feedback on specific netbook computers, I find Amazon.com to be an excellent source. Below are several links to a representative sample of current netbook computers that will provide you with a good starting point for comparing costs and  features:

HP Mini 110-1030NR 10.1-Inch Netbook – 6 Cell Battery

Toshiba Mini NB205-N210 10.1-Inch Black Netbook – 9 Hour Battery Life

ASUS Eee PC 1005HA-PU1X-BK 10.1-Inch Black Netbook – 10.5 Hour Battery Life

Acer Aspire One AOD250-1580 10.1-Inch Blue Netbook – 7.5 Hour Battery Life

Samsung NC10-14GB 10.2-Inch Blue Netbook – 6 Cell Battery

Netbook Computers – Try before you Buy

For a more detailed look at a netbook computer be sure to read our Netbook Computer Primer which is an even-handed look at netbooks, including a look at potential drawbacks. Remember: Netbook computers are different than laptop computers so it is always good to spend a bit of “hands on” time with a netbook prior to purchase to make sure the model is a good fit.



Evita August 21, 2009 at 1:03 pm

I am a little past my student years, but I cannot going back to a desktop now that I have been on a laptop for over 2 years!!! For me the netbook won’t really work out of its sheer small size, but I can totally see how these would be a great addition for the student.

Laptops/Netbooks are just so versatile and fun!

StudentLaptopSecurity August 26, 2009 at 9:11 am

Great info. Netbooks definitely fit right in at school. If you’ve bought a netbook, don’t forget to protect it with laptop theft and recovery software. Crime happens often at school, and you don’t want to be without your laptop. Check out thisthis article for more information about how you can protect your computer.

Jane Baker October 26, 2009 at 11:53 am

I am curious how many students are issued personal netbooks at their school and what they do with them during the day when they have gym, lunch after school activities etc. Do they just lock them up in their locker? We manufacture mobile netbook and laptop carts for the mobile labs, but those computers stay with the cart for charging and security.

Mike McEvoy October 26, 2009 at 12:35 pm

@Jane Baker — A good question, re: netbook/laptop security at school. I believe that their only security options for kids are lockers or a backpack that the keep with them at all times. Hopefully at gym class or during after school sports lockers would be available. I’m sure netbook availability and secruity varies widely from school to school. Thanks for stopping by.

beth July 28, 2010 at 5:45 am

looking for a netbook for my daughter to use for schoolwork, but have NO “technical computer knowledge”…

will all netbooks have the ability to use Word for writing papers??? is there a better netbook if you want to be able to use Word?? also, can they print??

Mike McEvoy July 28, 2010 at 6:10 pm

@Beth — thanks for stopping by. Yes, all netbooks running Windows (there are a few out there running Linux) will be able to run Microsoft Word and print out your documents. Most come standard with 1GB of RAM. Get a model with 2GB of RAM for the best performance.

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