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:
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.