When I checked my email this morning, I had an email from Dell touting their new mini laptops. The Dell Inspiron Mini 9, similar to netbook offerings by Asus, Acer, MSI, HP and a few others, has an 8.9 inch screen, Intel Atom processor, a solid state hard drive, and 1 gigabyte of DDR2 RAM for a bargain price of $299. Once you get past the initial "Ohmigosh! A whole laptop for $300 bucks!" you need to evaluate what you're really getting for your money before you rush out and buy one.
I'll admit, I'm tempted, but here is my argument, as I am not necessarily a fan of these types of laptops that bare the moniker of netbook. They are cheap, but they are not for everyone. More of a toy than a tool, in my opinion. Now, don't get me wrong. They are quite capable, and the cool-factor is high. As a tech professional, I think I would really use one. However, my iPhone can do almost as much as a netbook, so I would have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages before throwing good money at a product that may only be used for show and tell.
- Ultra portability
- Long battery life
- Platform friendly - install Linux, Windows or OSx86
- Small screen
- No internal optical drive
- Limited upgrade options for RAM
- Solid state hard drives are expensive to upgrade
- Small keyboard - even for a laptop
What do most people need a laptop for? Work. Play. Staying in touch. Who is the target audience for the netbook form factor? I think a netbook is ideal for consumers that already have a desktop computer, or larger laptop, for normal work and play, but need something ultra portable for the road, or class. Or as a cheap extra computer for the tech-curious who want to experiment with other operating systems such as Linux with minimal risk and investment.
So, if you're got the cash, $300-400 is not that much to spend on a netbook - if you think you will actually use it, but I'm afraid the small screen and keyboard, while ideal for portability, will wear heavily on some users. If you've got an iPhone, Blackberry or some other Internet-enabled smartphone, that may be all you need.
My netbook picks:
- Acer Aspire One AOA150-1006 Netbook - TigerDirect - $299.96
Intel Atom™ Processor N270 1.60GHz, 802.11b/g Wireless, 1GB DDR2, 120GB HDD, 8.9" WSVGA, Integrated Webcam, Windows XP Home
- Asus Eee PC 900HA Netbook - TigerDirect - $299.99
Intel Atom Processor N270 1.60GHz, 802.11b/g WLAN, 1GB DDR2, 160GB HDD, 8.9" WSVGA, Integrated Webcam, Microsoft® Windows® XP
- HP Mini 1110NR Netbook - TigerDirect - $299.99
Intel Atom N270 1.6Ghz, 1GB RAM, 8GB SSD, 8.9" WSVGA, Linux
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