By: Jared Spurbeck
To put it simply, a netbook is basically a miniature laptop computer. They usually have 10-inch screens and scaled-down keyboards and touchpads to match, and are extremely small and lightweight. They're also cheap -- a high-end netbook only costs about as much as a low-end laptop or tablet.
Most netbooks use some version of the Intel® Atom™ processor*, which is low-powered but also uses very little electricity. They also typically run Windows 7 Starter Edition*, which is limited in its features. Other netbooks run the full versions of operating systems like Ubuntu*, which don't run Windows apps but also don't get Windows viruses.
What can netbooks do?
Netbooks are best for casual web browsing, social gaming, and light word processing or image editing. Very large photo and video files don’t handle quite as well although some can play HD video. Windows netbooks can play Windows games, too, but you should check newer titles to see if they will work on your netbook.
How do netbooks compare to laptops?
On the upside, a netbook is highly convenient and portable, can also fit in your handbag or purse, and is quite light weight. Add in optional accessories like a compact travel mouse and a 3G wireless modem, and you've got a tiny computer wherever you go.
How do netbooks compare to tablets?
Netbooks rarely have touchscreens, and may seem a little bit slower than tablets since most netbooks run an operating system (Microsoft Windows) designed for desktop PCs. On the other hand, netbooks have built-in keyboards and memory card readers, and you can use a touchpad or mouse to browse the web on them -- including Silverlight* and Adobe* Flash* games and videos.
What apps can a netbook run?
Netbooks that run Microsoft Windows can run Windows apps, like Microsoft Office*. Intel AppUp™ is an online store for Windows netbook apps, Ubuntu has its Software Centre*, and Google's Chrome Webstore* features apps that run on netbooks using their Chrome browser.
You might get a little slowed down running gaming or video editing tasks on a netbook, but pretty much anything else you can think of using a computer to do is fair game.
Should I use a netbook as my main computer?
That's something you'll have to decide for yourself. You may want to try one out and see how you like it. Keep in mind that netbooks are designed to be fun and portable, not to be "workhorse" machines. Also, keep in mind healthy ergonomics -- it's not good for you to be hunched over a tiny computer for hours and hours each day.
Is a netbook right for me?
Again, you'll need to decide that for yourself, based on your likes and dislikes and what you will use it for. I personally had a lot of fun playing with one, and I like seeing the new designs in the stores. Try them out, and see what you think!
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