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Summary:

Netbooks have become a hugely popular hardware category, and I’ve been using them for more than a year, including trying many of the new models. Making compromises is part of the design of netbooks, so it’s important to evaluate them in a hands-on way when you […]

Netbooks have become a hugely popular hardware category, and I’ve been using them for more than a year, including trying many of the new models. Making compromises is part of the design of netbooks, so it’s important to evaluate them in a hands-on way when you go to buy one. In this post, you’ll find five tips for better netbook shopping.

Don’t buy solely online. Buying online can be a great way to get many kinds of systems at the best prices, but I wouldn’t recommend shopping solely online when buying a netbook. They’re designed to make compromises like the ones discussed below, so it’s important to have your hands on the device before you decide that a particular model is right for you.

Keyboard size is critical. Many netbooks are kept small and lightweight by compromising on keyboard size. Especially if you have big hands, a tiny keyboard can be a major annoyance. The Dell Mini 9 netbooks have good-sized keyboards and are reasonably priced, and the Acer Aspire One systems have nearly full-size keyboards. Many of the Asus netbooks have smaller keyboards.

Pointing devices matter. Quite a lot of shipping netbooks use trackpads, which annoy some people. Compounding that, the trackpads on some netbooks are set to behave in a hyperactive way, where you can sometimes barely touch them and your cursor will fly somewhere that you didn’t intend it to go, or the page you’re on will start scrolling unexpectedly. Put in some time playing with a netbook’s pointing device before you buy.

How much battery life? Battery life varies widely among netbooks, but you actually can get some units where the battery will last much longer than notebook batteries do. The new Asus Seashell line claims a whopping 11 hours of battery life. My experience with two previous Asus netbooks, though, is that I get about four hours of battery life if I’m doing tasks that don’t involve video and audio, and about 2.5 hours if I am doing video and audio. Think about the applications you use most when evaluating battery life, read reviews, and remember that you can maximize battery life if you turn the brightness down.

Display size. Netbooks originally came out with tiny 7-inch screens, but the displays have gotten much larger in many cases. However, the displays are typically not very large vertically, so make sure that the display on the netbooks you’re evaluating will suit the tasks you want to perform.

Share your netbook buying tips in the comments.

  1. What is your personal favorite right now?

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  2. @David, currently I think the Dell Mini 9 has the best design, a good keyboard, and lots of other things to like.

    Sam

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  3. [...] PT | 0 comments AT&T offering iPhone 3G S subsidy for some existing customers (jkOnTheRun) 5 tips for netbook buyers (WebWorkerDaily) Coming soon, LEED for data centers? (Earth2Tech) Logitech launches (very) [...]

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  4. Also,

    Try playing YouTube HD on anything b4 you buy.

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  5. I’ve got an ASUS 1000 HE with the brightness up to usable levels and using wifi all day I get 7.5 hours of useage, not the 9.5 the manufacturer claimed but still very respectable.

    I also used it to watch movies on flight from NY to Seattle and it lasted the whole flight and still had some battery life left.

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  6. We really like the Asus 1000 HE too, but the Asus Eee PC 1008HA, for a little more money is a better bet. Or for an awesome keyboard, we like the Samsung N120

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  7. Few models of netbook have “problems” with heat and noise. They do the job but it is not pleasant to watch a movie with hot noisy thing on your knees(no pun intended).

    Also other consideration must be made for memory: 1GB of RAM is good for linux, OK for WinXP and not OK for Vista. Most netbooks have 2Gb or 1Gb with possibility to install more, but some models have fixed amount of soldered RAM.

    Some netbooks have HDD replaced with flash memory( SSD ). It can be problematic if amount of such a memory too low for your needs. Expirienced users can easily manage this problem but for novice it can become painful. Big capacity SSD can cost you a lot to replace and some time it is not even possible.

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