Netbook Computers

Netbooks – The Ins and Outs

As I mentioned in the last article, I use a netbook computer when I visit a customer site to solve problems.  I can connect it to their network to see what is working and what is not. I can browse the Internet to research solutions. I also have access to my e-mail while in the field. In addition, I have reference material stored on it.  So as you can see this works very well for me.

Is a Netbook Right for You?

You can begin by asking yourself some questions.

  • What am I going to do with this device?
  • Is mobility important to me?
  • Do I want something very small and light weight?
  • Do I need a built-in DVD drive?
  • Can I handle the smaller keyboard?
  • Do I like using a touch pad versus a mouse?
  • Do I need a larger screen?
  • Is long battery life important?
  • Do I use programs that need a lot of power?

 As with any piece of equipment, there are pros and cons to evaluate. The questions above hint at some of these so let’s list the important ones.


  • High mobility – small and very light weight
  • Long battery life
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Built-in wireless capabilities


  • Smaller screen (10 inches)
  • Smaller keyboard (90% of notebook size)
  • Less powerful Central Processing Unit (CPU)
  • Maximum 2 gigabyte RAM capacity
  • No internal DVD drive

 If you just can’t live with one or more of the limitations of a netbook, consider getting a more traditional notebook or laptop computer.

Once you have made your evaluations and decided that a netbook will work for you, look at features before buying a particular model.  If you need a feature, get it now, adding later may not be possible.


  • Number of USB Ports – Some only have two. You will use these for a mouse, printer, or DVD drive. The more the better.
  •  External Video Port – This supports using a larger monitor or attaching a PowerPoint projector. 
  • Built-in Bluetooth – Headsets, external keyboard/mouse, connection to a Smart Phone are some possible uses. 
  • Battery Life – This can range from a couple of hours up to about 14 depending on the model. 
  • Wireless Connection Speed – Some support the G standard (54 Mbps) and others support the newer N (up to 300 Mbps). 
  • Amount of Memory (RAM) – Basic units have only 1GB.  I highly recommend getting the maximum of 2GB.


Maybe the netbook isn’t the perfect choice but it’s close. What can you do to improve things?

  • Screen, keyboard, mouse – When at home, attach an external monitor, a mouse, and full-size keyboard. 
  • Play Movies on a plane – Buy software that will put the movie on your hard drive before the trip. 
  • Running out of USB Ports – Get a Bluetooth mouse, keyboard, or headset. At home, get a USB hub to provide more.


I hope that this has helped you to decide whether a netbook is right for you and what to look for when you buy one.  If a netbook doesn’t happen to work out, you can still use this approach to get a more traditional notebook or laptop computer.

In any case, enjoy the freedom that mobile computing can provide.

About Dick Buchanan

I started working with computers some 25 years ago when my wife, Carol, and I purchased our first PC which was a Kaypro IV CP/M machine. This lead to studying computer science at Seattle Pacific University and becoming a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE). During this time I have worked for The Boeing Company, IBM Global Services, and Microsoft. I currently own and operate a local computing services company called Byte Savvy located in Kalispell, MT
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