The Buyer’s Guide to Netbooks

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The Buyer’s Guide to Netbooks

They’re the hottest segment in laptops, and for good reason – they’re lightweight, good enough for simple tasks, and cheap

By Carlos Gonzales

Netbooks – those pint-size and lightweight mini-laptops – are selling like hotcakes. Tech research firm IDC says 11 million units were sold in 2008, from a mere 182,000 the year before. It’s certainly phenomenal. Suddenly, owning a laptop has been within easy reach by most of the middle class. Retailing between P15,000 and P25,000, the lure has definitely been the price but the small size and light weight have also attracted those looking for a second laptop.

There are of course trade-offs with the form factor and price – basic specs, limited storage, and the Linux operating system, among others. They’re called netbooks because they’re good enough for basic Internet use and office apps, and not for heavy-duty gaming or multimedia programs. So how do you make sure you don’t buy a lemon? Here are five factors to look at:

1. Form Factor

One major selling point for netbooks is the form factor, i.e. the size, and related to it the weight and screen size. Asus popularized this category back in 2007 with its Eee PC, which measured just 8.9 x 6.5 inches (versus the full-sized 15 x 11 inch-laptops) and weighed around 2 pounds (versus 12 pounds of bigger notebooks). The latest crop of netbooks is slightly larger with more comfortable keyboards (around 92% the size of full keyboards), although still lightweight. Screen sizes have also increased from the early 7-inch displays to as big as 10 inches.

Since disparities in weight are minimal across competing models, you have to decide mainly on size. And the best gauge is to try them out at the store, because that’s really the only way for you to know if you’re comfortable typing keys and staring at the display. If you’re buying a second notebook for occasional, then you can go for the smallest. Otherwise, it makes more sense to go for the larger models.

2. Performance

Intel-based netbooks come either with a Celeron-M or Atom processor. The newer Atom uses the latest 945 chipset, and benchmarks have shown it to run faster. So look for Atom-powered netbooks. Speed and performance are also affected by the amount of memory, so the bigger it is, the better. Go for at least 1GB RAM.

3. Storage

The early generation netbooks came with fixed solid-state drives (SSD), which allowed for faster startup, lighter weight, and speedier overall performance. However, you only get around 20GB of storage space compared to hard-disk drives (HHD), where 120GB for netbooks are typical. So if you want a slight edge in speed, go for SSD, but if you’re buying a netbook as your main laptop, go for HDD.

4. Battery Life

Nothing can be more frustrating when it comes to laptop use than running out of battery while rushing against a deadline – and there’s no power outlet. So if you’re on the move a lot, battery life is crucial. Some netbooks can go as long as five to six hours, while others can only manage a measly two hours. Most netbooks come with a 2-cell battery, but you’re better off with a 3-cell or even 6-cell battery.

5. Extras

To keep the price down, many netbooks are bundled with the Linux operating system or a trial version of Windows XP. Buying a bundled licensed Windows XP will set you back around P5,000. But it’s worth it. However, if you have technical chops—or know someone who does—you can settle with Linux and download Linux applications. You also would want extras like Wi-Fi support, USB ports, memory card slot, webcam, and jacks for a microphone and headphone.

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Netbooks: What to Buy

There are a growing number of netbook models out there, both foreign brands and local OEM (original equipment manufacturer) rebranded models. A Consumer Reports product comparison rated the Asus Eee PC and MSI Wind high, which makes them our “Best Value for Money” picks.

Brand Screen Processor

(GHz)

RAM (GB) Storage

(GB)

Battery

(cell)

OS Price
Acer Aspire One 8.9 in

1024×600

WSVGA

Atom 1.6 1 8 SSD or

160 HDD

6 Linpus Linux Lite or Windows XP Home P12,000 to P24,000
ASUS Eee PC 900 8.9 in

1024×600

WSVGA

Celeron-M 1 12 or 20 SSD 4 Linux or Windows XP Home P15,000
ASUS Eee PC 1000

BEST VALUE FOR MONEY!

10 in

1024×600

WSVGA

Atom 1.6 1 80 or 160 HDD 6 Windows XP Home P24,000 to P30,000
Blue H1 Mobile PC 7 in

800×480 WXGA

VIA Esther 1.0 1 40 or 60 HDD 4 Linux or Windows XP Home P10,000 to P13,000
MSI Wind MegaBook U100x

BEST VALUE FOR MONEY!

10 in

1024×600

WSVGA

Atom 1.6 1 or 2 80 or 160 HDD 3 or 6 Windows XP P16,000 to P20,000
Neo eXplore  X2 Classmate PC 7 in

800×480 WXGA

Celeron-M 0.5 40 HDD 6 Windows XP Home P10,000 to P11,000
Neo ViVid v1100 MiniNote 8.9 in

1024×600

WSVGA

Atom 1.6 1 or 1.50 120 or 160 HD 6 Windows XP Home P18,800 to P21,000

Wed Administrator’s note: Please take note that the prices may have changed since last year(2009) however the guide remains useful as a reference.

One thought on “The Buyer’s Guide to Netbooks

  • April 27, 2010 at 6:52 pm
    Permalink

    the design of the MSI Wind is similar to the basic netbooks you can find around. the price point of this netbook is cheaper than acer or dell netbooks ~

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