The buyer's guide for netbook computers

If you want a highly portable way to surf the web and complete basic computing, netbooks are the light, cheap laptops built for your needs.

The buyer's guide for netbook computers

If you want a highly portable way to surf the web and complete basic computing, netbooks are the light, cheap laptops built for your needs. Understanding the standard battery life, CPU, netbook size and hard drive options will help you pick your newest technological companion.

CPU: Intel Atom or Nano?

While you may identify a netbook as a small laptop, the CPU in the computer actually determines if it's a netbook or just a diminutive notebook. Most netbooks have an Intel Atom chip inside, which provides an excellent balance between performance and battery life. If you want increased computing power, look for a dual Atom chip. Some netbooks have a Nano chip, but this chip has a slower overall processing speed. Faster and better CPUs come with an increased price tag and are reserved for actual laptops.

Hard drive: solid state drive (SSD) vs. hard disk drive (HDD)

HDD are traditional hard drives found in most netbooks. They're less expensive than SSDs, so netbooks that have an HDD usually have more available storage. SSDs are a more reliable and expensive way to store data. A netbook can also access data from a SSD faster than from an HDD, which makes the overall system quicker.

Batteries: 3 cell vs. 6 cell

Smaller 3-cell netbook batteries may only provide a couple of hours of battery life before they must be charged. A 6-cell netbook battery can provide seven to 10 hours of computing time. Therefore, if you expect to use your netbook extensively while travelling, opt for the larger battery.

Size: small vs. extra small

Most netbooks range from 25 to 35 centimetres in size. Smaller netbooks mean greater portability, but they can also make completing simple tasks more difficult. If you intend to use your netbook for word processing, it's essential to pick a netbook with a full-sized keyboard.

Netbook computing ability

While netbooks can't compete with larger, more expensive laptops when running resource-heavy programs, they do a lot more than surf the web. You can use your netbook to upload pictures from your camera and complete basic photo editing. Netbooks are also great for business people who need to run small presentations, create spreadsheets or type documents.

With their small price tags and tiny size, a netbook can be a great portable computer for desktop devotees. You'll still need a laptop or desktop to play memory-intensive games, edit video or do extensive graphics work, but the right netbook should satisfy most of your basic needs.

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