Netbook ultimate guide
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Small, low-cost laptops – netbooks – are fast becoming the hottest tech on the market, but understanding what they do and which one to buy can be a minefield. We help you make the right choice.The latest phenomenon in technology is the netbook – a small, cheap laptop primarily capable of web surfing and basic email, designed to supplement a main PC and offer a world away from your desk. Despite all the benefits, though, the world of buying and using netbooks is far from plain sailing, and while the popularity of portable feats of PC engineering has reached epidemic proportions over the last two years, netbooks remain some of the most returned gadgets.
Much of this disappointment is due to fundamental misunderstandings about the purpose and capability of netbooks, with many of us ending up confused about exactly what can or can’t be done on a low-power machine, and even which operating system it comes with.
What is a netbook?
Netbooks are essentially a sub-section of the greater laptop category, but are designed to be cheaper, smaller and consequently less powerful than their full-sized brethren. A typical netbook costs between £250 and £400, which makes them relatively cheap propositions, when you consider that large, heavy, yet still relatively low-powered laptops start at around £400 – but there’s a significant pay off in terms of what they can do.
The first ever netbook was the ASUS Eee PC 701, which was an unexpectedly huge success, sparking a race among other manufacturers to bring out their own offerings. Subsequently the market has become swamped with netbooks, with every manufacturer making at least one, and the lines between laptops and netbooks – which were at first clearly defined – have become blurred.
Back when netbooks first appeared, most of them ran the Linux operating system to keep the costs down. But people quickly started demanding Windows on their machines. The backlash against Linux led to netbooks being some of the most returned items of tech, with estimates of one in four being taken back to shops by customers who were confused as to why their programs didn’t work. The problem was that Windows Vista licences were too expensive for netbooks, so using this would have forced prices up. Microsoft allowed Windows XP to be sold on low cost machines, so long as the specification didn’t exceed a specific level. Through 2009 most netbooks shipped with a 1.66Ghz Atom processor, 1GB of RAM, 160GB hard drive and no CD drive. This defined netbooks for around a year, and the only differentiating factor between brands was form, keyboard and battery life. The release of the Windows 7 Starter edition in October, which is designed for low-cost PCs, means that manufacturers are now scrambling to bring out
With the restrictions on hardware gone, netbooks are moving forward at a frantic rate, with better processors, more RAM and bigger hard drives making up a virtual arms race of lightweight, low-cost laptops. Anyone who resisted buying a netbook in 2009 will now be able to reap the rewards of patience, earning themselves better hardware and Windows 7 instead of Windows XP to boot.
The attraction of netbooks isn’t hard to fathom, but there is a considerable pay-off in return for lightweight laptops that cost under £400. Performance is the first hit, and most netbooks feature single core, low-power processor chips, which aren’t capable of the extremities of everyday PC use. Netbooks are designed to handle basic web surfing, emailing and other types of PC communication. If you start asking your netbook to do tougher tasks like playing iPlayer and HD YouTube videos or dealing with large batches of images, you will see performance drop off drastically.
RETURN RATES OF
WINDOWS XP MACHINES
WERE A QUARTER OF THOSE
FOR LINUX NETBOOKS
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This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 8th, 2011 at 16:54 and is filed under Guides, Windows 7. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a comment, or trackback from your own site.