In the eyes of some, netbook computers (small, portable computers that are generally smaller and lighter than traditional laptops) might have lost a little bit of their appeal. Tablet computers like the iPad have taken the mobile computing space by storm, and some people are finding ways to use their smartphones to accomplish many of their day to day computing tasks.
But for a lot of us, nothing keeps our productivity high like being able to use a physical keyboard. Touchscreens are fine for quick e-mail messages, but you’d be hard-pressed to do any serious data entry on a virtual keyboard. Netbook computers have the tactile advantages of a physical keyboard, but are still highly portable like tablet computers. So if you find yourself in the market for a new netbook, what other features and characteristics should you be looking for?
Screen Size: The screen on a netbook will be small, at least in comparison to most laptop and desktop computers. How small is too small for you? In part that depends on how you normally do work on the computer. For example, if you can’t seem to be productive without having multiple applications and windows open at once, or if you like to take a very large view of a spreadsheet or whatever other project you’re working on, then you’ll want as big a screen as possible.
Keyboard Size and Layout: Similar to the screen size considerations, it’s also important that you pay attention to the keyboard size and layout of any netbook computer you’re considering buying. You can expect a relatively small keyboard from virtually every netbook, but some models will feel more cramped than others. Pay attention not only to the size of each key on the keyboard, but how they are spaced. Users with larger fingers might appreciate keys that are further apart (to avoid getting more than one key at once) as opposed to larger keys.
In addition, take note of how other keyboard elements are set up. For example, if you find yourself accidentally hitting the touchpad or mouse buttons because of a particular keyboard layout, then that layout simply might not be right for you.
Operating System: Unlike the first wave of netbooks that came out a few years ago, most new netbooks have a popular and well-established operating system preinstalled. Whereas the first generation of netbooks was often preloaded with obscure or one-off versions of Linux, today’s netbooks often include Windows 7 or other major OS installations. Make sure to choose an OS that you’re comfortable working with.
Battery Life: Finally, since netbooks are designed to be ultraportable, and you’ll likely be using it on the go, make sure you understand exactly what the battery life of a given netbook is, and how the battery life figure was calculated. For example, a battery life figure that is calculated with the display on the dimmest setting and no Internet connection might not be a particularly helpful measure.
If at all possible, don’t buy a netbook without being able to test it out for yourself or, at a minimum, make sure to read as many genuine user reviews as you can so that you understand what you’re getting.