Netbooks have gained widespread attention because of their low price and portability, but how do you know if buying one is right for you? When it comes to netbooks and notebooks, although the names may sound the same, they imply very different types of computers. And before you do anything, it’s important to understand the fundamental differences between the two.
To help you determine which PC will best suit your needs – netbook or notebook – I reached out to VAIO Product Manager Brian Nowlin (pictured right) to ask some of the most common questions we hear. You can find his answers in the interview below.
What’s the fundamental difference between a netbook and a notebook?
Sometimes referred to as a mini-notebook, netbooks are built for general computing functions, such as e-mail and internet access. Unlike notebooks, netbooks tend to have a limited choice in operating systems and compatible software. The more powerful operating systems and applications require more memory and CPU performance than netbooks can typically provide. Alternatively, a notebook can have nearly as much computing power as a desktop computer, with similar CPUs, memory and storage capacity and can handle just about any software you throw at it.
What software can I use?
It really depends on the applications you use and how you use them. While netbooks are perfect for basic computer tasks, if you use applications that edit photos and videos, create graphics, design websites or conduct complex financial analysis, a notebook is the better choice. For example, editing photos in Photoshop or performing advanced functions within the Microsoft Office Suite – such as watching videos within a PowerPoint presentation or running multifaceted calculations in Excel – can tax a netbook. However, most notebooks have more powerful CPUS, more memory and larger hard drives to accommodate these heavy workloads.
What type of hardware can I expect?
Netbooks are built to browse the Internet, send and receive e-mail and perform other “light” functions, so they usually include Intel® Atom™-based processors, which are designed for low-power computers. Today’s netbooks are typically built with 1.6-1.7 GHz processors, with 1GB or 2GB of memory and up to 250GB of storage space. They typically come without a built-in optical drive (i.e. CD/DVD drive).
On the other hand, some notebooks contain quad-core CPUs that are capable of managing power-hungry applications. Notebooks can also have up to 8GB of memory and hard drives ranging up to 640GB or more. As a result, a notebook’s performance is generally much greater than a netbook.
What other hardware might I need to purchase?
Most notebooks include an integrated CD/DVD and/or Blu-ray Disc™ drive. If you’re purchasing a netbook, however, you may want to consider an external optical drive to install purchased software and transfer files. With both a notebook and a netbook, you may also want to consider an external hard drive to backup all of your critical files.
How long will the battery last?
Because netbooks are made specifically for light mobile usage, they typically have a longer battery life; generally around 6 hours or up to 10 hours with an extended battery.
Notebooks usually have 4 to 5 hours of battery life, though this depends on the make and model, usage (for example, video playback is energy –intensive) and the battery configuration. However, some manufacturers have developed notebook technology that offers as much as 8 hours of battery life – so make sure to do your research.
What type of screen size and quality can I expect?
Netbook screens are between 7 and 10 inches (diagonal), while notebooks have a screen size starting around 13 inches (diagonal). The screen resolution and image clarity tends to be superior in notebooks – important for those where details are essential, even in sunny outdoors conditions
What about price?
Netbooks typically cost between $250 and $600. Notebooks start around $500, through they increase in price as features are added.
In the end, it’s important to note that both netbook and notebook technologies are continually evolving. The best way to ensure a good experience is to carefully vet choices based on how you plan to use the computer now and well into the future. Before choosing a computer, remember to check the minimum hardware requirements of the applications you use or plan to use and be sure the PC you’re considering meets those requirements. Also remember that if you’re accustomed to keeping multiple application windows open and running at the same time, you may be disappointed in the performance from a netbook. On the other hand, if you’re looking for an inexpensive secondary PC to travel with and keep you connected the choice is obvious.
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