Netbooks – Wife APPROVED!

Dad’s hobby is tech gadgets. Some of these gadgets make our life easier, some I think are just in the way (even if he still loves them).

For all those Moms out there who are looking for a good tech gift for Dad, check out these “Wife Approved” articles writen by my hubby! (Or send the link to your hubby for something he might be interested in.)

If you have been looking for a new portable computer, or have been reading anything about computers during the past year, you’ve probably heard of a new class of computers dubbed netbooks.

Netbooks are generally very small, light weight, inexpensive and energy-efficient portable computers targeted to be used for online activities such as browsing the Internet, checking email and instant messaging. They are not intended to replace your desktop computer due to their low-power processor, but can make a great second, portable computer. They can certainly handle most basic tasks, including word processing, but most users will not want to spend their days typing of them due to their small screen and reduced keyboard size.

Most major computer manufacturers currently offer a netbook in their lineup. This includes HP, Dell, Lenovo, MSI, Acer and ASUS. When you look at the different offerings from these manufacturers, you’ll notice they all have similar components. They almost all use the Intel® Atom™ processor, have a 8.9-10.2” screen, weigh 2-3 lbs, 3-cell battery, 512 MB to 1GB of memory, integrated Wi-Fi and a 80GB hard drive. Different models include options such as SSDs (Solid State Disks) to replace traditional hard drives, media card readers, Bluetooth, integrated web cams and larger 6-cell batteries. You also have a choice of operating systems on different models. Windows XP® Home has become a standard offering on most, while a custom Linux version is also offered to keep the cost down.

Most netbooks have a street price of $299 to $499. The netbook I purchased was a Lenovo IdeaPad S10 which can be purchased for $349 direct from Lenovo. After looking at the different offerings from manufacturers, I went with this model based on the specifications, price and general feel of the computer. Some netbooks can feel and look toy-like, while the IdeaPad S10 has a very solid-built quality and a simple and clean look. The configuration includes a 1.60GHz Intel® Atom™ processor, Windows XP® Home, 10.2” LED backlit screen, 512MB memory, 80GB hard drive, Wi-Fi, integrated web cam, 3-cell battery, media card reader, express card slot and a one year mail-in warranty.

I have been using a Lenovo IdeaPad S10 for the past few months and have been very happy with its performance and use. One of the best qualities of netbooks is their size and weight, and for these reasons I carry the computer most everywhere I go. With the addition of a wireless Internet card such as my USB Sprint card, I can get online wherever I am and can take care of whatever personal or work activities I need to.

Netbooks are not perfect. Some users might not feel comfortable typing on the reduced size keyboards, and I would advise anyone considering purchasing a netbook to visit a local retailer to try them out for themselves. The IdeaPad S10’s keyboard is listed as 85 percent of normal size, but the keyboards differ between models. On the S10, some of the buttons such as the right shift key have also been slightly relocated, but I found, after a few days of use, that I got used to the size and changes. Battery life with the standard 3-cell battery generally lasts around 2 hours and 45 minutes. For most activities battery life is sufficient, but while on a recent cross-country flight, I wished for a larger battery. A 6-cell battery for the Lenovo is already available for purchase overseas, and will soon be available in the United States. Other manufacturers are already including the larger battery or have one available for purchase. Note, the 6-cell battery will add some additional overall weight, but most users will find the addition an expectable trade off for the increased battery life.

Netbooks do not include an integrated CD or DVD optical drive. External USB versions can be purchased for around $50 – $100, and you may want to purchase of these depending upon your intended use.

Netbooks are also becoming a very popular option for parents looking for a first computer for their children. They are a good value, and the lower price point than traditional laptop computers will appeal to parents as well.

If you are looking for a computer to replace your desktop, a netbook is probably not for you. If you are looking for an ultra-portable computer you can take anywhere to browse the Internet, check email, video chat or handle basic word processing, I’d give one a shot. Most major retailers such as Best Buy and Circuit City carry them in store so you can try one out for yourself. For me, it made a perfect “second computer,” or as my wife corrected me, fourth computer, but that’s hardly the point.

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