I'm considering buying one of those netbook mini-laptops for my daughter. Can they do everything that the larger laptops do? Can you recommend any specific mini laptop models?
Is a Netbook Right For You?
Recently several companies have been coming out with a new breed of laptop, the netbook, or mini-laptop. Weighing in usually at about 2 pounds and about the size of a trade paperback, the mini-laptop can be easier to carry around and can look pretty slick.
It seems to have started with the One Laptop Per Child project, where laptops were made smaller and cheaper, with a goal of selling for $100 per unit in third-world countries. Companies are now banking on the idea that they might be able to sell more if they strip down their laptops to the essentials, and offer these netbooks at lower prices. It does seem to be working. Some of Amazon's top selling laptops lately have been these mini-laptops.
But are they worth the price, and can a mini replace your standard laptop?
Mini-Laptops: What Features Do They Have?
Most of the appeal in mini-laptops seems to come from the smaller footprint and the smaller price tag. Netbook displays range in size from 7-10 inches, and typically include a built-in webcam. Generally, the minis weigh in at just 2-3 pounds, which is definitely lightweight. My Sony VAIO laptop weighs 11 pounds, for comparison. Most have wireless capability, a network jack and a couple USB ports, and an SD card reader for transferring photos.
Prices start at $299 for some of these bite size computers, but they're not going to do everything a standard laptop or desktop can do. So you can use them for basic tasks such as word processing and web browsing, but don't expect them to perform well as gaming machines or entertainment centers.
You should be aware that some of the low-end netbooks come with Linux instead of Windows XP. This does knock off about $100 from the price (Linux is a free operating system) but it rules out running any Windows-specific software on the machine. Of course Linux comes with a web browser, email program and word processing software, but there may be a bit of a learning curve since it's not what you're used to using.
Who Should Buy a Mini-Laptop?
Unfortunately, a netbook probably won't replace your standard laptop or computer, unless your needs are very basic. Mini-laptops are really stripped down when it comes to hard drive space. Usually the amount of space is about 8 to 20 Gigabytes, but some have as little as 2GB. So you won't be able to store a lot of photos, videos, or emails.
There usually isn't a CD or DVD Rom either, so you won't be able to use it to watch movies. In fact, you might not be able to use it for much else besides email, word processing and casual web browsing.
These little devices might be helpful, though, for the low-budget consumer who needs just the basics and wants a lower price. I can almost hear George Foreman saying "I'm NOT gonna pay a lot for this laptop!" A mini-laptop might also be a good idea for kids who don't actually need a full laptop.
One other group that might find the mini-laptop attractive is business travelers. I recently took my XO laptop on a trip and found that it was perfect for keeping up with my Gmail and visiting a few websites. For people who need high performance, through, you'll probably still need to stick with a standard laptop.
The Options: Mini-Laptop Mini-ReviewsSo there are several versions of the mini-laptops currently available. The first is the Asus Eee PC 4G system. The price started at about $399 and it had 512MB of RAM. It's noted to be about the size of a paperback book and lightweight. It might be a little too small for most adults, the keyboard is really small. The company released another version of the Eee, that runs Windows XP and they made it slightly larger, and then the price went up a little too, to about $549. It is still on the small side though to keep it in the mini-laptop category.
Micro-Star International also came out with the MSI Wind, which packed on more CPU, 2GB of RAM and stretching the screen out a little, and then they gave it a mega 80GB hard drive. It is still supposed to sell for cheap at $399. Acer also has their own version with the Aspire One, still as powerful as the MSI Wind, though a little trimmer and looks good. It comes with Linux preinstalled and priced at about $400.
You'll also find the HP 2133 Mini-Note PC which is sleek looking, and is now boasting 120 GB of hard drive space and comes with Bluetooth capability. Dell also came into the mini-laptop market with the Inspiron Mini. The Inspiron also comes with Linux preinstalled, only 4 Gigabytes of hard drive space, but promises that you will get free online hard drive space from Box.com.
There are plenty of options in the various types of mini-laptops. Are they worth the money? You do get what you pay for. The lower prices means you will sacrifice some functionality and you might be limited on storage and power. However, it seems to be working well when marketed for younger kids, or for those people who really don't need all the extra features that standard laptop computers have.
Do you own a mini-laptop? Tell us about yours by posting a comment below...
Posted by Bob Rankin on 4 Nov 2008
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Mini Laptops (Posted: 4 Nov 2008)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved