Should I Buy a Netbook Over a Laptop PC?

Question: Should I Buy a Netbook Over a Laptop PC?

Netbooks have essentially vanished from the market with consumer interest instead in tablets. As a result, the question is not really relevant anymore, especially as more and more affordable ultrabooks have replaced the original netbooks in functionality. As a result, I recommend readers check out my Tablets vs. Laptops article for a more current product comparison.


Netbooks are very specialized computer systems. They are designed to be compact, low cost and have very long running times. In order to achieve these goals, the manufacturers have to make a number of sacrifices. Processors must be slower and have fewer cores making them unable to run certain applications and slower at others. DVD drives are completely removed preventing playback of CDs or DVDs and making it difficult to install store bought software. They are also restricted in the amount of memory and storage space they can have by the Microsoft operating system licenses. More detail about all of this can be found in my What Are Netbooks? article.

All of these factors make a netbook a very poor choice if it will be the sole computer in a household. While they are functional for basic web browsing, email and word processing, they are not very capable at any multimedia application including graphics, video and sometimes even audio.

Anyone looking to get a low cost laptop computer would be better served by a slightly more expensive and less portable budget laptop PC. If price isn't an option but size is, then a more capable ultraportable laptop is also an option.

Now, if it is a secondary computer to supplement either a desktop computer or larger laptop computer, then buying a netbook may be a very economical option when traveling.

Their small size and long battery life make them very good as a machine on the go to access the internet through open Wi-Fi hotspots from hotels, airports and coffee shops. After all, it may actually be cheaper to buy a full desktop PC and a netbook than a specialized high performance laptop computer.

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