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A netbook is a class of laptop. They are cheap and light (about 2.5 – 3.5 lbs.) but don’t have much power. They are great for emailing, casual web browsing, and word processing. Unlike full laptops, they have a few disadvantages you should be aware of:

  •  No built-in CD drive. You can purchase an external USB drive or copy files and install programs via a USB flash drive. Of course this adds to the weight when carrying it.
  • Limited RAM means limited performance. Dell’s current netbook offering, the Mini 10, is only available with 1gb of RAM. It can be upgraded later to 2gb but it’s time consuming to install. It requires taking the entire machine apart (which is NOT the case with other Dell laptops). Not recommended. I did it on my own Mini, and after that experience I will NEVER offer to do it for a client at any price.
  • Slow CPU. Netbooks use the Intel Atom PC which is designed to be a low-power/low performance chip. Because of the combination of a low-performance CPU and limited RAM I would NOT recommend a netbook for: watching video; using professional graphics programs such as PhotoShop; gaming, etc.
  • No full version of Windows 7. Dell Mini’s are available with either Windows 7 Starter Edition or Windows XP Home Edition. Essentially this means you don’t get the cool aero graphics and you can’t join it to a domain (in a work environment).

I am not putting netbooks down. I love my Dell Mini so much I am thinking of posting a picture of it. It’s small and light so I always have it on hand when I visit clients. (Clients always comment on how “cute” it is.) I also took it to Europe with me and it was indispensable for remoting into my clients’ computers, checking email, and making cheap calls back to the states using Skype.  The bottom line is that if you don’t do heavy graphics processing and you don’t mind the inconvenience of not having a CD drive, a netbook is a fantastic travel companion.

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