May 182011

If you want a netbook, it can have only two of these four features:

  • Fast CPU
  • Long battery life
  • Big screen (11.6″+)
  • Low price
  • Considering today’s hardware capabilities some of these are mutually exclusive and that’s why I stay away from netbooks.

    My animosity towards single core CPUs, netbooks, and anything with slow bus speeds stems from the early days when I tested one of the first HP Mini business models with integrated webcam, the cream of the crop at the time, and couldn’t make a satisfactory Skype video connection. Last year I also witnessed similar behavior on my brother-in-law’s Celeron laptop when he tried to use it for a Skype video call – whenever there was another task in the background, either video or audio would get choppy. I also believe that Apple wisely avoided including a webcam on the first iPad due to its slow bus and single core architecture that would have resulted in bad quality video calls, negative reviews and support calls. To stay away from unnecessary problems like this I also try to avoid slow and single core devices and netbooks whenever possible – they can cost more in the long run than if you buy a capable device and pay a bit more up front.

    Netbooks are more powerful nowadays, and we own a very good MSI netbook that performs excellent on Skype, but still, only when on AC power, so for this purpose it’s always better to get a nice and cheap dual core laptop with quicker bus, integrated webcam and far more than twice as powerful CPU than in fastest and most recent netbooks with dual core Atom CPU. “Fast” netbooks tend to have shorter battery life (just like our above mentioned MSI), so extra long battery life and good performance can only be found in ultraportable laptops with ultra-low voltage multi-core CPUs.

    All this is confirming my initial general opinion of netbooks which hasn’t changed much throughout the years: they are too slow and too small, good only as a second laptop. Even if they were not too slow and too expensive for what they can give back, they’re too small for a home laptop. As soon as tablets get cheaper, they will become the new mainstream second, and netbooks, as we know them nowadays, will be mostly gone.

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