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Guide to free netbooks

If you're looking to get mobile broadband then it will almost certainly be for a portable device, like a laptop or a netbook. Laptops can be bulky, expensive, have terrible battery lives and can be more powerful than you require. Netbooks are specifically designed to offer a quick, reliable and ultra-portable solution for working or socialising on the move, and the price tag is a lot lower than a regular laptop.

For people with simple computing needs netbooks are absolutely ideal, and more and more broadband providers are giving them away free with their mobile broadband packages. So the first thing to decide is, do you need a laptop or a netbook?

Compare our best-selling broadband and free laptop packages at our broadband & free laptop comparison page.

Compare our best-selling broadband and free netbook packages at our broadband & free netbook comparison page.

What is a netbook?

A netbook is a super-small, lightweight laptop designed specifically for carrying around in your briefcase or handbag. Netbooks can be used as your main PC, or as a supplement to your home PC for when you’re out and about.

Netbooks are designed with internet surfers in mind, but this doesn’t mean that their functionality is limited. You can also perform all your usual office functions, including word processing, spreadsheets and email. Netbooks also let you watch movies and listen to music.

What makes a netbook different to a laptop?

So far, netbooks sound just like laptops. However, there are a few main differences.

Size
Netbooks are a lot smaller than conventional laptops. This makes them a lot more portable, but means they’re not quite as powerful as their counterparts.

Internal hardware
Netbooks use special, smaller processors to fit into such a tiny case, for example the Intel Atom CPU. These run quickly, but are limited in terms of performance. You won’t be able to play the latest, most advanced games with them, but they provide exactly enough power for regular computer tasks.

Keyboard size
A netbook keyboard is usually around 82 per cent of the size of a standard keyboard. This can take a little getting used to, especially if you are used to having a number pad, but is a pretty fair trade off for the improvement in portability.

Screen size
Netbook screens usually come in at between seven and ten inches. If you’re after portability, choose the smallest screen available. However, if you want to watch movies on your netbook, it may be worth you going for a nine or ten inch screen.

Designed for web access
Less processing power and memory mean these laptop lightweights are not designed to run resource-intensive multimedia operating systems, such as Windows Vista, but are perfect for browsing and running web-based applications.

Do netbooks sound like you, or are you more interested in a laptop? Compare the latest free laptop deals at our broadband & free laptop

Choosing a netbook deal:

There are many factors to consider when going for a netbook. We’ve highlighted a few of the main things you may want to bear in mind when choosing the mobile broadband and free netbook deal that’s right for you:

Battery life
Standard battery life for netbooks varies between two and nine hours. The main factor affecting the battery life of your netbook will be screen size and brightness. Another factor will be the storage mode. A netbook with SSD storage will have a longer battery life than one featuring a traditional HDD.

Storage Type
Netbooks generally use three types of storage: SSD, NAND and HDD. An HDD is a traditional hard disk drive, while an SSD and NAND are more like a USB Flash drive. Because there are no moving parts, or magnetic discs, SSD/NAND has immensely quick access times (up to 70 times quicker than an HDD). Unfortunately their capacity is a lot smaller and they are a lot more expensive. Getting a netbook with HDD means increased storage space and performance, but this comes at the cost of battery life and low price.

Operating System
Not all netbooks use a Windows operating system. Another way manufacturers have been able to make netbooks cheaper is by using open source operating systems like Linux. The Linux OS, though unfamiliar to many, is quite simple to use. It's minimalistic and easy to navigate - even for non-techies.

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