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Netbook guide

In terms of portability, a lightweight laptop is the quintessential modern appliance — but what should you look for when buying a netbook?

If you're looking to get mobile broadband, it's probably for a portable device, like a laptop or a netbook. Although laptops have come a long way, some of the cheaper models are still heavy and have short battery lives.

Netbook laptops 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 and a limited budget, netbooks are absolutely ideal, but they're not for everyone. If you can't decide between a laptop or a netbook, read on to figure out which option is best suited to your needs.

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, depending on your needs.

Netbooks are designed primarily for internet browsing, but this doesn’t mean that their functionality is limited. You can also perform all your usual office functions, including word processing, spreadsheets and e-mail. Netbooks also let you watch movies and listen to music.

netbook

What makes netbooks different to laptops?

So far, netbook laptops sound just like ordinary laptops — but there are a few main differences.

Size
Netbook laptops are a lot smaller than conventional, budget laptops. While this makes them a lot more portable, this means they're not quite as powerful as their pricier counterparts.

Internal hardware
Netbooks use special, smaller processors to fit into such a tiny case. These run quickly but are limited in terms of performance. Whether or not this affects you depends on what you normally use your computer for: You won't be able to play the latest, most advanced games with netbooks, but they provide exactly enough power for regular computer tasks.

Keyboard size
A netbook keyboard is usually around 82% of the size of a standard keyboard. This can take a little getting used to, especially if you're used to having a number pad, but it's a 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 going for a nine- or ten-inch screen.

Designed for web access
Less processing power and memory mean these laptop lightweights aren't designed to run resource-intensive multimedia operating systems, but they're perfect for browsing and running web-based applications in the cloud.

Choosing a netbook laptop 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.

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.