Netbook or Laptop PC: Which Is Right for You?

Netbooks were popular for a few years in the early 2000s

Businesswoman reading paperwork with feet up on desk

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By 2011, most netbooks had vanished from the market with consumer interest changing instead to tablets that provided the same services and more at a lower cost. As a result, affordable ultrabooks replaced most of the original netbooks in functionality, although a few netbooks are still available.

Netbooks are specialized computer systems. They are designed to be compact, low cost and have long running times. To achieve these goals, the manufacturers make a number of sacrifices. Processors are 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, if running Windows. Many netbooks were designed to run on Google's Chromium operating system, instead.

All of these factors made a netbook a poor choice if it is the sole computer in a household. While they are functional for basic web browsing, email, and word processing, they are not capable of 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 the price isn't a consideration but size is, then a more capable ultraportable laptop is an option.

If it is a secondary computer to supplement either a desktop computer or a larger laptop computer, then buying a netbook may be an economical option for travel. Their small size and long battery life make them good as a machine on the go to access the internet through open Wi-Fi hotspots in hotels, airports, and coffee shops. It may be cheaper to buy a full desktop PC and a netbook than a specialized high-performance laptop computer.