Although there are lots of different models, buying a netbook isn’t needlessly complicated. That’s because most netbooks use nearly identical hardware.
The standard configuration in a netbook nowadays is a 1.6GHz Intel Atom or VIA Nano processor, integrated Intel graphics, 1GB of RAM, and a conventional hard drive or a smaller SSD. Of course there are differences, but they are not as big as in the mainstream laptop segment.
How are Netbooks Different from Other Laptops?
Besides the obvious size factor, netbooks are (usually) much cheaper than other ultraportable laptops. To keep the prices down, some cutbacks have been made with the hardware. Before you consider buying one, you should be aware that netbooks are a lot slower than the average 14” or 15” laptop. This means that they run better with Linux or Windows XP than the newer and more demanding Vista.
However, it does not necessarily mean that netbooks are crippled – you can easily run a web browser, office apps and so on, but you may have problems running games and other, more demanding applications or playback HD video.
The biggest difference is arguably the size of the screen, and the trend right now is that they’re getting bigger with each generation. When ASUS launched the world’s first netbook for consumers, it came with a 7-inch screen. Now the standard is 9 or 10 inches, with some manufacturers opting for even larger screens.
Hard Drive or SSD
Solid State Drives are usually synonymous with high performance, but the ones used in most netbooks are cheaper and slower variants than the SSDs used in more expensive notebooks. They are also low on capacity, which is why an ordinary hard drive is the most common choice of storage device.
Linux or Windows
Most users will feel more at home with Windows XP than with Linux, but once you get past the learning curve you may find that Linux is the better alternative, and it also costs less (as in nothing). Beginners should have a look at Ubuntu; there’s a ton of completely free software available that is at least as competent as their PC counterparts and just as easy to use. Linux is also much more secure than Windows.