Netbook Computers for Writers

Netbooks - Enough Power?

Like many people, I decided against buying a netbook because of reports about them being so underpowered. However, as a writer, the idea of having a very portable, very lightweight way to write anytime, anywhere, was very tempting.

Finally, after painfully typing out a ten sentence blog post on my mobile phone, I decided to give the idea of netbooks another chance. It turns out that I probably shouldn't have worried so much about it in the first place.

Most netbooks run on Windows XP Home Edition, an OS whose original minimum hardware requirements were just 128 MB of RAM, and a Pentium processor running at 300 Mhz. Numbers like that sound like ancient history. And while today's programs can take much more power, chances are many of them will run just fine on a new netbook.

Netbook Hardware

When netbooks first arrived on the scene, many vendors, including Intel and Microsoft considered them a fad that would fade quickly. However, as the allure of a low cost, highly portable, Internet device became more desirable, netbooks began not to fade away, but to get more popular.

It turns out that while a mobile phone like a BlackBerry or an iPhone makes for a good way to READ information on the Internet, they are a terrible way to WRITE information back. Answering an email with two sentences is a breeze on a mobile phone, but a four paragraph response to an important client just isn't worth the headache of typing into either a touchscreen or tiny keyboard. That means that most people still lug around a laptop just in case.

Once the potential for netbooks was realized, Microsoft found itself in a difficult predicament. It was terminating Windows XP and trying to force people to move to Vista, but Vista was too big and bloated to run on the small hardware available on netbooks. On the other hand, Microsoft certainly didn't want too many people getting a good look at other operating systems like Linux and deciding they were good enough, so it re-authorized hardware makers to use Windows XP Home Edition for netbooks. In order to avoid any using the loophole to keep selling the much more popular XP operating system, Microsoft set strict licensing agreements on the hardware being used.

Netbooks running Windows XP are limited to 1 GB of RAM. It turns out that this is plenty of RAM to run most of the programs that you would want to run on a device with such a small screen. For example, Adobe Photoshop might be too hefty to run on a netbook, but who wants to do high end photo editing on a 10 inch screen anyway?

How To Tell If a Netbook Is Right For You

How do you know if a netbook is a good choice for you?

For starters, take a look at your current computing hardware. In my case, I had an older 6 pound laptop running a Pentium something processor and 512 MB of RAM. That makes a new netbook an upgrade in power! Likewise, if you are using a computer with one or two gigabytes of RAM now and don't notice any speed issues, a netbook is likely a fine choice.

However, if your current system has 8 GB of RAM and two quad-core processors, a netbook is going to be a huge down shift in performance.

Basically, the rule of thumb should be that if you already have and use a laptop computer that is built for portability instead of a laptop that is billed as a "desktop replacement" then you should be fine with a newer netbook for your Wi-Fi Internet connection type activities. In other words, if you want a portable computer to do the things you would do in a Starbucks, then a netbook is for you. If you are wondering about editing multimedia, then a netbook is not your solution.

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Comments 2 comments

Mike 5 years ago

How about a tablet computer? A touchscreen on a 7" or 10" tablet is very different than the one on your phone's tiny screen. In fact, the touchscreen keyboard on my daughter's HP Touchpad is almost good enough to touch-type! I wouldn't want to do editing but for just entry of a few paragraphs or even pages of text, maybe they're good enough? And talk about portability and battery life... Do you know a writer who's tried one lately?


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Hub Llama 5 years ago from Denver, CO Author

"Almost" good enough isn't good enough. How fast could you touch type on it? It isn't a matter of sensitivity; it is a matter of not looking at the keyboard. I haven't found a screen yet that you can do that on.

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