Are Dual Core Netbooks Good Enough?: My Experience With The N550
Everywhere you look, you see countless review on netbooks. Most people love their portability, but hate their performance. There is a new generation of netbooks on the market now. The dual core netbooks. Previous netbooks were all the same. They were running an Intel Atom N450 or N455. These are hyper-threaded single core processors. In other words, it's a single core processor that shows 2 cores when you open system monitor. Intel Atom N450's have been received both praise and criticism. They are good for battery life but low on performance. Unfortunately, these characteristics eventually polarized the consumer market. People either loved them or hated them. The new generation Intel Atom N550's hopes to bridge to gap.
“Good” is such a relative term so let me take a minute and define it for you. In terms of computers, “good” often relates to value. A netbook that is reliable, fast, and cheap is considered good. In the past, netbooks were only reliable and cheap. Speed was a major factor and some people couldn't get over it. Netbooks were just too slow.
I purchased an Asus 1015PEM in October. Having spent a few months on it, I can honestly answer that question objectively. Let's get to the point. Are dual core netbooks good enough? Yes. I believe they are. Here's why.
"Performance is not just about cloak speed"
I purchased my 1015PEM from Amazon for $369. That's a little bit more expensive that the current line of N450 netbooks. So far, I haven't had any hiccups with it so it has been very reliable. Speed is the question we've all been waiting for. The N550 is a true dual core. In fact, it is a hyper-threaded dual core which means you will see 4 cores when you open task manager/system monitor. It is actually a bit slower at 1.5 GHz compared to the N450's 1.6 GHz. This doesn't mean that it's slower. Performance is not just about cloak speed. Multi-tasking is much better on the N550. This means you can switch between programs much easier on the true dual core netbooks. Okay, so the newer generation CPU's are faster than the old ones. How does it compare to laptops? To answer bluntly, it doesn't. Dual core netbooks are nowhere near laptop-like performance. The standard for laptops today are Intel i3-i7. These dual core and quad core processors are blazing fast in comparison to the N550. You have to understand that netbooks are not meant to compete with laptops but rather serve as an alternative. What they lack in power, they make up in portability. The Intel Atom N550 is aimed at energy efficiency. This is how you can get 8 plus hours on your netbook and only 3-4 hours on your laptop. Lets talk about it in real world situations.
Along with my Asus 1015PEM, I also own a Dell Inspiron 17. It's a midrange laptop. This laptop has the Intel i5 processor(hyper-threaded dual core). In comparison, they are like brothers. They bother have Intel dual core processors and they bother have integrated graphics. With my netbook, I am comfortable browsing the web, chatting, opening word processor, and watching YouTube. With my Dell, I am comfortable doing all of those things plus I can edit images, watching HD video, download huge file and everything else with speed. Basically, my Dell is my main computer and my Asus is my portable netbook. I am really impressed with this netbook. I have GIMP installed and if I am in a pinch, I can open it up and edit photos right on my netbook. It won't be as fast as my laptop but then again, I'll only use it if I really need to. If my netbook is a scooter, then my laptop would be perfectly described as a motorcycle. My scooter can get me there, just not as fast.
Assess Your Needs
After using my netbook for a few months, I can honestly say that it fulfills 90% of my needs. If I didn't have my main laptop, I can easily complete my daily tasks. I don't think most people realize how much time they spend online. Most of the time when I am using my netbook, I am either online or typing on a word processor. Most people are either on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. Those that want the best performance should really take a minute and think about what they really need. What is good enough for you? Do you want the fastest computer? Those are reserved for desktops. Want extreme portability? Get a netbook. Want something in the middle? Stick with your laptop. I think people today are too picky. Do you really need a quad-core computer with the latest graphics card to watch YouTube all day? Unless you are in the business of creating media, then I don't see the point of spending extra money on hardware that you won't utilize.
Tablets Killing Netbooks?
Today, netbooks are getting more competition with the increasing popularity of tablets. Newer tablets are very fast and responsive but they are also very expensive. Personally, I don't think tablets are in direct competition with netbooks. Tablets are more geared towards media consumption. Tablets are more of an accessory to a computer. I also believe you can get more work done with a netbook than a tablet. With sales figures of the iPad and Galaxy Tab exceeding the millions, it seems pretty clear that tablets are not just a passing fad.
How To Speed Up Your Netbook
The new generation netbooks are good enough for me, but what if they are not good enough for you? If you want a fast netbook and you have money to burn, here's what you do:
Buy a netbook with the N550 and make sure it has Nvidia Ion Graphics. This is your base.
Upgrade your RAM. Usually, netbooks only have 1 RAM slot and if your netbook has the newer DDR3, the highest RAM you can get is 2 GB.
The last hardware upgrade is to replace your HDD with a SSD(Solid State Drive). SSD's will give you the greatest performance upgrade. They are also extremely expensive relative to their HDD counterpart.
One last thing you can do is optimize your software. There are many ways to do this. Personally, I installed Linux over Windows but you can optimize Windows by getting rid of bloatware, virus, and spyware.
Today's N550 netbooks are better than the previous generation. They offer good performance for simple tasks like web browsing and word processing. If you are looking to edit images or videos, a netbook is still out of the question. If you are attracted to the portability of netbooks and have some cash, consider performing the upgrades above or buying a Macbook Air. My definition of good is value but I also understand people have different needs. If you were turned off by netbooks before, I suggest you try out the N550 before you write them off.