Netbooks: How to buy the best netbook Netbook processors, storage and memory
The processor is the main brain of your computer. It performs all the calculations your netbook makes every second.
The speed of a processor is expressed in cycles per second, the unit for which is hertz (typically gigahertz or GHz).
Most netbooks are fitted with Intel’s Atom chip. Atom chips are designed specifically for portable computers and aim to give you more computer power while increasing battery life.
Other chip manufacturers have started to introduce different processors to the market in the shape of the Via Nano and the Athlon Neo, and we're starting to see netbooks with these alternatives on board.
While lacking the speed of most full-sized laptop processors, netbook processors are sufficient for the relatively basic uses of a netbook such surfing the net and office tasks. Faster netbook processors are being developed, too.
Which? has netbook reviews from brands including Asus, Acer, Samsung and Toshiba.
Netbook memory (Ram)
Ram (random access memory) is your netbook’s short-term memory. It’s used to store information while you’re using the netbook (the hard drive is used for long-term storage).
Consequently, the speed of the processor is determined by the amount of Ram. Netbooks come with less Ram than many laptops – typically 512MB or 1GB.
For a faster experience, opt for 1GB models – but expect to pay more for the privilege.
Netbooks come with one of two types of storage – a hard disk drive or a solid state drive. This is the place where the netbook's operating system and applications are stored, as well as files such as music, photos and documents.
It’s possible to buy full-sized laptops with a large amount of storage space (500GB, for example) – capable of storing large files such as videos or lots of high-resolution photos. Don't expect to find anywhere near as much storage space on a netbook.
Hard disk drive
The HDD (hard disk drive) provides long-term memory for data storage – measured in gigabytes (GB).
The hard disks that come with netbooks don't store as much as their laptop equivalents – currently a maximum of around 160GB or so.
Solid state storage
Many netbooks use solid-state storage rather than a conventional hard drive to store data. This uses less power and, since it has no moving parts, is more rugged.
Solid state drives offer less space than hard disk drives, though they are getting bigger and it’s now possible to get solid state drives with 64GB of space.
If it’s important for you to have plenty of storage, opt for a netbook with a hard disk drive.
Other storage media on netbooks
Netbooks don't come with CD/DVD drives. So if you want to burn or play discs or install programs from disc to your machine, you'll need to attach an external disc drive to one of your netbook’s available USB ports.
Most netbooks have a built-in card reader (for inserting an SD card, for example) which provides extra storage.