Netbook reviews: Features explained
The processor is the main brain of your netbook and performs all the calculations your netbook makes every second. The ones used in netbooks are usually designed specifically for mobile devices, aiming to give you more computing power while using less battery power.
Many netbooks use Intel's Atom chips or AMD's C-Series but whatever the exact version you'll normally find a dual-core processor designed for use in netbooks. Though they are perfectly capable of powering your netbook you won't find more powerful quad-core processors here.
Ram (random access memory) is your laptop's short-term memory. It's used to store information while you're using the laptop (the hard drive is used for long-term file storage). Consequently, the amount of Ram your laptop has determines how many different tasks it can accomplish simultaneously.
Netbooks come with less Ram than you'll find on even a cheap laptop. Aim for 2GB if you can, though some models only come with 1GB.
You're likely to have bought a netbook to be able to use it on the move so battery life is important. Netbook batteries are lasting longer, and you can expect the best of them to last around six to eight hours. Using the netbook's wireless connection will drain the battery more quickly than day-to-day office tasks.
If battery life is particularly important to you, check whether the netbook manufacturer offers a long-life battery for your chosen model.
Unsurprisingly, a netbook’s keyboard is even smaller than the ones that come with a laptop. And, of course, the smaller the netbook, the smaller the keyboard.
Because of the limited amount of space available on a netbook, you’re likely to find that the keys on a netbook’s keyboard are closer together. Some netbook manufacturers make very good use of the limited space available, though, fitting the keyboard across the entire surface of the netbook’s chassis. Some keys may also have moved in order to fit everything into the netbook, while others may have been reduced in size – the cursor keys and the right-shift key tend are more likely than others to have received this treatment on a netbook.
As the keyboard is built into the body of the netbook, you’ll find that it’s not as comfortable to use as desktop keyboards. It’s a good idea to try out a netbook’s keyboard before you buy, to ensure you get one you're comfortable with.
Ports and sockets
Netbooks come with USB ports so that you can add peripheral devices. Pay attention to where these ports are placed on the side of the netbook. If you have a bulky USB device (such as a chunky USB key), make sure there’s sufficient room between the sockets, so that plugging your device into the netbook doesn’t obscure the adjacent port.
The range of other connections you'll find tend to be fairly basic compared to a laptop but look out for USB 3.0 ports, rather than the slower USB 2.0 standards and HDMI outputs for hooking your netbook up to a larger screen, which you'll find on some netbooks.
The HDD (hard disk drive) provides long-term memory for data storage – measured in gigabytes (GB). We recommend getting a minimum of 160GB hard disk space, as storing video or high high-resolution photos, music and software uses up lots of space. If in doubt, go for more hard drive space if you can afford it - many netbooks offer 250GB.
If you need extra storage space, an external hard drive may be the answer or you could consider using online or cloud storage options.
Unsurprisingly the screen size has a direct impact on the size of the netbook itself. The most common size is 10.1-inches. If you find reflections a pain and are planning to use your netbook out and about, or in a bright setting, look out for a matte screen. This option is more common on netbooks than laptops.
Like laptops netbooks come with a touchpad or trackpad rather than a mouse. Typically, one or two clickable buttons beneath or beside the touchpad act like mouse buttons.
A touchpad is more fiddly to use than a mouse, and netbooks’ touchpads are particularly small, but it’s possible to attach a mouse instead if you prefer. You’ll need a USB port available for this, though.
Netbooks are built for everyday tasks rather than power-hungry ones, so they’re unsuitable for serious gaming so don’t expect to find top-notch graphics in your netbook. Netbooks come with integrated graphics which operate using a chunk of the netbook’s memory (Ram), and are fine if you’re just planning to do basic, everyday tasks.
If you want a mobile device on which you can play games or use video-editing software you really need to opt for a laptop that has a separate graphics card to boost graphics performance.