When thinking about purchasing a new computer, or more specifically a portable computer, there are many things one should consider, as follows:
- Processing power
- Screen real estate
- Graphics performance
- Amount of RAM
- Storage space
These things will affect a user’s experience, positively or otherwise, when thinking about Your Next Gadget. For additional reading on the differences between a notebook and a netbook, I would recommend reading this Brighthub article before continuing.
Of course, there are a number of reasons for getting a new computer. One reason might be because of the aging desktop or laptop computer trying to serve its purpose, or at least keep up with the times. Another reason may be for portability/mobility. Being able to do work or have fun wherever and whenever can be a major factor. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll just focus on a couple of reasons: desktop replacement and mobility.
Being able to do in a laptop what you can do with a desktop is always a good reason to get a new computer, as notebooks/netbooks consume lower power, hence savings in your electricity bill. However, that scratches the possibility of getting a netbook, as netbooks are designed with Internet connectivity in mind, and not for graphic design nor editing multimedia/video files. Notebooks, as described in the Brighthub article, range from screens with 10 inches and above. However, personally, a desktop replacement notebook should have a minimum of 13 inches for its screen, as using a 10 inch screen is frustrating, especially when you have a 19-inch monitor for your desktop. A notebook’s portability, however, is inversely proportionate to its screen size. The bigger the screen, the less portable it becomes.
Netbooks maybe portable, and in some cases, ultra-portable because of the thin-and-light form factor of newer netbook models, but they don’t offer as much versatility as a notebook. For instance, most netbooks, if not all, don’t have an optical drive for reading or burning CDs and DVDs. Also, most netbooks don’t have the processing power as notebooks. The most common processor installed in netbooks is the Intel Atom processor, which in this case is a single core processor that can’t efficiently handle resource-intensive applications. I have used the MSI Wind U100, and I was utterly frustrated with its sluggish performance. Personally, a single core processor doesn’t quite cut it. I want responsiveness and snappy performance from my operating system. So should you.
If you just want to stay connected to the Internet anytime, anywhere, and if you truly want to be mobile, get a smartphone. I would suggest one, but that’s for another article.
For this round, as far as versatility goes, the Notebook wins.
Notebooks are kinda pricy. Netbooks are a dime a dozen. As far as I’m concerned, Sony portables are overpriced and underspecced because there are a number of portable PC manufacturers that offer the same specs as Sony’s portables for a fraction of the price. Stay away from Sony. If you want a portable that can go head-to-head with the best desktop rigs, with a budget north of the sky, Alienware is your choice.
For this round, cheaper is better, therefore the Netbook wins.
As I’ve stated above, notebooks offer more processing power than netbooks. However, with the advent of AMD’s Athlon Neo X2, it may change quite a bit. The Neo X2 is a dual core processor with low power consumption that’s designed to compete with Intel’s single core Atom processor. The Atom still outclasses the Neo X2 when it comes to power consumption, but the number of cores outweigh the smallest number of watts consumed. And notebook manufacturers aren’t shy of putting as much cores as they can in a notebook than in a netbook. Intel’s still playing catch up in releasing a dual-core Atom processor globally, but the battle for netbook supremacy next year (2010) for most number of cores in a netbook should be interesting.
For this round, more cores is better, therefore the Notebook wins. At least, for now.
Screen Real Estate / Graphics Performance
The bigger they are, the harder it is to lug them around. However, for media enthusiasts, watching a movie on a 17-inch screen is a lot better than watching the same movie on a 10-inch screen. The only time it would be the other way around would be when the 17-inch screen has a crappy graphics processor and the 10-inch screen is able to playback video in high definition. Most portables have integrated graphics processors in the motherboard, and most of them don’t support 3D hardware acceleration, so it’s something you should look for when hunting for that perfect portable PC.
Recent developments in graphics processing technology from manufacturers such as NVIDIA and ATI are making great progress in taking graphics processing to the next level. This only means that your processor, Intel or AMD, will be able to allocate more processing powers to handle other stuff that would normally be reserved for rendering graphics. At least, that’s how I understand them. And they’re cramming it into notebooks, as well as netbooks. The year 2010 will see a new wave of ultra-portables that can display 1080p high-definition videos, but not now. Not yet.
So for this round, the Notebook wins, for now.
Amount of RAM / Storage Space
As of this writing, most portable PC manufacturers are bundling at least 1GB of RAM in notebooks and netbooks. Very seldom do I see a listing for a portable with anything less. It doesn’t matter if the RAM is DDR2 or DDR3, nor if it’s 667MHz or 800MHz. The more you have, the better. The same goes for storage space. The most common hard drives currently included with portables are SATA drives. There are manufacturers that offer SSD, or Solid State Drives. The advantages of using SATA drives are capacity (it can go up to 1TB) and price. As for SSDs, there are no moving parts (hence, more rugged), but the largest capacity currently available is 512GB, and it is VERY expensive.
This round goes to both notebooks and netbooks.
Overall, the notebook is the most sensible and most practical purchase. Personally, I would settle for a netbook since I figured I don’t really have a need for an optical drive these days, what with the proliferation of very cheap USB thumb drives. A netbook that has a 12-inch screen with a decent graphics processor, about 160 – 320GB of storage space, at least 2GB of RAM, and at least a dual core processor for about US$500 wouldn’t be bad. Not bad at all.