How to buy a mini-laptop

Check out these useful tips before buying your first netbook

Mini-laptops are among the hottest new products this year and with the back-to-school sales season upon us, I created a list of items to help you choose the right one.

The devices, which are becoming popularly known as netbooks, or my favorite term, "laptots," have caught on because they offer people a mobile, easy way to wirelessly access the Web.

They come with 7-inch to 10-inch LCD screens and are about half to two-thirds the size of a mainstream laptop. They weigh around 1 kilogram each, carry batteries that last up to 8 hours and generally cost between US$199 and $699.

I've written several netbook reviews and after some consideration, offer these tips for your first netbook.

1. Know what you want to use it for and how much you're willing to spend

This is a cliche in reviews and doesn't tell you much but it's actually very important. What do you want this for? Do you want a lightweight device for easy Internet access? Or are you really looking for a full-featured laptop computer? Don't buy a netbook if you're really looking for a laptop, it would be a mistake.

To ensure longer battery life, some key components on a netbook, such as the microprocessor, are far less powerful than common laptops. That's why they're good for surfing the Internet, doing homework on a word processing program, working on spreadsheets or for presentations and other Office-like work.

Anyone looking for a gaming laptop or one for video-editing or other multimedia work should shop for true laptops, not netbooks.

2. Buy a netbook with an 8.9-inch screen or larger

I tried out an Eee PC with a 7-inch screen and the annoying part is not being able to see an entire Web page because the screen is too small.

That's less of a problem on the slightly larger-sized screens and in the 8.9-inch screen size, the weight and size of the netbook is nearly the same as devices with 7-inch screens.

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Dan Nystedt

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