Netbooks are just all over the place and everyone seems to be been going wild about them. They are not only convenient to use, but also are priced well, so almost anyone can afford it. The drop in prices has also brought in strong competition. There are a ton of products and it’s easy to get lost. A primer on what makes a good netbook is bound to help you research and find the right netbook for you.

Unlike most product categories where the user has different needs, the rules for netbooks are different. A netbook is designed to have a good battery life, average processing and is used primarily to browse the web, thus the name, netbooks. There are no categories and netbooks are merely a subset of notebooks.


Netbooks are not what you usually call powerhouses. The processors used on them are designed to be efficient and consume as little power as possible. There aren’t really very fast or powerful processors on netbooks. Still, there is a difference in performance between single-core and dual-core processors. The majority of netbooks found in the market today run Intel’s Atom processors. AMD, too has a Neo line of processors designed specifically for netbooks.

Dual-core models are available on the Atom line of processors

Dual-core models are available on the Atom line of processors

Look for netbooks that have dual-core processors as multi-threaded applications can take advantage of the additional cores. A faster core speed is also bound to yield good results. A decent graphics subsystem is also important if you want to try and play HD videos on your netbook. Many single-core Atom processors are incapable of running HD 720p content. An AMD Neo-based notebook comes with a slightly better graphics solution that should run graphics intensive applications, as well as HD videos a little easier.

Screen size

Netbook screen sizes are usually pretty small. They were first launched with 7-inch screens – the Atom line of netbooks started appearing in 9-inch and 10-inch variants.

A 10-inch display supporting a resolution of 1024x600 is common on netbooks

A 10-inch display supporting a resolution of 1024×600 is common on netbooks

There are some netbooks also available in 12-inch sizes. A larger screen means more area on the screen, but it also means more bulk. Often, the resolution of the screen doesn’t change a lot, either. While a larger screen is useful for watching movies, it’s not much better if it has the same resolution and you spend most of your time working or browsing the web.

Battery life

This is one of the most important points about a netbook. Apart from the portability, netbooks also offer very good battery life. Most netbooks come with 3-cell batteries. These can provide between two to three hours of uptime, which is more than most mainstream notebooks. If you really want good battery life, insist on netbooks with 6-cell batteries. They are slightly more expensive, but provide up to 6 hours of battery life. Some notebook manufacturers even offer 9-cell batteries, but they can be slightly bulky.

Keyboard Ergonomics

Ergonomics is next in the line of importance. The keyboards on netbooks are very cramped because of the limited space. A good keyboard should be edge-to-edge. The buttons should be full size or almost there and important buttons like Shift and Enter should resemble a normal regular-sized keyboard.

A well laid out keyboard is important

A well laid out keyboard is important

The feel of the keys is important as well. Make sure the trackpad is fairly large and that the keys are located in the usual location. Some manufacturers might line up the click buttons along the sides of the trackpad. 

Connectivity and Other Features

Connectivity options are important when it comes to netbooks. A netbook has no DVD drive and you might want to use an external keyboard and mouse with the netbook. You’ll need plenty of expansion slots. Look for a netbook with a minimum of three USB ports that should be physically easily accessible. 

Look out for a minimum of three USB ports on a netbook

Look out for a minimum of three USB ports on a netbook

Wi-Fi 802.11n and Bluetooth 3.0 should be another feature to look out for. Wi-Fi 802.11n has superior transfer rates as compared to 802.11g. If you’re looking for a really cheap netbook, you might want to choose the one, which comes without any operating system preinstalled. Some manufacturers might also offer netbooks with MeeGo or Linux installed on them. These can be a couple of thousand rupees cheaper.

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