So I got a netbook. Here’s why.

You remember netbooks, right? Those tiny little laptops that came along before people forgot about them in favor of iPads? I haven’t actually seen a huge number of netbooks in the wild, and I am not too surprised about that. But with my increase in both speaking and traveling, I decided it was time to take the plunge and get one.

Here’s the funny thing. I actually still don’t have a tablet. My partner, Ellen has an iPad and I have worked with it, but I haven’t gotten around to getting one yet. And while I would enjoy having a tablet, I don’t need one right now. Since I am building a new office, I am focusing on need as opposed to want.

Desktop v. Laptop v. Netbook v. Tablet

Why a desktop?

The default computer for me, for years, was a laptop. But, when the time came around for me to buy a computer for my consulting business, there was no question at all. I wanted a desktop. Desktops give the best bang for the buck, period. For a laptop with the same amount of power and amenities as my desktop, I would probably have had to spend about $3,000.  My HP desktop was about $1,500. Also, desktops aren’t as vulnerable as laptops. Spill a drink on your desktop keyboard, you will probably just lose your keyboard, and you might not even lose that. Spill something on your laptop, bye bye laptop. Last, but not least, desktops are easily upgradeable. It is easy to upgrade a laptop’s memory, but the maximum you can add is considerably less than a similarly priced desktop. And forget about adding more optical drives, a bigger monitor, replacing parts easily, etc.

Why a laptop

I like to be able to wander around when I work. What is the benefit of having a home office if I can’t work on my couch, sit on my patio, or even take Curtis to the dog park and let him play while I work on a picnic table. Fortunately, I already had a laptop when I joined Freedman Consulting, so that wasn’t an issue for my home office.When I bought my ASUS laptop about a year ago, it only cost me $700.  A bottom of the line laptop is good enough for me when a desktop is my main work computer. It has the power I need and the ability to run a full suite of high level programs in a workable way. The limitations for this kind of laptop generally run to picture and video editing, or screen size when I am coding. But I just run up to my study and my desktop for that sort of work. Also, the video cards on cheap laptops are terrible. Don’t believe me? Try playing a popular game. Freezing galore.

The funny thing about laptops though, is they are still surprisingly heavy. I have coveted a light laptop for years, but could never bring myself to spend the money necessary simply to get something that weighed 3 pounds instead of 6. So I would sigh with envy, but keep buying my $700 laptops every 3 years, instead of spending $1500 or more every 3 years.

Why a netbook?

When netbooks came out a few years ago I seriously considered buying one. The problem was that they weren’t all that much cheaper than my inexpensive laptops and had considerably less power. I couldn’t justify spending $500 or $600 knowing I would still have to have a full laptop as my home computer. Netbooks have small screens, small keyboards and limited processing power. That means for heavy use, they simply cannot replace a laptop.

Also, I had the misfortune of trying out someone’s netbook one day at a seminar. It was slow, buggy, and just horrible to use. I have relatively small hands but the keyboard was way too small.  Given all of these issues, I decided against a netbook at the time. My next computer purchase was that $700 laptop. So I continued to lug my annoyingly heavy laptop around.  Fortunately, I wasn’t traveling that much for PBI so it wasn’t a huge problem.

But, as you know, I left PBI at the end of April.  Since then I have been traveling a lot, both to speak at seminars and to attend meetings where I need to show websites, take notes, share presentations, etc. Last week, I simply had enough. I decided I was not going to lug my laptop around one more time. So I decided to get the netbook.

I knew netbook prices had dropped substantially and figured I could get a good one for under $300. I also knew that windows 7 for netbooks worked pretty well (as opposed to whatever was running on that netbook I tried years ago) and that a lot of the bugs had been worked out.

I read reviews and found a high rated, low priced netbook on Amazon. Even better, I learned I could expand the memory for another $13.00. I knew I didn’t want to spend a lot, but I also wanted one that had a decent sized keyboard and good reviews. The one I picked had the highest ratings on Amazon and was well-reviewed elsewhere. People particularly commented on the fact that the keyboard was a good size. Sold.

Why not a tablet?

You might ask why I didn’t just get a tablet. I like tablets, they serve a great purpose and I think they can be especially useful in a courtroom or for other reasons. I seriously considered getting one instead of a netbook. If I wanted something that could run relatively simple iPad or Android specific apps, check email, keep my calendar, read books, access cloud data, then a tablet would have been fine. I simply could have gotten an iPad or another tablet along with a keyboard and I would have been all set. But I need to be able to run full programs. While a netbook has substantially less power than a laptop, it still has substantially more power than a tablet. Also, note that my netbook, with windows 7 light and a 250 gig hard drive, and upgraded to 2 gigs of memory only cost $270.  The cheapest iPad costs considerably more and I would have had to purchase a special case and a keyboard on top of that.


For my particular needs, i.e. the ability to run full, traditional programs, decent-sized hard drive, low price, small and light, a netbook turned out to be the best solution. All of the above pieces of technology serve a good purpose, and it could well be that one person might own all four types. I probably will within the next year. But when purchasing technology it is best to fit your needs to the item you purchase. And that is exactly what I did.



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