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Should I Buy a Netbook?

What Kind of Computer is Best for My Family?


Woman using laptop at home, close up.
Dougal Waters/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Netbook computers are small, lightweight machines designed for ultra-portability. They have built-in keyboards and monitors, but typically lack a CD/DVD/Blu-Ray drive. They sacrifice processor speed, memory and keyboard/monitor size for price and weight. Netbooks are designed for minimal functionality, such as checking email, surfing the web and editing basic docments. Best for frequent travelers, minimal use, back-up to a busy family machine.

Compare with Laptops and Desktops


  • Highly portable
  • Inexpensive


  • Nearly impossible to upgrade, making it more expensive in the long run
  • Small/cramped keyboard (in most, but not all cases)
  • Smaller monitor
  • Relatively expensive for the specifications
  • Portability increases likelihood of it being broken, lost or stolen
  • All-in-one design makes repairs more difficult/costly
  • Typically lacks CD/DVD player
  • Can’t handle system-intensive processes


  • Do try one out before buying to make sure the keyboard is comfortable
  • Don’t purchase this as a primary computer
  • Do make sure your model has enough USB ports to handle your peripherals

Guide Comments

Netbooks are the ideal machine for heavy travelers. Light, small and inexpensive enough to replace, they are useful keeping up with email, surfing the Web and simple document editing. They are also a solution for families who compete for computer time. They are not the best choice for the only family computer or for the kids' primary computer. The lack of CD/DVD drive makes it difficult to install software and the lower computing power makes even the most casual games run on the slow side. You are paying for the smaller size, so an upgrade to a budget laptop won't cost you much more and is likely to save you money over time.

Compare with Laptops and Desktops
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