Categorized | BuzzBox, WriteBox

Notebook Or Netbook For A Media Student?

Posted on 21 February 2011 by Averee Burman

Retrevo, the consumer electronics marketplace, released  a new Gadgetology study indicating 34% of students buying laptops are planning on purchasing small, lightweight netbooks . Another 49% are buying full-sized PC laptops. The majority of student laptop shoppers will not consider buying a Mac.

2009 marks the dawn of the netbook.

Most media students nowadays prefer to longer battery life, smaller size, and alighter laptop. 58% of them plan on spending less than $750.00. Only 18% have a budget over $1,000.00. Netbooks are affordable; some costing only $170.00. In contrast, Apple laptops start at $949.00. Having a new Apple laptop, thus, isn’t a necessity.

Let me simplify the terms at this juncture.

The idea of a netbook isn’t exactly new. Microsoft first touted the concept of a small laptop-style device with a long battery life as far back as the late 1990s. Back then it was pushing its Windows CE Professional operating system.

This was a lightweight OS that belonged to the same family of products that later become the Pocket PC and then Windows Mobile.

Netbooks are devices designed purposely for the Internet, to communicate, learn, and view information. They have in common a compact form factor of seven to ten inches, are light-weight, feature comparatively longer battery life than notebooks, and are less dependent on a battery charger during the day. They are easily portable and can be easily moved from one place to another place. They may contain more than one wireless method to connect to the Internet
Notebooks are more multiple-purpose computers in a form factor of about ten inches and up. Notebooks can create content and handle heavy multi-tasking loads with many applications running at once. They can view, create, and edit high-definition video content and run intensive programs like computer aided engineering and mathematical modeling.

Notebooks, like Netbooks, are portable, but some are becoming increasingly less so (the 17-inchers) some more so (the ultra-thins), and users of notebooks tend to pack them away in bags with all sorts of accessories before moving anywhere beyond the office or home. Although a few notebooks are able to connect to the Internet via cellular networks as well as Wi-Fi, being “locked” to a carrier is not widely considered an advantage. Thus notebook users often invest in wireless modems that are external.

Interestingly, we may see netbooks that are sold by the cellular carriers themselves as a bundle of Internet service and the device. Consumers would be likely to consider an inexpensive netbook expendable and simply stop using the wireless connection when the cellular contract was up.

So netbooks are purpose-built for a limited role, while traditional notebooks are multi-purpose general tool. (Click the image from Intel to enlarge the graphicon that explains the uses of each.)

If the media students want to run basic applications and surf the web on the go, the netbook is a good solution. However, if  they want to open five windows, run virus protection and do some indexing  or high definition video editing then a notebook is better.

This means that when they’re used to view a normal web page, the whole width of the page isn’t viewable at any one time. As a result, you often have to scroll the page back and forth to read a full line of text and this can make them frustrating to use.

Thankfully, these low-resolution screens are being phased out in favour of newer displays with a higher resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels. The extra horizontal resolution means that most web pages fit comfortably, negating the need for excessive scrolling.

Nevertheless, you may still experience some other performance-related issues when surfing the web on a netbook, as the web is becoming more and more of a multimedia playground. A few years ago it was relatively rare to stumble across a web page with lots of animation and video content, but both are everywhere on the internet today.

Most of this multimedia content is built using Flash. Flash can be demanding in terms of processing power and we’ve certainly found that pages which are heavily reliant on Flash can slow down netbooks considerably, especially if you’re running another application alongside your browser, such as a virus scanner.

On some web pages, standard Flash content can place over a 30 per cent load on a netbook’s processor. Add in an additional load from a virus scanner and you’re looking at really sluggish performance.

Flash is increasingly used for video content too, and the BBC uses it for its iPlayer service. Depending on the video stream, BBC iPlayer can gobble up to 60 per cent of a netbook’s processor performance, leaving little headroom for handling other Windows XP tasks.

And while the Windows version of the Eee PC 1000 can play shows from iPlayer in full screen mode without any problem, we found the same model running under Linux struggled with full-screen playback, producing very jerky video that was all but unwatchable.

Still, a netbook is not the same as an ultraportable notebook.

t’s not just the size factor — after all, there are now some 12-inch netbooks just as there are 12-inch ultraportables — but a difference in specs. Hard drive speed and performance, processor speed and performance, even graphics performance are different in the two categories. That’s because ultraportables are meant to be full-fledged laptops, just small and light for users who need the petite form factor.

if you’re looking for a simple computer that does basic tasks well and fits into a small bag, you want a netbook. You’re not even thinking about a MacBook Air or a LenovoX300. If you want a small, powerful computer that will run all the same application as your desktop at the same or greater speed that you can travel with easily yet still do serious computing on, you’re looking for an ultraportable. One look at the processor and screen size of a netbook would be enough to convince the informed consumer that it’s not the right choice in that instance.

Netbook vs. Notebook is a question many media students  will be faced with in the coming year. There are instances where people would choose to get a netbook instead of something with more power and better specs due to price, the way they intend to use the laptop, and whether they have an existing laptop or desktop at home. But to say that netbooks will triumph over ultraportables or any other laptop when a consumer wants high-end or even mid-range power and capability is overstating the issue in a big way.

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