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Low-cost netbooks do have drawbacks
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The netbook craze has swung into high gear as more and more people tote these small, inexpensive devices everywhere they go. Designed for Web browsing and e-mailing, netbooks have a lot to recommend them, but they’re not miniature laptops. Before you buy, consider the pros and cons.
• Relatively inexpensive — There are a few now at the $300 to $400 mark, with most not going over $500.
• Easy to carry — Netbooks are lightweight, which is helpful if you travel frequently. Most netbooks are in the 2-3 pound range.
• Good for the basics — If your computer usage is limited to checking e-mail and surfing the Internet, a netbook is something to consider.
• Small screen — Netbooks come in two general screen sizes, 8.9 inches and 10.1 inches. No matter which you choose, they’re still small. If you spend more than an hour reading online, you’ll want the larger of the two sizes.
• Small typing pad — If you’re going from a full-size computer keyboard to a netbook, check the feel of a number of netbooks and decide if you can easily make the switch. If you do a lot of writing, extended use of the small pad could be a problem.
• No DVD player — If you have beloved software on CD, how is it going to be installed on a netbook? If it’s paid-for software, many companies have downloads available from their sites. Not all products, however, are available this way.
• Battery life — This is a big issue, one where some of the netbook manufacturers have fallen short. “Cell” size seems to be the current form of advertising how long a battery will last, but don’t be fooled. A “six-cell” battery could be 4,400 milliampere-hour, or it could be 5,200 or 5,900 mAH, a big difference in how long the battery will work.
Additionally, no one can accurately predict just how long a battery will last without knowing the specifics of how the netbook will be used. Beware getting a machine with a short run-time battery and expect to upgrade it later. That upgraded battery could cost nearly 40 percent of the cost of the netbook.
Best bet: Check online reviews by actual users before you buy. That will tell you more, in most cases, than all the slick advertising.

Uffington does not personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Write to him in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mail to
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