Netbook, Notebook or Desktop? Choose the Right PC for the Job
Back when I bought my first computer, your choices were fairly limited to what brand of beige box you bought. Since then PC’s have not only become faster but smaller, and shoppers can actually face the choice of what kind of PC to buy: a regular old desktop, a laptop workhorse, or an ultra-portable netbook. Each one has its pros and cons, so if you’re considering a new purchase think for a while about what best suits your needs.
The Desktop – Tried and True: The desktop PC has evolved quite a bit since those early beige boxes from Packard Bell. If you want the most expandability, the most flexibility, the most features, the best graphics, and the fastest speeds you will want to get a desktop. Desktops are also best for those who want to pick and choose exactly what they want, down to the keyboard and mouse. Desktops are also the easiest and least expensive to upgrade and repair. Bad keyboard for your desktop? Toss it and get a new one for $10-$20. If your laptop keyboard goes bad get ready for pain. While they can do everything well in terms of computing, they are nearly impossible to take with you. You plant your desktop somewhere and it will usually stay there. There are small-form-factor PC’s out there, usually designed for taking to gaming parties or for media applications. If you don’t need portability and are most concerned with cost, power and sheer utility, a desktop is for you.
The Laptop – You Can Take it With You: Laptops, otherwise known as notebook computers, have also come a long way. The first portable computer, the Osborne 1, weighed close to 25 pounds, a 5″ monochrome monitor and cost over $1700.
While laptops can still cost a premium, you certainly get a lot more for your money. Notebooks have started to replace desktops among many users as they have become as powerful and feature-packed while remaining easily portable. Plus, as wi-fi networks have become more common in home, workplace and even the coffee shop, laptops have become even more popular with road warriors. Notebooks have even nudged into the gaming field, normally occupied only by high-end desktops due to the large and hot graphics cards used by desktop gaming systems. High end features and portability do come with a cost though. Notebooks are typically much more expensive than a comparable desktop, and they are more limited in terms of expansion and repair. However if you need to work on the go, a good laptop can be your best friend.
The Netbook – Tiny Can be Terrific: The netbook is a relatively new phenomenon, but is rapidly gaining popularity. The term “netbook” comes from the fact that this is a notebook whose primary function is to access the Internet from a wireless network. Some time ago, retailers tried similar “Internet appliances” in the market but they never caught on because the Internet was still primarily a diversion and most homes had only wired networks. Now people access the Internet several times a day from multiple locations to do everything from checking email to the drafting of documents (as in Google Docs) to posting to their blog to getting movie tickets to…you get the idea. Netbooks are even more portable than notebooks, often taking up less space than a decent paperback novel, and are much less expensive than notebooks and even most desktops. The tradeoff is the same as with notebooks, but netbooks are even more limited in their capabilities. Most have minuscule hard drives, lack integrated CD or DVD drives, and are ridiculous for doing any sort of work on. While they can be handy for taking notes in class, you won’t want to do a term paper on its tiny screen and keyboard. And forget about upgrades or repairs – while you can replace a few components, if it breaks it’s basically disposable.
When buying a new PC, consider what it will be used for, where it will be used, and long-term support when making a decision. That way you’ll love what you buy and use it the way it was meant to be.