The 10-Minute Guide to Buying a Netbook

The term “netbook” has only recently come into widespread use, but it’s not a new idea. Various manufacturers took stabs at it over the past 20 years; Gateway’s popular, DOS-based Handbook 286 from the early 1990s comes immediately to mind.

But today’s full-featured netbooks have struck a chord for folks wanting something more powerful and comfortable than a smartphone, but less bulky than a traditional laptop.

Netbooks are highly portable, shrewdly priced, and can – in a pinch, with external peripherals – function as a secondary desktop PC. Plus, there’s the “oops” factor. I’d never call a $400 purchase expendable – that’s still a lot of money. But if the worst were to occur, and your netbook was lost, stolen, or sat on, it wouldn’t cause nearly the trauma a $2,500 MacBook Pro would in the same situation.

That makes a netbook desirable for everyday use. Throw one in a bag or briefcase and you’ll never be without access to e-mail, the Web, or important files again.

As with most computer-related purchases, there are plenty of options to consider when buying a netbook. To help, we’ve put together a 10-minute guide that covers all the basics. While we don’t have the space to examine every possible machine and configuration in depth, we’ll give you everything you need to know to make an informed decision – from the specs you need, to the models, brands, and even some stores you should consider.

Here’s what you need to know when buying a netbook today:

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