Netbooks: Where Not All Wi-Fi is Created Equal

As the peak PC buying season approaches, the enormous popularity of netbooks shows no signs of abating, as they remain an attractive option for those seeking an inexpensive, compact, and lightweight system for Internet connectivity.

That connectivity primarily comes in the form of Wi-Fi, but given the need to keep costs down, the wireless chipsets found in many netbooks often support only the older 802.11g technology—not the newer and more capable 802.11n draft standard.

How important is it to have a netbook that supports 802.11n? To be sure, at a Wi-Fi hotspot an 802.11n-capable netbook won’t work any better than one that only supports 802.11g. On the other hand, anyone with an 802.11n network at home (or plans to upgrade in the near future) should seriously consider a netbook with 802.11n support. Otherwise, the 802.11n network will need to run in backward compatibility mode to accommodate 802.11g devices, which may crimp performance for all your wireless devices. 

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