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Netbooks are essentially contained under the laptop heading but are known to be part of the branch of subnotebooks, which are a rapidly evolving range of small, compact, lightweight and inexpensive laptop computers.

Notebooks are generally considered to be better suited to those needing a computer for accessing web-based applications and general computer needs. Netbooks are often marketed as “companion devices”, to augment a user's other computer access.

The only distinguishing factor from notebooks for netbooks is that netbooks are considerably smaller, a feature that is achieved by featuring a smaller keyboard and display.

Growth of Netbooks

When the netbook was introduced in 2007 they were marketed as being smaller notebooks optimised for low weight and cost. These early netbooks also neglected to include certain features including the optical drive, as well as offering reduced specification and computing power.

As netbooks have progressed they have gone from a size from below 5” (screen diagonal) to over 10” with a typical weight of 2-3lbs. With their low-cost in comparison to laptops, 2009 saw wireless data carriers offer netbooks to users “free of charge” with an extended service contract purchase.

Since their inception netbooks have seen a growth in size and addition of features, converging with new smaller and lighter notebooks. Netbooks typically feature less powerful hardware than larger laptops, with some netbooks neglecting to feature even a conventional hard drive. These netbooks use solid-state storage devices instead, which require less power, operate at a faster speed, are lighter and feature generally more shock-resistance.

The downside is that these netbooks feature less storage capacity, ranging from 8, 16 and 32GB storage as opposed to the 80-500GB you can have with a laptop computer. The majority of netbooks available today support Wi-Fi wireless networking, with many also being able to connect to mobile telephone networks with data capability (e.g. 3G, etc.) and mobile data plans can be supplied under a contract in the same way as mobile telephones. Some of these include Ethernet and/or modem ports for dial-up or broadband internet capabilities.

The majority of well-known computer manufacturers have a range of netbooks available, including Dell, Apple, Acer, Sony, HP and Compaq, each offering different specifications to suit your needs. There are netbooks that are capable of supporting Windows, Mac OSX and Linux operating systems, with a variety available direct from the suppliers.

You can purchase netbooks from a huge range of retailers both online or in store. Although they lack in the capabilities of a regular notebook laptop, netbooks are the perfect choice for browsing the internet or basic computer needs such as word processing, as well as being a good choice for those on a budget.

Due to the small size of the keyboard and display, netbooks are unsuitable for people with large fingers or poor vision and these people may need to seriously consider purchasing a smaller notebook laptop as an alternative. For those who want to use a computer whilst commuting or travelling, netbooks are the perfect choice for you.