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Best Netbooks For Professional Use

written by: Brian Nelson•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 6/8/2011

As a professional, more than just your current “status” is riding on your netbook. Here are the netbooks that provide all the things that a professional needs to handle clients, employees, bosses, AND your personal life.

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    Types of Netbooks for Professional Users

    When it comes to professional users, there are a couple of different reasons one would want to have a netbook (other than as a fun toy). Breaking these down into categories of netbooks is the best way to ensure that the netbook you purchase is the right one for you.

    Super Portables – For some professionals, nothing matters more than 24x7 portability. Generally, these users are not looking for a more portable computer; they are looking for a more powerful mobile phone. What they really want is something just like the phone they can already carry around in their pocket, but with a bigger screen and keyboard. A netbook is the next best thing.

    Second Portable Computer – For some professionals, a laptop is already part of the equation. The laptop has the mobile power they need for most scenarios. What they really need is another portable computer that is lighter and cheaper; something they can take with them when they don’t plan to be really working, but they might need to do something here or there for a couple of minutes if something comes up, or just to check in. For them, a netbook that stashes away in a glove box, gym bag, or purse is the goal. It needs to be powerful enough that they feel like they can leave their main laptop behind, but doesn’t need to do everything.

    Only Portable Computer – This category isn’t really much of an option for the highly mobile pro. Netbooks just don’t quite pack enough juice and comfort for long-term every day use. However, for professionals who spend 80% to nearly 100% of their time at a desk with a full-sized computer, netbooks might be a nice accessory to have for those rare days you do get out of the office. Go with the super portable options for taking one with you on a stroll or down to the bakery. Jump to the Second Portable Computer category for setting up shop at a library or bookstore for an afternoon.

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    Best Super Portables – Top Tiny Netbooks

    These netbooks bring the best combination of top portability. They emphasize small dimensions and lightweight. Their keyboards are justifiably cramped and their battery life is shorter than the ones with heavier batteries, but they go anywhere with little reason to leave them behind.

    You could go blind looking over all the dimensions and specs of the various netbooks on the market, but why bother? While a quarter inch here and a half inch there might matter to those who pore over such details all day every day, it does not add up to much in the real world.

    Out here, every netbook on the market falls into the category of too big to fit in your pocket but small enough to fit into any bag you own that will hold a notepad. The name of this game is weight. Sure, you can put a netbook in your bag, but if it makes it heavy or awkward then what’s the point? Buy a laptop instead.

    While a 9-inch model would likely be lighter, the industry has evolved such that 9-inch netbooks are the entry-level notebooks. It's like buying the base model of the cheapest car on the lot. Don’t bother.

    A 10.1” screen is tough to recommend for long-term use or hours of research, but in the super portable, or ultra-portable, category, it fits the bill by giving us the smallest and lightest netbook.

    Check out the HP Mini 110 Series of netbooks for this category. The keyboard is usable and at just over 2 ½ pounds, it is about as light as you’ll get.

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    Second Portable Computers

    When it comes to getting a netbook as a second portable computer, the decision centers around what your other laptop is like. If you have a big desktop replacement class laptop that weighs in at close to 9 pounds or more, then even a 4-pound netbook will feel like heaven to carry around. If, on the other hand, you have a high-end ultraportable laptop that skims in at under 5.5 lbs. or so, then a 4 pounder isn’t going to be much of a treat. If that’s the case, go with the HP Mini 110 and enjoy the low weight when you can.

    For a second portable computer, an Atom processor is a must. Older Celeron processors are simply too slow when paired with the skimpy memory, low heat, and noise hard drives in netbooks. Also, shoot for the biggest screen you feel comfortable with. Larger screens mean more room for a better keyboard as well.

    In this category, check out the Samsung M110 and M120, as well as the Acer Aspire One line. Again, focus on weight over dimensions, and make sure to include the weight of the power cable in your calculations if you envision setting up camp and plugging your guy in.

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    Netbooks to Avoid

    Perhaps the best netbook advice comes in the form of what NOT to buy.

    For starters, do not buy a netbook with the right shift key small enough to be a letter key. Also, avoid keyboards that put the right shift key out and to the side of the keyboard. You’ll pull your hair out hitting the wrong keys as you type.

    Just as important as the shift key is the BACKSPACE key. Unless you type perfectly every time, chances are that your typing involves hitting several letter keys, and then the backspace key over and over when you change your mind or make a mistake. Test the keyboard in the store and if every time you try and hit backspace you hit F12 or something, find a different model.

    Get the biggest hard drive instead of the solid state hard drive, which are smaller and slower than regular hard drives. The supposed benefit of these drives is that if you drop your netbook while it is writing to the disk it wouldn’t corrupt your SSD disk. I can count the number of times this has happened to me or anyone I know in the whole computing industry on one hand with no fingers. If you drop your netbook, hold your breath and hope it works out O.K., because you’re looking at 50/50 either way.

    Finally, stick with the lower priced netbooks. A quick search around the Internet about what to do with older netbooks should convince you that these things are disposable. If Microsoft sticks to its guns on pricing and sizing, you won’t ever get to upgrade to Windows 7 (unless you shell out 25% to 50% of the purchase price for a new low-cost netbook), especially if it comes with a screen bigger than the maximum allowable 10.1”.

    Don’t forget, 1GB of RAM is obsolete already in all other machine segments. Would you consider buying a laptop with 1GB of RAM? In other words, these netbooks are already dragging the minimum hardware requirements along, software isn’t waiting, and since most of these units are not upgradeable, you’re just flushing money down the drain by buying an expensive notebook.

Netbooks for Professional Users

Sure netbooks are a fun way to send tweets to Twitter or update your Facebook page, and maybe even play some games or do some chatting with friends. But, is there enough power and function to be a professional tool for serious users?
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