August 19, 2011

Bonus – Laptop v. Netbook. Fight!

The seduction of it all sure is nice.

Small footprint. Instant start up. Inexpensive. At first glance, Netbooks seem like a fantastic idea all around.

For me, notsomuch.

Lemmee back up a second. Our son’s 10th birthday was in June and after toying with the iPad idea (too expensive for a 10-year-old), we settled on giving him a Netbook. About a month later, I found myself upgrading my own primary machine to a new Macbook Air featuring that swanky Second Generation Intel Core i7.

What I expected from the Netbook was a peppy little machine that could handle all of the boy’s YouTube needs, teach him to type and a offer up some homework help. And that’s sort of what I got – eventually. But before I could do that, I had to endure endless pop ups (Security alert! Update this piece of pre-loaded software right now!) I very seriously considered chucking it clear across the room.

·      All the things that seemed to be big plusses when I bought the Netbook, ended up being minuses in reality. Instant start up? Kinda. Netbooks seem to be mostly slow and sleepyb and it takes forever to start software (btw – don’t think about doing a bunch of things at once, multitasking makes the machine even more sluggish).

·      Small footprint = small keyboard. If you’ve got smaller hands, like a ten year old, great.

·      Inexpensive? Just a marketer’s way of saying cheap – cheap plastic construction all around and of course, no DVD drive. For a kid who wants to bomb around the Internet, it’s a decent investment, but I wouldn’t even consider it for much more than that.

Compare that to my laptop experience. Granted, Apple doesn’t stack its machines with shovelware right out of the box and that reduces a bit of the annoyance. The operating system on the Air makes it simple to transfer old files to new machine. All I did was make a handful of clicks and sit back. Most of my data was in place on the new machine a few hours later. 

The new Air is crazy fast – which is why I use it as my primary machine. I bought the top of the line ($1699) and it shows. As I write this, I’m running two different browsers, Word, a notetaking program, iTunes, RSS reader email, calendar and address book – all on a 30” external monitor – and this thing is flying.

As a photographer, the place I notice the difference is in Adobe Lightroom – the biggest resource hog on my computer. It’s just an astonishing eight seconds from clicking its icon to working on photos. Editing is just as fast. On my old Air, I had to wait a bit for photos to load. On this new machine, the photos seem to wait for me to load – and I’ve heard from others on Windows laptops that the new Second Gen processors are just as zippy.

Why I’m comparing these in the first place.
To be fair, Laptops and Netbooks are entirely different beasts. They’re meant to do different things. But I get the question from people all the time – Netbook or Laptop, which means that consumers don’t see the difference, except in those low, low pricetags. Truth is, if you’re serious about doing anything on your computer, think about a Laptop – and spend the money to get a decent one. It’ll keep the thoughts of turning the thing into a Frisbee at bay.

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