The Laptop vs. the Netbook

Laptops vs. Netbooks
5 October 2009 Post Author:
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Many travel writers write their blog posts, reviews, and travel articles when they return from a trip, but they still need various writing tools, with which to take notes, while traveling.

These tools can range from a simple notebook and pen to a laptop computer. Which one you choose is largely based on personal preference, but numerous factors such as where you’re traveling to, your mode of travel, internet access and availability of internet cafes, all should be considered.

If you decide that taking a computer is best for you, then you have a choice – laptop or netbook.

For those not familiar with the term netbook, it’s a smaller version of a laptop, generally with only a 7 to 10 inch screen (versus a laptop’s 14 to 17 inch screen), and is typically designed more for simple tasks such as writing and web surfing, whereas a laptop can handle more sophisticated (and graphics intensive) jobs such as photo-editing, graphic design, and desktop publishing.

Although tech specs will vary from netbook to netbook, and from laptop to laptop, generally speaking netbooks have less memory (RAM) and less hard drive (storage) capacity, and they are built with a slower, less powerful processor.

Because of their smaller size and scaled-down tech specs, netbooks are much lighter than laptops, and as you would expect, netbooks are also cheaper than laptops, sometimes substantially less expensive. Their reduced functionality may not be a problem at all for a travel writer who is just looking for a lightweight tool for taking notes and checking email.

So how do you choose? For many freelance travel writers budget may be a primary concern, but in order to figure out what’s right for you, it’s important to understand the differences and similarities.

Laptop vs Netbook: Similarities

  • Both are portable
  • Both easily handle email, web surfing, chat and instant messaging
  • Both easily handle writing tasks and simple spreadsheets

Laptop vs Netbook: Differences

  • Laptops cost more than netbook
  • Netbooks have smaller screens than a laptop
  • Cannot create and edit videos with a netbook
  • Cannot watch HD videos on a netbook
  • Cannot perform sophisticated photo-editing on a netbook
  • Netbooks do not have a built-in CD/DVD drive
  • Netbooks are small enough to not require a separate carrying case
  • The cheapest netbooks typically have only USB ports; the cheapest laptops generally also have FireWire, ethernet, and video-out ports

If your needs are simple, and price and portability are your primary factors, you may consider buying a netbook.

If you’re a travel writer that dabbles in photography or graphic design, you will not be able to do a lot with a netbook, as you would with a laptop. However, it could be useful when you’re traveling. It’s easy to pack, and you’ll be able to write just about anywhere.

Conclusion

If you do more than write when you travel then you may want to purchase a laptop. If you’re not worried about editing photos or watching HD movies while you travel then purchase a netbook. It depends on what you want accomplish when you travel and how much you would like to spend!

~Rebecca

Would you purchase a laptop or a netbook, or both? Share your opinion!

21 Responses to “The Laptop vs. the Netbook”

  1. mochilero
    Twitter:
    says:

    Right now what I use while travelling is a netbook tuned in, so it’s able to manage big programs with no too much problem, but still, It doesn’t fit very well with my desktop computer which is where I do my main photography workflow.

    I think that netbooks are as capable with non-professional photography and maybe video, if it’s powerfull enough. The mine can deal with it, and it’s nothing special, and not as comfortable as the greatness of a 15” screen. But it’s so tiny, so portable, that deserves to be taken.

    In the next years, if I finally do it as a travel photographer, probably I’ll go for a MacBookPro which does all the work of my desktop computer -iMac- and the netbook -Linux- so I won’t have to worry about syncing and all that stuff.

  2. Rebecca
    Twitter:
    says:

    I thought about purchasing a netbook. My internet provider is offering a Dell Netbook for $199 when you upgrade your internet service. I’ve been tempted to upgrade just to get the netbook. I prefer to leave my laptop at home and carry the netbook because it’s so portable. Great point about the MacBookPro!

  3. Mary Jo
    Twitter:
    says:

    I have a PC desk top at home, and both a laptop and a netbook.

    I use the laptop for travels close to home — like going to the neighborhood coffee shop to write, or to the library.

    I use the netbook when I travel. The only thing that I haven’t been able to do on my netbook is watch movies, because, as you said, there is no DVD drive. I edit photos and movies (I’m not a professional photographer, however), blog, store photos (it has a good-sized hard drive), and all this with a battery that will last across the ocean.

    If you travel extensively, and don’t want to lug around the weight, a netbook is a great, and affordable, option.

  4. Abbie
    Twitter:
    says:

    I just purchased the Dell 10V netbook and can’t wait to use it! The only thing I upgraded was the battery and it came out to just over $300 – can’t beat that for just writing and internet!

    I also noticed that the Dell 10 netbook had the option to upgrade to an HD screen, if that is a selling point for some people :)

  5. Rebecca
    Twitter:
    says:

    Abbie, thanks for the tip about the Dell 10V Netbook. I looked at the website and was surprised that the Dell 10V Netbook has a web cam.

  6. Laura Gable says:

    I use my HP Laptop as a Desktop – lessens some of the clutter and I can take with me. If I’m just needing to check email in the USA – I just bring my Blackberry and leave the laptop at home. Traveling internatinally racks up the Roaming DATA fees on the Blackberry (even if not using for phone). So I just purchased an Asus Eee Netbook 1005HA — I can use Skype to call home and check my email on the web and eliminate ATT Data Roaming charges. :) I’m very excited to take the Asus to Guatamala and Machu Picchu soon. Plan to leave Laptop and BB at home. The Netbook fits in my purse. I’m thinking the netbook is the way to go if you like to stay connected while traveling. Not everyone does… You can buy a portable DVD/CD player for about $50 to download any programs you want on the netbook.

  7. Rebecca
    Twitter:
    says:

    Mary Jo,

    I agree that if you travel extensively a netbook will be easier to travel with versus the laptop.

    Laura,

    I never heard of the Asus Eee Netbook 1005HA. I checked reviews on Amazon.com and most people are satisfied with the Asus Eee Netbook 1005HA. Using SKYPE comes in handy.

    Back to writing…

  8. As much as I absolutely LOVE my MacBook Pro (and can’t stand to be without it when I travel), I must confess: as soon as Apple comes out with a Mac Netbook, I’m SO buying one! As a supplement to my laptop, of course, not a replacement :)

  9. Shannon
    Twitter:
    says:

    Thanks for this! I am actually currently debating on which one to get. I really wanted a netbook, but as you point out, without the ability to edit photos and videos from the road I just can’t do it! Nice overview of the two products!

  10. Rebecca
    Twitter:
    says:

    Shannon,

    Thanks for stopping by! I started pricing and building a netbook yesterday. I was up to $999 because of features I added. For that amount of money I could buy another laptop or put it towards a Mac Pro.

    I think netbooks will eventually have the capability to edit photos and videos. We can do many things with a cell phone or Black Berry and they’re smaller than a netbook! Perhaps I’ll just wait it out.

  11. Diogo Slov says:

    Hello Rebecca. My girlfriend and I are both expats and we both have a laptop and a netbook.

    Our laptops became our desktops, just like someone mentioned before. But since we use Skype so much, and our netbooks have mic + webcam build in, quite often we’ll be using our netbooks and leaving the laptops turned off.

    It’s simpler to go to a coffee shop and do stuff there, as well. BTW, she’s got a bigger battery then me. It should cost around $100 extra, but she works without a powerplug for 6+ hours. As for me, 2.5 hours if I’m lucky. On the other hand, my computer weights 2 pounds; hers, 4.

    Another thing that makes a huge difference in everyday use: keyboard size. I have a 9-inch Acer Aspire One and that thing is TINY. I’m already used to the keyboard, but it isn’t that comfortable. Try to get a 10-inch netbook, and you’ll get a bigger keyboard as well.

    Last: managing files from one computer to another can be a major pain. I got a 16gb SD memory card that also came with a USB card reader. This card works in both my computers and it doesn’t stick out like a USB memory stick. If I’m somewhere there’s no card reader, then I’ll plug in the USB card reader and solve the problem. All my work files are there. If you are always online, though, Google Docs is your best friend.

  12. Rebecca
    Twitter:
    says:

    Diogo Slov,

    Thanks for the great netbook tips. I was looking at the ACER but wasn’t sure if it was right for me. Great point about Google Docs.

  13. Maralyn D Hill
    Twitter:
    says:

    As someone who has gone through too many laptops, this topic is right on point. I’ve just broken down and ordered my MacBook Pro. So, I need to learn it before I sink back into many years of Windows.

    However, I am recommending a netbook for one of my writing associates who does not need all the bells and whistles. I feel the ease of a netbook is ideal for her.

    I also appreciated all the feedback as it certainly explains the differences.

    Maralyn D Hill

  14. John Lamkin
    Twitter:
    says:

    I took my Aspire AcerOne on my last trip to Chihuahua and Copper Canyon.
    The size is great to carry. I’m a slow typer so the small keyboard doesn’t bother me. I worked with my photos (most work waits until I get home or to a larger screen) doing basic editing and archiving. With so many sites online to edit photos, plus having gimp on my AcerOne, I have very little problem with the photo work I do. I keep copies of my working files on the netbook, so I’m always able to keep my work current. I also have many files stored on Google Docs. The only limitation is screen size. If I want to watch a (very small) movie I can log on to Netflix. All in all, it serves me very well on the road.

  15. Rebecca
    Twitter:
    says:

    Maralyn,

    Congrats on purchasing the MacBook Pro! I’d love to get one because I also dabble in graphic design.

    John,

    Thanks for the feedback on the Aspire AcerOne. This netbook seems to be the one that most people purchase. Dell is pushing there netbook, especially the “snappy” colors!

  16. AdventureRob
    Twitter:
    says:

    I travel with a Samsung NC10 netbook (10.2″) and it was one of my best decisions, have been meaning to blog about it for a while now.

  17. Rebecca
    Twitter:
    says:

    Rob,

    I forgot about Samsung. Thanks for the reminder. Does the battery last up to 8 hours?

  18. Jean says:

    I also have the Asus EEE 1005HA and love it. Be careful if you buy this because there are three models with differing battery capacities–get the most expensive one (NOT the model that Best Buy offers, which is stingiest on battery, just 3 cells). The 6-cell battery does last a looong time–they claim ten hours but that’s not running much intensive software. I haven’t tested the battery length but it does last many hours and longer than I’ve needed it away from a plug.

    I upgraded the RAM to 2 gigs for about $35 including shipping and loaded a lot of other software on it. I don’t need to use photo software beyond what Picasa 3 offers, and that works fine. One drawback you note with all netbooks is that it doesn’t have a CD or DVD drive, but I was able to copy Office 2007 to a thumb drive and then copy to the EEE and install successfully, so that’s not an issue for me.

  19. Rebecca
    Twitter:
    says:

    Jean,

    Thanks for the information Asus EEE 1005HA. I would definitely consider some of the upgrades like a longer battery life and hard drive.e

  20. Eric says:

    I almost bought a netbook when my last laptop died. I decided on a laptop since I found a Toshiba laptop for around $300. The main reason I did not go with the netbook was the keyboard. I do not know how anyone could type on those small keyboards.

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