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Cheat Sheet

Netbooks For Dummies

From Netbooks For Dummies by Joel McNamara

Don't let the toy-like appearance of netbooks — small, inexpensive laptop computers — fool you; they are real computers. Netbooks, for the most part, can do just about anything a normal PC can do. Before you buy a netbook, consider how you can save time and money when you buy, when you need help, and even when you just need a carrying case.

Netbook Manufacturers' Web Sites

When netbooks first hit the marketplace, only a handful of computer manufacturers offered the little laptops. Now it seems everyone is making a version a netbook. When selecting a netbook, it's best to start by seeing what's available on the market and who makes what. As a handy reference, here's a list of the major companies (along with links to their Web sites) that are currently offering netbooks:

Acer Lenovo
ASUS LG
Dell MSI
Everex One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)
Fujitsu Samsung
Hewlett-Packard Toshiba

Netbook Web Forums

If you're having problems with your netbook and can't get a good answer from an official support site, visit a Web forum. A number of user communities have popped up around popular brands and models of netbooks. You often can get faster and more accurate information from these unofficial sources than you can from a manufacturer's official technical support site. Here is a collection of independent netbook forums to consult:

Model-specific forums General forums
Acer Netbook User
ASUS Netbook Forums
Dell Netbook Boards
Everex
Hewlett-Packard
MSI Wind
One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)
Samsung

Common Netbook Characteristics

More than likely you've wondered just exactly what a netbook is and how it’s different from a laptop. Here's the lowdown. A netbook is a shrunk-down, lightweight laptop that often has these key features:

  • 3 pounds (more or less)

  • 10-inch or smaller screen

  • Intel Atom processor

  • 1GB RAM

  • 10/100 Ethernet port

  • 802.11 b/g wireless card (some models support 802.11 n)

  • Audio-in jack (microphone)

  • Audio-out jack (headphones or speakers)

  • Built-in speakers (many models feature a built-in microphone)

  • SD card reader

  • Touchpad

  • USB ports (2 or 3)

  • VGA out (for external monitor or projector)

Netbooks with additional features such as Bluetooth, larger hard drives, longer life batteries, and so on cost more than basic models.

Netbook Buying Tips

If you’ve researched all the available netbook models, done all of your homework, and narrowed your choices down to one or more netbooks, you’re almost there. Here’s some final advice for buying a netbook:

  • Stick with one of the larger netbook manufacturers.

  • Read buyer reviews and feedback (especially from online retailer Web sites such as Amazon and New Egg).

  • Find a local retailer who stocks netbooks and check them out in person.

  • Shop around as prices can vary — especially online.

  • If you're on a budget, consider a refurbished netbook.

Unconventional Netbook Carrying Cases

A surprising number of cases and containers on the market can fit netbooks like a charm, even though they weren’t designed specifically for the little laptops. You can usually score one of these unconventional netbook cases for less than a bona fide netbook case. Plus, they're the ultimate in low-profile stealth — who would expect you're packing a computer in one of the following:

  • Portable DVD case

  • Hardware store tool bag

  • Bible case (from Christian bookstores)

  • Padded lunch sack

  • Military surplus gas mask or map bag

  • Nintendo Wii soft carry bag

  • Rectangular candy tin (with glued in padding)

  • Padded mailing envelope

  • Old day planner binder

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