Netbooks: an inexpensive alternative to laptops


Krystina Primack | Staff Writer

Although we are now more than halfway through the Spring semester, it’s never too early to think toward the future and plan ahead to the fall. For continuing students, some of this planning might revolve around technology and budgeting — namely, students might need to consider how to choose a computer that provides for the academic demands of today’s busy scholars, doing so while saving money along the way.

One solution is a netbook computer. How does a netbook differ from a laptop? Simply put, netbooks — sometimes also referred to as notebooks — are essentially miniature laptops whose purpose is to connect to the Internet, and to function as a basic word-processor. Netbooks do not have disc drives, but most models — especially newer releases — will include a microphone and webcam, just like a laptop, as well as common applications found on other operating systems.

Netbooks predate tablets as well, but even though tablets have their own niche in the world of technology and education, netbooks have remained a popular alternative means of computing. They rest in a practical location between laptops and tablets by providing the best elements of both kinds of technology.

This article will focus on sharing useful and honest information about the advantages of owning a netbook during your time as a university student, especially for those that might not be aware of the specifics of this option. While this article does not endorse any single type or brand name of netbook or any of their technological counterparts, nor does it intend to discourage students from researching options for larger computers or tablets, it is helpful to have as much information as possible when presented with options for school supplies.

For instance, part of the appeal of netbooks is their user-friendliness. Generally, because they offer the most basic operating systems available, netbooks are accessible for technological experts and lay-people alike. The straightforward nature of these devices allows for an uncomplicated experience online and offline, which can be extremely useful to a student hoping to complete their work in a timely manner and stay organized while doing so.

To this end, netbooks are also lightweight compared to most standard-sized laptops. As such, they’re less cumbersome to take out of a bag during class for quick note-taking, or to bring along for meetings and study sessions. Whether you live on campus or commute, saving backpack space and carrying less weight can be a significant bonus. Netbooks have smaller dimensions than laptops as well, so while you must anticipate that your screen and keyboard will be smaller, the overall convenience of this smaller size makes these factors easy to adjust to.

Additionally, netbook computers, in spite of their smaller size, can often prove to be the affordable alternative to brand-new laptops or tablets because of their relative simplicity and accessibility. On average, netbooks cost between $150 to $400 at local retailers and on Amazon. Compared to laptops that cost between $500 to more than $1,000, netbooks are more cost-effective if a strict budget factors into your decision-making process.

But, buyer beware: Netbooks do not have adequate processing systems required for more complicated programs, such as those used for statistics or video editing, or for running PC games. Even so, netbooks are still capable of running the basic programs that most students use.

Similarly, netbooks usually operate using free cloud storage systems that contain their own versions of word processors, such as Google Drive or Outlook. Therefore, the netbooks might not come with a more traditional word processor included, such as those used to create and edit documents, spreadsheets or slide presentations.

However, cloud storage systems do have their own versions of word processors, such as Google Docs and Google Slides. Their layouts differ slightly from those used in Microsoft Word, for instance, but those differences can be adjusted to easily. Duquesne students with a valid MultiPass account can access also these kinds of systems through CTS and the Gumberg Library website, free of charge.

Whether you’re on the market for a new computer, or simply want to learn more about what other kinds of technology is available to students, netbooks are a good place to start. What matters the most is knowing what kind of computing technology works best for you as a student, allowing you to plan ahead and decide what kind of device will best assist you on your journey to educational success. If that planning ultimately leads you to considering a netbook, then you can rest assured that they are cost-effective, easy to carry and user-friendly — all factors that can make a student’s life that much easier.