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The Netbook saga II

tech reviews Updated: Sep 12, 2009 19:17 IST
Prasanto K Roy

The netbook’s cheap, but can it be the one notebook you’ll always carry? Yes, it can, if you have a desktop PC too over a dozen readers sent me mails last Sunday – on my netbook versus notebook column. Here are three of them, which represent the bulk of the questions: can a Rs 25k netbook really replace a Rs 50k notebook?

Smarter Smartbook?
I found a copy of Brunch on a flight last Sunday, and your comparison of netbooks and notebooks helped me take the plunge. I’ve just bought an Asus Eee PC 1101HA netbook, my first portable computer, on my trip to Mumbai. Thanks for pointing me to the review (http://bit.ly/PCQ-Asus). The bundle, with a USB DVD drive and a neat Case Logic reversible carry case, cost me less than Rs 30k. I’m happy with the large screen (11.6 inches) and keyboard. And I am getting nine hours of battery backup!

How can I connect it to my desktop PC so that I can share and back up files? Any precautions – I live near the sea in Kerala.

I’d also read about ‘smartbooks’. Are they available? The guys at the Croma store in Mumbai didn’t know.

— Dr KPJ George
Great package: a netbook with a notebook-size screen and keypad, and an external DVD writer. Especially as you own a desktop PC.

Connecting to your desktop is best done with a wi-fi router. Your broadband service provider should give you one at under Rs 2k. You connect your PC to the router with a network cable. Your netbook uses wi-fi to share the desktop PC’s files and printer.

Seaside air isn’t good for electronics, so try keeping your netbook in the driest place possible!
A smartbook is a cross between a netbook and a smartphone. They may look like scaled-down netbooks, but have smartphone features: they’re always on, use 3G, sport a full-day battery life, and are likely to be sold through mobile network operators with a SIM card and data plan. Smartbooks are in their infancy... just about born.

Netbook or Notebook?
I read your column last Sunday on the netbook-notebook comparison and how the technology has advanced. I’m a student and need a laptop, with a budget of around
Rs 30k. The netbook sounds great. But what do you mean by not being able to do “heavy work”? I do plan to put all my pictures and music on it, and I use the Internet a lot. Is a netbook okay for all that? What are the options? I’ve checked out a few laptops. Sony’s Vaio VPCW115XG/P fits my budget, but is it worth it? And there’s Acer, Toshiba, Dell, HCL... I’m confused.
— Mridula Kashyap

A netbook is a tiny, cheap laptop in the Rs 20k range. It isn’t a great option if it’s going to be your ‘only’ PC, especially if you plan to have hundreds of photos or music files. Connecting to the Internet, though, is no big deal: netbooks do that very well. A netbook is just great if you have a desktop PC at home, where you can store your photos or image files.

The Sony model you mention is a netbook, not a notebook, so these comments also apply to it. If you don’t have access to a desktop PC then I’d suggest a regular laptop. Laptops really start out at the Rs 35k to 40k level, including other Sony Vaio models (http://bit.ly/PCQ-Sony). But there are some in the 30k range, such as Dell’s very colourful Inspiron 14 (http://bit.ly/Dell-14).

I am a computer retailer. I agree that a netbook is “great if you already have a desktop”. But you can’t use it as an alternative to a laptop or desktop. Laptops are costly, but they have a purpose. They also have an optical drive, card reader and a viewable screen size such as 14”, not a netbook’s 9 inches. A DVD drive or card reader... these are basics you can’t ignore. Any program or movie you’d like to view, you need an optical drive, so you’d need to buy an external DVD drive. I’m not saying people should not buy a netbook, but that they should use it as a second PC. People who travel a lot or give presentations can really use netbooks.

— Vinay Aggarwal, of Friends Computer Inc
A netbook cannot be your only PC. You should have another PC, maybe a desktop at home, where you can store your files and photos. However, many travellers are using netbooks as their primary PC or laptop – the one they always carry, leaving the desktop at home. Netbooks have turned into capable machines, with 10-12 inch screens and amazing battery life. I tried one out myself – a 25k Samsung N120 – and it worked well as my only PC for six weeks.
Indeed, netbooks have no DVD drive. But neither does my
Rs 1 lakh ThinkPad X-series sub-notebook. I use a Rs 3k, USB DVD drive. The netbook user can buy the same thing, and still spend under Rs 30k all included.
Netbooks aren’t for everyone. But if you have a desktop PC and need something to carry with you – mostly for email, web browser, word processor and presentations, a netbook works well.
The author is chief editor at CyberMedia, publisher of 15 specialty titles such as Dataquest. pkr@cybermedia.co.in, twitter.com/prasanto