The Next Generation of Netbooks

More Stories in this Series

Netbooks: All About the New Ultraportables

Netbooks Without a Net

If names mean anything, it seems reasonable to expect a "netbook" to deliver wireless broadband and constant connectivity. But that's not quite the way things are today. Most netbooks do offer 802.11 g wireless, which is more than adequate for basic needs around an office, airport, or hotel room. And HP's Mini 2140 has 802.11n on board, so you're good for a little more wireless performance there.

This winter we've started seeing netbooks that offer integrated 3G wireless broadband. It sounds great, but there is one big (and tightly knotted) string attached: A two-year contract will run you somewhere in the neighborhood of $2000 over the life of the deal and will wed you to a device that you might desperately want to replace long before the contract expires. Here's some advice: If you crave wireless broadband performance, make sure that your netbook of choice includes a PC Express card slot. That way you can buy a wireless broadband card and plug it into whatever machine you need. PC Express slots are still rare on netbooks, but USB ports aren't. So even if you opt for a system that doesn't accommodate PC Express, you can add a USB 3G adapter, which you can then use with any computer you own.

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