Consumer Reports Misses the Mark on Netbooks

SCOPING OUT THE MARKET

The netbook article failed to spell out many of the choices and options consumers face in the netbook marketplace.

For a long time the Acer Aspire One was popular as a 9 inch model and many netbooks are still offered with a 9 inch screen. In terms of length and width, a 9 inch screen is approximately 7.5 by 4.5 inches, a 10 inch screen is 8.5 by 5 inches. I'd avoid 9 inch screens, unless size and price are prime considerations.

Netbooks also vary in screen resolution. While 1024x600 is the unofficial standard, a handful of models, such as the reviewed HP 1030NR, offer even fewer vertical pixels. And only someone with the eyesight of a hawk or a magnifying glass should consider one of the few models with a higher screen resolution.

Screens also come with either a matte or glossy finish, and the difference can be huge. To get a feel for the difference, see Choosing a Netbook -- a picture can be worth a thousand words.

Some netbooks have Bluetooth, some do not.

A few netbooks have an ExpressCard slot, most do not.

Some electrical plugs have two prongs, others have three. Three may be better, but do you want to carry around an adapter?

While most netbooks have standard 2.5 inch SATA hard drives, some have Solid State Hard Disks (SSDs). SSDs may sound great, at first, but the SSDs included with cheap netbooks are slow. In my experience, annoyingly slow.

If you want a fast SSD, you should probably buy a netbook with a standard hard drive, then replace it with a Solid State Hard Drive. It's likely that the SSD will cost as much as, or more, than the netbook.

Some netbooks can speed up when you need the best performance or slow down and dim the screen when you need to extend the battery life, just by pressing a certain key on the keyboard.

Some can easily toggle trackpad on and off.

Most have analog VGA output for connecting to an external monitor or projector. Missing however, are the two screws on each side of the VGA port. So if you're using a netbook connected to external video, don't knock the video wire.

The ratings table indicates that the HP Mini 1030NR has no VGA output. It doesn't have HDMI or DVI either. I checked HP's web site, and the machine doesn't seem to have any way to connect to an external monitor.

No netbooks have a PCMCIA slot.

No netbooks have a modem for dial-up Internet access.

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