Laptop vs. Netbook vs. Smartphone

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Keeping in Touch

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare...the list of social networks seems endless, and they've never been more popular. What's the best way to access, update, and manage your social networks?

Laptop: A full-scale laptop is probably overkill for most social networking applications. Sure, you can do it all with a laptop, but you don't need something big, heavy, costly, or even easy to type on to update your Facebook status.

Netbook: A netbook is a better choice than a full-size laptop for social networking. A netbook is cheaper, smaller, and lighter, and it gets better battery life. Because your machine still runs a full operating system, you can easily perform common tasks such as editing and uploading pictures, following your friends' links to video clips, playing social network games, or chatting with friends.

Smartphone: Most popular social networks have dedicated mobile apps that are quite good, and some (like Twitter) have lots of apps to choose from, no matter which smartphone platform you prefer. It's simple and convenient to pull your phone out of your pocket and update your Facebook status or read up on what your friends are doing, but the experience is narrow and limited. Facebook games generally won't work, editing and uploading photos can be a pain, and real-time chat using your phone's tiny keyboard is a nuisance. Unless you're really into location-based social networks such as Foursquare or Loopt, you're better off with a netbook. Of course, if you have a smartphone for other reasons, there's no reason not to check in on your friends with it.

What to buy: It's a toss-up between netbooks and smartphones. Netbooks are smaller, lighter, and less expensive than regular laptops, but they're no less capable of accessing social networking sites. You'll have no problem doing simple photo editing and uploading, linking to videos and sites, or playing browser-based social network games.

Smartphones are poor choices for sharing photos, videos, and links to other sites on social networks. You can do those things, but the process is inelegant at best. Where phones shine is in location awareness, which is increasingly becoming a huge part of the social networking scene. Your phone knows where you are, and it's always with you, so discovering what your pals are up to--or letting them know what you're doing--is a breeze.

Looking for the perfect portable device? Check out our Top All-Purpose Laptops, Top Netbooks, and Top Cell Phones charts.

Follow Jason Cross on Twitter.

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