Best Netbook Laptops

Updated May 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
28 Hours Researched
3 Experts Interviewed
82 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best netbook laptops

The netbook is an interesting option in the mobile computing market. It has a smaller size and lower weight than a traditional laptop, but it gives you a larger screen than a smartphone or tablet, along with a built-in keyboard and trackpad.

Netbooks initially appeared on the market in the late 2000s, delivering a lower-priced alternative to the traditional laptop. You can think of netbooks as mini laptops, both in size and in performance level. Netbooks may not have all the features you’d expect to find in a full-size laptop, so they won’t work for every profession. As with a traditional laptop, you should weigh specs like screen size, processing power, operating system, and other features when comparing your options.

Netbooks have solidified their place in the computing market as convenient budget computers. We put together a list of the strengths and drawbacks of netbooks to help you determine whether one of these slim computers would fit in your arsenal of consumer tech.

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The majority of netbooks are not made with high-quality components, so you should handle them carefully.

What is a netbook?

This term, first introduced in 2007, generally describes small, inexpensive laptops with lower processing power than most laptops. There’s no hard-and-fast definition, but you can expect netbooks to be compact and lightweight. These are small machines designed for on-the-go lifestyles, and they come with as many variations and specs as traditional laptops.

Key considerations

With a netbook, there are a few specs to consider to get the most out of your device. These are the same considerations as a traditional laptop, but they are especially important in a netbook as they noticeably lag behind traditional laptops in performance.

Processor

The CPU, or central processing unit, is the most important chip inside any computer. Think of it as the brain of the computer — all tasks the computer performs go through the CPU at some point.

A CPU included inside a netbook is quite a bit less powerful than one included in a traditional laptop. This is one of the primary reasons why a netbook is far less pricey than a full-size laptop.

However, just like a full-size laptop or desktop computer, the speed of the CPU in the netbook is measured in GHz of clock speed. Average CPUs for a netbook will have around 1.3 GHz of clock speed, but you may find some CPUs with 2 GHz or more. A larger number delivers more power.

Dual-core or quad-core processors are common in more expensive netbooks. Quad-core CPUs give you better multitasking performance versus dual-core CPUs — a great feature to have for gaming or other intensive tasks.

Display screen

Originally, netbooks had small screens, measuring 7 or 8 inches diagonally. However, many newer netbooks offer larger screens — while still maintaining a small profile. In addition, many netbooks feature impressive resolutions.

Screen size: Typically, a netbook offers a screen measuring between 10 inches and 11.5 inches. Measurements are taken diagonally from one corner to the opposite corner. Remember, the larger the screen size, the larger the netbook’s physical dimensions will be.

Resolution: Very few netbook screens have full HD resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels). However, you will often find a screen resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels, which is still considered HD.

Touchscreen: Touch capabilities are popular in a netbook with a 2-in-1 design. This means the netbook can work like a traditional laptop, or the touchscreen can flip around or disconnect and work like a tablet. Having a 2-in-1 design is very popular, as it provides the benefits of a tablet with a built-in physical keyboard.

Features

Once you’ve found the primary elements you need in your netbook, you can focus on the extra features. These allow you to personalize the look and feel of the netbook to fully meet your needs.

Operating system: A netbook often will use the latest Windows operating system (or OS). However, if you prefer something different, some models offer Android OS or Chrome OS. Although some units use Linux OS, this is less common. You should choose an OS that you are comfortable with and that is compatible with your preferred programs.

Storage: One area where netbooks lag significantly behind full-size laptops is storage size. While a laptop can have 512 GB or even 1 TB of hard drive storage, a netbook will have much less storage — typically around 64 GB or 128 GB. With a limited storage size, you may need to store some files on a flash drive or SD card. Some more expensive netbooks feature a high-speed solid-state drive (SSD) instead of a hard-disk drive (HDD).

RAM: Random access memory, or RAM, is a temporary storage area for the netbook. Data and software currently in use are kept in RAM, allowing for fast access. With a netbook, expect between 4 GB and 8 GB of RAM, but if you can find a unit with more, you’ll receive a major performance boost.

Netbook laptop prices

One of the biggest advantages of a netbook over a traditional laptop is the price. In addition to their compact designs, most netbooks are fairly affordable. However, their prices can still vary and increase with additional features.

You can find low-end netbooks for $100 to $175. These are not powerful or fast machines, but they perform basic tasks well.

Midrange to high-end netbook laptops are generally faster and offer more storage space plus additional features. If you want a 2-in-1 design with a touchscreen, you can expect to pay $175 to $350 for your netbook. Beyond the better screen technology, a higher priced netbook will have a faster processor, more RAM, and larger storage.

Advantages and disadvantages of netbooks

Here are some considerations to help you determine whether you want to purchase a full-size laptop or a netbook.

  • Lightweight design: When you’re concerned about size and weight in a laptop, a netbook may be the better choice. You’ll definitely notice the difference if you’re carrying the unit around all day.
  • Touchscreens: This feature is common in midrange to high-priced netbooks A touchscreen makes the unit easier to use, especially for those who often use a smartphone.
  • Price: If you need to save money, the netbook is the better choice. Its price will be at least a few hundred dollars lower than the majority of laptops.
  • Less processing power. For those who want to run complex software, video games, or large databases, a laptop is the better choice. Netbooks just can’t compete with their slower processors.
  • Shorter lifespan: A netbook may become outdated within 2 to 4 years, especially if you regularly use the latest programs.
  • Smaller keyboard: Because most netbooks are smaller than traditional laptops, they have smaller keyboards that can be less comfortable to use.
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Some 2-in-1 netbooks have a fully detachable screen, perfectly mimicking a tablet.

FAQ

Q. Should I get a netbook instead of a tablet?
A.
The biggest advantage of a netbook over a tablet is the built-in keyboard. Netbooks also tend to have a little bit more processing power and speed than a tablet. And if you pick a 2-in-1 netbook, you’ll receive a tablet-like touchscreen, which you may find more useful than a standalone tablet.


Q. What are common things people do with a netbook?
A.
If you spend a lot of time on social media, doing online shopping, or communicating by email, a netbook will perform well. Netbooks can run web-based software and apps adequately. People who need to carry the machine for the entire day will like the lightweight design of a netbook. For example, photographers may choose to carry a netbook with them during an off-site photography session. They’ll use the netbook as a backup storage medium for photos or to view photos on the 10-inch-plus screen.


Q. Are netbooks difficult to use?
A.
The majority of people would consider a netbook easy to use, especially if it’s a 2-in-1 design. Netbooks can’t usually run complex software, making them well suited to college students and people who simply need a machine for internet browsing and word processing.


Q. Is it difficult to type on a netbook?
A.
Typically, netbooks have a smaller keyboard compared to a laptop or a desktop computer keyboard. The keys often are a little smaller, and the space between keys is narrower. Even though the differences in size are minimal, it’s a noticeable difference for the experienced typist, but some people are comfortable with the smaller keyboards.

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