If you want a small portable computer with a bit more screen space than a smartphone, you’re rather spoilt for choice right now. The choice as it stands currently is between the newer crop of tablet style devices epitomised by Apple’s iPad, but soon to be joined by efforts from Samsung, who recently unveiled the Galaxy Tab running Google’s Android operating system, as well as options from Asus and Toshiba.
On the other hand, you could opt for a cheap netbook. The netbook market is now a couple of years old and there’s plenty of choice on store shelves right now. So which should you opt for?
They’re generally much simpler to use, because they run quite specific touch-capable operating systems, rather than Windows or Linux bolted onto smaller screens. The add-on applications markets for both Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android platforms is expanding rapidly, and most software just works rather than having to work around problems of smaller screens or lower power processors, which is a concern for netbook users.
As they’re all screen, you’ll have to pay more for a Bluetooth or similar keyboard. Apple notably controls the Apps available for its platform, and what they can do, with an iron fist, while the upgrade nature of Android-based devices is often a little shaky.
Inbuilt keyboards give flexibility, as does the use of standard notebook/PC operating systems. Pressure from the tablet and even notebook markets has also driven prices right down, and it’s rare to see a netbook on a retail store shelf for more than $500.
They’re not very powerful machines, and under the weight of Windows or Linux and applications, some netbooks can be very sluggish systems. The keyboards present in most netbooks are pretty cheap and very small, which won’t suit some hands.
Invariably, some users and uses will suit one over the other, and we’ll clearly see some more interesting plays in both the netbook and tablet spaces in the next twelve months. It’s well worth trying a few “store models” out before making your decision, as it’s much better to get a system that suits you rather than one you have to force to work the way you want it to.