Why There’s No Such a Thing as a Powerful Netbook

by Jay Bika on August 18, 2009 · 16 comments

in Opinion

A reader emailed me asking what powerful netbook I recommend. I kind of found such a question strange because in my opinion, the combination of powerful and netbook seems to create an oxymoron.
The way most people define a netbook is a device that is a small to medium sized, lightweight, low-cost, energy-efficient laptop, generally optimized for internet based services such as web browsing and e-mailing.
The reason I bring up this definition is because one needs to be aware that netbooks are basically computers that are intended for Internet and email use in great majority.
Now, suppose that you want a powerful netbook to play games, edit video or run applications that are processing-power hungry. At this time of writing with the current netbooks on the market, you will be out of luck.
While you can come across marketing offers promising a powerful netbook, don’t fall for the trap. You may instead want to look into conventional laptops that are slimmer, lighter and smaller but still pack a powerful processor to help you run your resource intensive applications.
I may be wrong so let’s turn this over to our dear readers: “Is there a powerful netbook out there that stands heads and shoulders above competing netbooks?”

A reader emailed me asking what powerful netbook I recommend. I kind of found such a question strange because in my opinion, the combination of powerful and netbook seems to create an oxymoron.

The way most people define a netbook is a device that is a small to medium sized, lightweight, low-cost, energy-efficient laptop, generally optimized for internet based services such as web browsing and e-mailing.

The reason I bring up this definition is because one needs to be aware that netbooks are basically computers that are intended for Internet and email use in great majority.

Now, suppose that you want a powerful netbook to play games, edit video or run applications that are processing-power hungry. At this time of writing with the current netbooks on the market, you will be out of luck.

While you can come across marketing offers promising a powerful netbook, don’t fall for the trap. You may instead want to look into conventional laptops that are slimmer, lighter and smaller but still pack a powerful processor to help you run your resource intensive applications.

I may be wrong so let’s turn this over to our dear readers: “Is there a powerful netbook out there that stands heads and shoulders above competing netbooks?”

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1 Jim - 406 not acceptable August 19, 2009 at 3:38 pm

I disagree, unless you want to invent another market inbetween the Netbook and the Ultraportable. I want a netbook/laptop with a 10″-12″ screen (I could live with 13 at a strech.) I have been using a 12″ Advent laptop with the typical Core2Duo, et al.

Now the CPU used in small laptops simply generates too much heat! The Dell XPS M1330, the Apple Macbook, and others all get really warm. This is because the CPU gets too hot and there isn’t as much room for adiquate cooling. A ‘netbook’ can get round this by using the Atom, even the dual core Atom will be far cooler than a Core 2.

What a lot of people want is an Atom Z330 with an Ion chipset. This can do more than the standard Netbook. The dual core will let you do more intensive things, such as compile code. The Ion will let you game as well as the GPU in the M1330. One last benefit, it will market at half the price of the alternatives!

So call it what you may, but that is what I and many others want.

2 Jay Bika August 20, 2009 at 10:48 am

You disagree but you have not named one powerful netbook on the market. You just gave a wish list :)

If you come across powerful netbooks, please let me know so that I can compile a list and share with it with everyone?

Thanks…

3 Michael August 21, 2009 at 8:35 am

For a while, my dream machine was an IBM T31. It’s about the size and weight of a current netbook, also didn’t have a CD drive, had an 11″ screen, I think, a Pentium M at around 1.5, about the memory of a netbook,and a 40gig hard drive. Price was around $2000, though, and that was the deal killer. When netbooks came out, I looked at the specs, and bought one, happily, which I use for most of my work now, including Photoshop.

It’s not like I am so special that I can’t wait 10 seconds for some Photoshop action that takes one or two seconds on my other laptop. Most people I know don’t even push their fancy notebooks as hard as that, so I think the netbook is in a good spot, especially now that they’re coming with slightly larger screens (I always bought 14″ previously, and the one I have now is a 13.3″ Toshiba. I can’t believe the laptop makers shot themselves so directly in the foot, bringing out something so cheap that is so functional for most people.

4 Greg August 26, 2009 at 3:37 am

I agree with the original post. Netbooks are not all that powerful for doing tons of the cool stuff such as rendering HD video. Sure they can do it but it takes forever. The min specs from Adobe to do HD with AVCHD is somethign like a quad core 3.0 ghz and a ton of ram with a fast disk. The netbook just can’t keep up. It also has no way to vent the heat from doing something like that.

It is all a trade off, you want power you go big, you want portability you go to the small netbooks or sub compact laptops that don’t have all the super fancy processors. I use my netbook decently hard playing games, surfin the net doing docs, all the basic stuff. I haven’t tried photoshop on here yet, but I am sure it will run, just take some time to process. If you can deal with the delays then no biggie.

Maybe since all of the people going for netbooks will drive sales of regular notebooks to have faster specs in a smaller and cheaper package. I have been using tablets and UMPCs since they came out, they were expensive and also slow. Now we just have cheap and slow, lol. Although the killer battery on my Toshiba NB205 rocks.

5 netbook comp August 27, 2009 at 6:31 am

Hmmm, it really depends on what you plan to use your netbook for.

6 Gerry - Refurbished Netbooks August 28, 2009 at 11:47 am

A powerful netbook is like a high definition cellphone camera. Not going to happen because of physical constraints. There are lesser and more powerful netbooks and generally you get what you pay for, but don’t expect your Dell Mini 9 to be as powerful as your 17 inch laptop which is really is more like a portable desktop. The biggest hazard with netbook satisfaction is the expectations game. Buy a netbook which is really a small laptop computer for email and internet access and you will be fine. Expect a netbook to run Photoshop all day long and you are in for big time disappointment, if nothing else because of eye strain and keyboard cramps.

7 Bjorn September 2, 2009 at 12:48 pm

Well actually…

Samsung is manufacturing a netbook that utilises ION and Lenovo will do so too.
There is just one simple reason that these beauties aren’t open to the home user. Its called Windows Seven.

The ION based netbooks are going to be really fast, to think that they have the same GPU as a Macbook pro ( GF9400M ), using a dual core will not double its power, it will actually do more, since atom’s use of hyper threading creates two logic threads, this will mean that these 330′s will create 4 separate threads on 2 cores.

If you add all that up to the lowered resources needed for Windows Seven, and you’ve just got something magic going on, for a even more magical price. Functionality and efficiency in a small package.

You could even use it as you main pc, hook it up to a monitor and use the internal LCD for when you are on the road.

In the future there will come something called a OLED display that uses 35x less power than a standard LCD, meaning that netbooks can run insanely long times.

Seeing all this new info and thinking about it, you must agree with me that netbooks are going to be the rulers of the new portable era.

ION is just a small step towards netbook glory.

8 John B. September 4, 2009 at 4:34 am

Well actually.. even if the Ion has the same GPU as the Macbook Pro, a Macbook Pro has a Core2Duo on board going 2+ GHz. The Ion only gets an Atom even a dual core Atom is still just an Atom. as stated, it will not double the power.. it will just do more work at an Atom’s pace.

The Ion will overall be faster/more powerful than the current crop of netbooks no doubt. But don’t expect it to blow you away. That’s just plain optimism, manufacturer’s claims should always be taken with a grain of salt.. Power, size, battery consumption, price… It’s all about compromises, there’s no getting around that. Otherwise it would be like we’d all be driving around in 500HP Ferraris that get 50 MPG and run on water.

9 davo October 3, 2009 at 9:42 am

Why would you buy a netbook if you wanted to do memory intensive tasks? If you need plenty of power you need to save up for a proper full size laptop.

10 Smidgen PC October 7, 2009 at 12:55 am

Powerful netbook? Bah. I don’t think so. That’s like saying you a sexy pair of long-johns. It’s a contradiction in terms.

11 Matt November 3, 2009 at 6:31 pm

Fujitsu LifeBook P1630

12 Butch November 26, 2009 at 8:58 am

How about the Acer Aspire AS1410-2285 11.6-Inch Black Laptop w/ Windows 7 Home Premium. It has the 1.2GHz Intel Celeron SU2300 Processor w/ 2 GB of memory. With a full size keyboard thanks to the screen size, it is only slightly bigger and heavier than most 10″ netbooks. Would that not be considered a better alternative?

13 Netbooks4Life November 27, 2009 at 12:56 pm

I think you are somewhat wrong about no such thing as a powerful notebook. It is all relative. If you compare it to a desktop like laptop, then no, but compare it to small portable gaming devices like, Nintendo DS or even iPhone and you get a bigger screen size and more compute power and it is definitely more powerful than those. Sure, if you are a gaming enthusiast and must have the most powerful machines to crunch heavy graphics, then yeah, but many can do without that, especially on the road.

Plenty of data to show that Netbooks suffices as a gaming platform for quite a few games.

http://www.gamespot.com/features/6205856/index.html

The Asus N10J is just one example.

Netbooks4Life

14 kim August 15, 2010 at 9:49 pm

I think the problem is that people want a more portable notebook. I am currently in the market for a new notebook computer, the current standard size 15.5″ is just not reasonable for portability and as we all know the netbook processing power just sucks (acer owner). Like previous posters, ideally I’d like to find a notebook between 11 and 13 inches that doesn’t cost $1000!

15 Cliff Garner January 24, 2011 at 4:57 pm

I like the size and portable of netbooks. However they can’t even handle outlook well. I would love a 8 to 10 laptop with the power to be used as a on the go business laptop. Netbooks can’t even handle Outlook well.

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