Netbooks vs Smartphones: How to Decide  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in , , ,

Netbooks are tempting devices, but if you already have a smartphone, do you really need one?

Netbooks have hit a sweet spot for both consumer and business users. Their low price, full QWERTY keyboards that approach (if not quite match) standard laptop arrangements, and built-in applications mean that many people can leave a heavier notebook behind.

This wasn't the case with the original UMPCs that hit the market a few years ago, many of which carried price tags well north of $1,000 and offered bizarre QWERTY keyboard arrangements that defied any attempt at normal typing.

Smartphones, on the other hand, have offered much of the same promise of netbooks for years now, including tasks such as mobile document editing, e-mail, and Web browsing. But in many ways, smartphones haven't fully reached their potential either—and many users will never get past the tiny screens and keyboards.

Speaking of which, as a smartphone enthusiast, I know I'm supposed to get behind all manner of geeky add-on device, especially those that turn your handset into a miniature laptop (e.g. the Celio Redfly or the failedPalm Foleo) and therefore alleviate the need for netbooks. In theory. But the truth is, those add-ons often don't work the way you'd expect in a wide variety of situations.

Here's what you should consider when deciding whether you should go for a netbook, or simply stick with your smartphone:

Boot-up time: The average smartphone boots up in about 15 seconds, whereas netbooks typically take significantly longer. But that's not the whole story: at any given moment, your smartphone is already on and ready to roll, since it lasts for days at a time in standby mode. The average netbook battery, however, lasts just 3 hours, and not much longer even if you put the system to sleep. For being ready to go at all times, nothing beats a smartphone.

Keyboard/screen comfort: The winner is pretty clear here: netbooks are considerably more comfortable to use than smartphones. The biggest appeal for netbooks is their small size and weight—often a perfect compromise between a PDA and a standard-size laptop. Some are still too cramped for marathon typing sessions, however. No matter how powerful a netbook is, if it's not comfortable to type on, or leaves you squinting, you'll leave it home.

Document editing: Many of today's smartphones can already view Microsoft Office documents. Some of models (Windows Mobile and Palm OS devices, as well as the latest BlackBerry OS 4.5 revision) can edit them right out of the box. Others require third-party software for this purpose. Either way, it's only good in a pinch. If you're doing any more than casual writing or limited spreadsheet work on the go, you'll want a netbook or real notebook—period.

E-mail: A smartphone with a QWERTY keyboard is sufficient for sending and receiving e-mail, unless you plan on regularly typing out long missives on the road.

Instant messaging: A couple of quick chats are probably fine on a smartphone. Anything longer and you'll wish you had a netbook or laptop keyboard. (full Story)

This entry was posted on Dec 10, 2008 at 9:26 AM and is filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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