The folks at PC Magazine have put together a series of tests demonstrating something that I’ve been saying all along: The name “netbook” is misleading. Cheap ultraportable computers may be ideal for surfing the web, but what really makes the current generation of mini-laptops exciting is the fact that they can do almost everything a full sized laptop can — just not as well.
But that’s hardly surprising. If you want a computer that weighs three pounds or less and costs half or a third the price of a traditional laptop, you can’t really expect it to be a speed demon, can you? PC Magazine pitted an Acer Aspire One and Dell Inspiron Mini 12 against a few higher end machines including an HP Pavilion dv3z, a Dell Studio 15, and a Lenovo IdeaPad Y650. The three tests consisted of ripping an audio CD, transcoding a video from WMV to MPG, and resizing photos using Photoshop Elements 7.
The verdict? The Acer Aspire One and Dell Inspiron Mini 12 were able to perform most of the tasks. But they took substantially longer to finish them than the more expensive machines.
But you know what? How often are you going to use a netbook to rip an audio CD anyway? Almost every netbook on the market today comes without an optical disc drive, so you’d have to plug in a USB disc drive before you could even get started on that task. And while batch photo resizing jobs using Photoshop Elements might be a bit rough, I find I can crop, resize, and edit one photo at a time for blogging purposes just as quickly with Irfanview on a netbook as I can with a full sized, dual core laptop.
The surprising thing for many people is that even though netbooks are marketed as if they were portable web browsers with keyboards, you can perform additional tasks on them. Just make sure you don’t purchase one with unrealistic performance expectations.