Netbook comparison: Matching netbook features to business needs

Netbooks may prove handy for enterprise road warriors and virtual desktop users. In this quick corporate netbook comparison, learn how to sort through features and options.

Many IT managers are considering the merits of netbooks for certain classes of users -- commonly avid business travelers or virtual desktop users. With a wide range of options to choose from, as our colleagues at NotebookReview.com have noted, it's possible to zero in on the right netbook to match your specific use cases.

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 For example, users on the go are taking advantage of the ultraportable devices to increase mobile productivity. Netbooks, which often have built-in Wi-Fi capabilities and long battery lifetimes, are a good fit for mobile users looking to access network-based applications such as email and Web browsing. But there are performance tradeoffs in these compact and economical devices -- such as limited computing power due to low-end processors.

Officebound users on virtual desktops use the lightweight devices to access cloud and intranet applications. Netbooks can reduce both the price to acquire and the cost to maintain each thin client, easing some adoption pains.

But even within these scenarios there are different capabilities and features to accommodate various use cases, so it's important to identify your needs up front if you are considering corporate netbooks. Some important requirements to keep in mind are:

 

  • Local storage (SSD or hard drive)
  • Screen size
  • Battery life
  • Weight

If you're using netbooks as virtual desktops, chances are good you want to keep local storage to a minimum, leveraging the central data center for computing and storage. Models like Dell Inc.'s Inspiron Mini 9 are probably going to meet your needs with its low-capacity solid-state drive, modest battery life (three to four hours) and a $349 price tag in Linux; $399 in Windows. The Acer Aspire One is a similar choice as far as screen size, but it has a slightly lower price tag and a longer, eight-hour battery life, as well as a160GB hard drive. If your virtual desktop users require a larger screen to accomplish certain tasks, Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Mini 1000 or Lenovo's IdeaPad S10 are available in 10-inch versions. As the names implies, Dell's Inspiron Mini 12 reaches12 inches, giving you WXGA resolution (1280 x 800) and a full-size keyboard. Prices start at about $300 and vary depending on screen size and configuration.

Choosing a netbook for road warriors requires a different mind-set. For example, one group of workers may need only the simplest, lightest way to access email and use Web apps -- but require a step up from a smartphone. If this is the case, one netbook to consider is the ASUS Eee PC 701, with its seven-inch screen for less than $200. If you're looking to placate the on-the-go corporate executive, Sony Corp.'s VAIO P sits at the high end of the netbook spectrum. With a high-resolution glossy display, built-in 3G networking and a host of other features, the $899 starting price tag is much lower than some full-fledged notebooks -- especially any that would weigh in at VIAO P's slim 1.3 lbs.

This category is rapidly evolving, and you may have to sort through some marketing confusion (Sony, for example, refers to the VAIO P as a Lifestyle PC), but if you are developing a plan to keep costs low for virtual desktop client machines or road warriors, factor netbooks in.

Other netbooks you might want to check out:

 

Find what you're looking for? Let us know; email Kristen Caretta, Site Editor, or follow her on Twitter @kcaretta.


This was first published in March 2010

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