In my opinion, the answer to this question is no. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for this category of small laptop computers.
As a family of 4, we have 6 computers. Four desktops (two of them are older, run on Windows 2000 and are used mostly by the kids), a netbook, and a nice new laptop with a 17-inch screen.
It was when I was shopping for the laptop that I realized how great the netbook was. I’ve always been torn between wanting the little, portable computer, and wanting it to be big enough to really be able to use. Here I am in the store, trying to decide. And I realize, I don’t have to decide. I can have both.
The netbook (one of the original Asus Eee PCs with a 7-inch screen) is the portable one. Yes, the laptop with the 17-inch screen is portable, but I got it mostly to be able to use it in a variety of places inside my house, not to bring on the road with me.
I’m not a frequent traveler. If I go on a longer trip, I may bring the big laptop. But the netbook can go with me on day trips, even on regular days. I bring it if I’m going to be stuck waiting anywhere for more than 15 minutes. I bring it when I know there is wifi access where I’ll be. I bring it to meetings. The kids bring it to use in the car. The kids also use it on the couch, or in bed. I’ve actually been known to bring it into the bathroom. Often I use it in ways I would not use the regular laptop.
There are several reasons the netbook won’t replace a larger laptop. The size is the least of these, actually. Many of these small laptop computers are limited by their hardware. They can’t run Windows Vista, they don’t have a DVD drive, they may have a completely different operating system than you’re used to. Most computer users are, sooner or later, going to want something larger and more powerful.
But the lack of system resources isn’t all bad. It saves battery life, and it saves boot time. It takes a couple of minutes to boot up my laptop, but my netbook is up and running in about 15 seconds. If I need to do something quick online and I don’t want to wait, my netbook is the computer I grab. It’s convenient to turn it on, check my email or look up a recipe, and then turn it back off again.
Except for the minimalist who doesn’t need all that computing power, or the grandmother who just wants to get online without anything complicated or expensive, netbooks are best as an extra computer rather than the main one. But you may find you can’t remember what you did without one, once you’ve had one for a while and have taken advantage of being able to throw it in your briefcase or purse, or just enjoyed the quick boot time.