Watch CBSN Live

Can a Netbook Really Fill in for a Notebook?

You already know you can turn a netbook into a Kindle and stock it with a netbook-friendly office suite, but how do netbooks fare with Web apps? Are they adept with services like Google Docs, DimDim, Meebo, and YouTube?

Webware took a Dell Inspiron Mini 10 for a spin with those and other Web apps, in an effort to determine if a netbook can really do the job for road warriors. The verdict? Kind of a surprise, if you ask me.

The Inspiron 10 "handled nearly everything I could throw at it," the author reports. For example:

Zimbra is the perfect office Web app for Netbooks. You get e-mail, calendaring, chat, document editing and creation, as well as contact management in one tight package. I gave both the Ajax and HTML versions of the service a spin, and the performance was equally great across all three browsers.
Just one problem: the Inspiron couldn't stream high-def video from the likes of Hulu and YouTube, and it also choked on full-screen standard-def video.

This mirrors my own experiences with recent models like the Acer Aspire One AOA250 and MSI Wind U115. Whether it's because Flash needs to be optimized for netbooks (as the author suggests) or the graphics horsepower just isn't there, the fact is that most netbooks suck at video.

And let's be realistic: Who wouldn't want to kick back with a little Daily Show or the like in the hotel room after a long day of conferences?

To me that's really a bummer, as the latest netbooks have larger, comfier screens and keyboards and better battery life than their predecessors. Plus, they're even a bit less expensive than when I first wrote about them in The Netbook Diaries just eight months ago.

Hopefully next-gen models will do a better job with video. In the meantime, a netbook really can be a fine traveling companion -- as long as you don't rely on it for entertainment.