Top 11 Netbook Accessories
Editors Note: This is a guest post by Paul Rossman a NetbookReviews.com reader, active forum member, and now a guest poster. If you have an idea for a post that would help the netbook community please contact me. In the mean time, enjoy this article on netbook accessories.
Alright, I am going to do something a little different for the holiday season. Everyone knows that a netbook is incomplete without some netbook accessories. I will make my suggestions for the top 11 netbook accessories that you can purchase for people during the holiday season. Why top 11? Because I like to go one step beyond.
Let’s face it; the speakers inside of netbooks are rather dull. The single speaker in my cellphone is louder and the speakers in my Nintendo DSi provide better clarity than most netbooks out there. A decent pair of speakers will more than make up for things. I recommend Creative’s N400 speakers. They are a little on the expensive side ($70 on Amazon.com) but they produce pretty good clarity and they are completely powered off of a single USB port.
10. Optical Drive
Netbooks drastically cut down their sizes by throwing optical drives out the window. This is fine except that we are still living in a world that distributes content on discs whether it is a new album, movie, or operating system. An inexpensive optical drive pretty much solves all of these issues without relying on sharing a drive with another computer. Asus released a USB 2.0 DVD+-R/RW DL drive not too long ago that is completely powered by two USB 2.0 ports. A really good match for netbook users on the go and it comes in an extremely affordable package (less than $60).
9. USB Hub
Most netbooks come equipped with 2-3 USB 2.0 ports. This really isn’t a whole lot by the time you factor in hooking up a cellphone, iPod, mouse, keyboard, speakers, optical drive, printer, hard drive, etc. A simple Targus USB hub will allow people to hookup most of their USB devices without issues. The best part of purchasing a USB hub is that they are inexpensive (less than $20). The only downside to portable USB hubs is that they aren’t powered. This means that you cannot use them to hookup an external optical drive, speaker set, or hard drive. You can still use them for most other USB accessories though.
8. Portable Mouse
The trackpads on even the best netbooks still pale in comparison to the average notebook and mouse. My personal favorite is the Logitech VX Nano wireless laser mouse. The receiver (which is smaller than a U.S. nickel) can stay plugged into a netbook without worrying about it getting bent or ruining the USB port and it is a laser mouse which means that it can operate on pretty much any surface. You can find one of these for about $40.
7. Portable Printer
Despite what many think, print is definitely not dead. It is rather difficult (and expensive) to have to hunt down a printing center every single time you want to make something while traveling. Portable printers have really come a long way from the days of old. They now offer nice photo prints, the ability to work with battery attachments, and near-borderless printing. I have used HP printers for 16 years now so I have to recommend one. Their OfficeJet H470 mobile printer is really nice though it is on the expensive side (about $150).
6. USB Portable Hard Drive
Things happen to computers that often require people to reformat them. Data loss is something that plagues nearly everyone with a PC. A portable hard drive fixes all of these worries. Netbooks often come equipped with 160GB hard drives as well. This really isn’t a whole lot of storage space by the time a restoration partition, music, videos, photos, of productivity apps are taken into account. Things also happen with netbooks requiring them to be reformatted. A 500GB portable hard drive would be more than enough to store media for the average person. Western Digital’s 500 GB My Passport Essential offers a nice upgrade from last year’s model all while keeping costs down (about $110).
5. Memory Upgrade
Most netbooks come with 1GB of RAM. That really isn’t a whole lot to do anything outside of making a few Word documents. Even common websites consume around 200MB of RAM. Add that in with other processes, the RAM for the Intel GMA 500/950 IGPs, and running Windows XP/7 in general. That 1GB quickly becomes a couple hundred MB. Adding a 2GB stick of RAM really helps things out a lot. Costs and specs vary but you can often find a single 2GB stick of RAM for less than $20. (Editors note: this is the RAM I bought 6 months ago for $18.99. It is $42.99 right now, but I think that's just because they're giving away a 4GB SD card with the purchase.)
4. USB Thumb Drive
Transferring files between a netbook and other computers can be a chore without the proper tools. USB thumb drives make this a painless process. Best of all, thumb drives are an affordable accessory for netbooks that allow for increased functionality. Most people would be fine with a 4GB drive even if they are working with audio files and standard definition videos. That being said, I suggest that people buy what it is in their price point instead of looking at capacity. Amazon is selling an HP 8GB thumb drive for $18.49. It may not be overly small but it is hard to argue with a price that low. Brand name doesn’t really matter when it comes to thumb drives as they are all pretty much the same. Some of them might come with backup software but we all know that no one will actually use this especially since thumb drives have been plug-and-play for at least 7 years now.
3. Netbook Case
Every portable computer needs a case whether we are talking about 19” notebooks or 8.9” netbooks. Cases allow people to carry their netbooks, portable hard drives, iPods, cellphones, AC adapters, a wireless mouse, digital cameras, and other various accessories/gadgets all in a small package. There are many cases out there for netbooks and it is difficult to choose which one is right. Some people want a slick sporty case while others want a large briefcase-like case that holds everything and then some. The Targus CityGear netbook case gets my recommendation. It has pockets for all of my devices, more than enough room for my netbook, a very small package, and it doesn’t come off as being cheap. You can find one for about $30. A worthwhile investment for any netbook owner.
2. Netbook Sleeve
There are many netbook users who are already hauling a briefcase, backpack, or luggage during their daily lives. They may not have the space for a full on netbook case as they are already carrying 75 pounds of books. A netbook sleeve is great for this type of person as it allows for proper protection of their device without having to carry a second or third bag. Just zip the netbook in the sleeve and throw it in with the rest of your objects. Sleeves are a dime a dozen these days and they are all pretty much the same. I am using an HP sleeve that matches my Mini 110 netbook. Other companies offer sleeves that match their products. Just watch out as some netbooks (such as the Asus Eee PC line) come with sleeves. Here is a cheap $10 sleeve from Case Logic in case one didn't ship with your netbook.
1. Windows 7
I know that many people will disagree with this and stick with Windows XP as they have been using it for 8 years. Well, I think it is time for an upgrade instead of sticking with a near-decade old operating system. Windows Vista was terrible so sticking with XP was actually a smart solution. Now, with Windows 7, there really is no need to stay in the past. Windows 7 can run great on a netbook without issues, provide a flashy interface that is a much needed upgrade over XP, provides increased SSD performance, has the potential to push your netbook to last longer on a single charge than XP, has better integrated media functionality (go native mpeg-4 support), and I can keep going on. Windows 7 is also rather inexpensive coming in at $30 for students and $109.49 for everyone else. The Home Premium version has features that suit nearly everyone. Only business enthusiasts will want to use Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate. There are a few procedures out there for getting Windows 7 from a DVD onto a thumb drive for netbook installation so an optical drive is not necessary to get this up and running on your netbook (here is one way). Additionally, Windows XP users can get a fresh install of Windows 7 by using the less expensive upgrade discs. Just be careful as Windows 7 cannot be installed on the older netbooks featuring 8GB SSD drives (or less). 16GB SSD drive equipped netbooks provide more than enough space for Windows 7.
What do you think of the order of the list? Anything worth adding?
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