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Buyers guide: Laptop, netbook or smartphone?

We look at which device is right for you

When it comes to computing on the go, should you plump for a laptop, netbook or smartphone? We've looked at the pros and cons of the various devices for several common portable-computing tasks in a bid to help you choose.

Home and student life

Not a corporate road warrior? That doesn't mean that you don't need to get some work done on a portable device.

Productivity isn't just for middle managers: students need laptops to take notes or write papers, while home users have to write letters or balance the family budget.

The requirements of home users and students differ from those of business professionals, however.


A good laptop will do everything you need, but the size and weight may put off anyone who wants to take their computer with them wherever they go. A small, light system is particularly nice for the college student who walks all over campus with their laptop every day.

Basic home laptops can be had for as little as £350 to £500, and even the nicer, more full-featured models start at £600 to £675, so you don't have to break the bank.


A good netbook (or an inexpensive, small ultraportable laptop) may be the best choice for home and school work. If you find one with a good keyboard, you can easily crank out a history paper or a letter to Grandma.

The limited screen size and resolution don't get in the way of doing taxes or using personal finance applications. Perhaps most important, a netbook is easy to carry around all day, and the battery will last long enough for you to leave the charger behind.


Smartphones are great for general consumer use, and they can be great tools for keeping your shopping list or staying in touch with what your college friends are doing.When it comes to productivity, though, they suffer from the same problems for home users as they do for corporate users.

Their small and difficult-to-use keyboards make it a chore to take quick and accurate notes or to write anything longer than a few sentences.

What to buy

If you're a home user or a student, a good netbook might be just the thing for productivity on the go. It's hard to beat such machines' compact size, light weight, long battery life, and low price.

The small screen and keyboard size aren't ideal, but they're certainly good enough for everyday tasks.

NEXT PAGE: Browsing the web

  1. We look at what device is right for you
  2. Home and student life
  3. Browsing the web
  4. Watching video
  5. Playing games
  6. Keeping in touch

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