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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.

Watching video

Video is a huge part of portable computing these days. Whether it's viewing YouTube clips, catching up on a missed show via BBC iPlayer or enjoying a DVD on a long flight, everyone loves to watch. Laptops can obviously do it all, but video capabilities are a common selling point of the modern smartphone, too.


A laptop offers the best video viewing, hands down. A full-fledged laptop probably has an optical drive that you can use to watch DVDs (or even Blu-ray movies, if it's the appropriate drive).

The large, high-res screens are easy to look at for extended periods, and good speakers are an option that you won't find with the other two types of devices. Nobody wants to huddle around a 9in screen, let alone a 3.5in display, to share a laugh at a video of some crazy kids almost hurting themselves on YouTube.


You get better battery life with a netbook, but you give up too much in the process. The machine doesn't have an optical drive, so DVDs or Blu-ray movies are out.

The 9 to 11in screens are hard to watch for extended periods, and even harder to share with friends - and good luck finding a netbook with decent speakers.

Sure, all of the online video services are still at your disposal with a netbook, but you'd be much happier watching them on a bigger laptop.


Smartphones are really useful only for very short video clips from a limited number of providers. Many sites that rely on Flash won't stream video on smartphones until Android 2.2 comes.

Even when you can find something to watch, staring at a screen smaller than 4in gets old in a hurry.

What to buy

Laptops take the crown. You can watch whatever you want, whenever you want, on a screen big enough and with speakers good enough to actually enjoy it.

The only real drawback is battery life. Shop carefully for a laptop that will get you through a whole movie or two, especially if watching on a plane or during a long road trip is a priority.

NEXT PAGE: Playing games

  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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