Laptops for Lawyers – Netbooks Versus Laptops

I have spent the last week deciding between whether to buy a netbook or a laptop.

A netbook was tempting for both the low price ($300 to $400 range) and as an experiment with Linux and OpenOffice (for some netbooks). However, a large number of online reviews pointed out the limitations of netbooks: smaller keyboard, not much memory, and sluggishness, especially those using Windows XP or Vista.

Ultimately, the advice from a colleague helped me decide in favour of a laptop. His advice? Is it for travel or is it for work? Since I wanted to use it for work, I went for a more robust laptop, ultimately deciding on a Dell Inspiron model for $549, which was way faster and lighter than my 4-year old Inspiron.

I mention this not as a plug of Dell since there are a large number of laptops in the lower $550 to $800 range that are comparable. I mention it instead if it saves anyone else time in deciding between a netbook or a laptop. I would go for the laptop for a few hundred dollars more.

Now if only my BlackBerry could be a laptop replacement . . . .


  1. Although slightly more expensive, I have already preferred Sony’s Vaio P Series or the Lenovo’s IdeaPad U Series.

    Last year when I looking into buying a laptop, I fell in love with the Sony’s Vaio. But at that time it was way too expensive. Now the prices have come down…..

  2. Thanks, Ted – I’m currently doing the same agonizing, so it’s useful to have your input. (I suspect it’s just a matter of time before your hand held IS a substitute for a laptop – I may hold out on a purchase until then….)

  3. I think you made a great choice, Ted. My recent shopping trip for a new laptop/netbook was immortalized over at Bargainista:

  4. For those interested in a netbook, take a look at the Samsung NC10. It gets great reviews, and has an excellent keyboard. I originally purchased a Lenovo S10 netbook, but the keyboard was too small and cramped. The Samsung’s keyboard is a pleasure, and the computer itself is excellent.

  5. Carol Ebbinghouse

    I decided on a netbook (the MSI Wind 279US) because I knew if the computer weighed me down I would never carry it anywhere.

    To date, I have used it at the office, at home and at coffee houses for wifi access to online information services and the office intranet, to get and respond to e-mail, use the accounting system, etc. I also use it to write articles and other documents, as well as for spreadsheets.

    The ideal thing is that it sits on my lap and is the perfect keyboard size and fit. Since I am always managing a bag, a lab retriever “puppy-in-training” for Guide Dogs of America, a lunch bag and documents for work, it is essential that my laptop be as small and light (and fast) as possible. The battery lasts almost six hours so I don’t even have to carry the power cord around.

    I wouldn’t trade my netbook for a laptop of any size, because at 4+ pounds, a laptop would seem as portable as my desktop computer. And this netbook has a bigger hard drive than my desktop (which is only one half full).

    By the way, my netbook cost $305 (a nearly $200 discount) because I took an “open box” return. It came with all of the literature, the case, the cords–everything. I was delighted.

  6. I recently made the switch from laptop to netbook and I couldn’t be more pleased. I find with the smaller size I have the thing with me everywhere I go and it has been a real time saver.

  7. Hey, Corey, how goes? Long time no hear.

    Which netbook did you get?

  8. I wish I googled up “ideal use netbook legal” before I bought my netbook, since I googled up everything netbook already.

    I was looking for a netbook for a lighter laptop for work and because it was so cheaper than laptops, cheap being the main motivator.

    There were plenty to choose from which had standard VGA out port or 160GB hard disk drive etc but I got myself a HP Mini Vivienne Tam because it’s limited edition and so gorgeous which I hate to admit, design vs. specs choice is a decision against better judgment. I assumed that netbook screen size is not going to bother me because I’m a big girl and I’m used to tech. Err… apparently not too much in daily working life.

    I was very happy with the machine but staring at a small screen for an entire day, I realized my vision was a little wonky at the end of the day. Naturally, looking at word documents is all I’m going to do in legal work.

    So now I’m trying to figure to hook up the netbook to an LCD for work and some initial research on LCD monitors show that the price ain’t pretty. Further to make things unprettier is the fact that my HP Mini does not have a standard VGA out port (which I had initially dismissed as not one of my requirements) and needs a “HP Mini vga adaptor cable”; yes, I believe that’s what it’s called and it will cost another pretty penny. And then there’s the screen resolution problem after you hook it up 1028 x 600 (discovered via forums for people who has hooked it up).

    On a positive note, I don’t have to lug my 15″ Sony VAIO whenever I need to be mobile which is a great pain when I do have to be mobile, so the HP Mini is great when it comes to that; which is the reason I bought the netbook. But not yet close to ideal when it comes to legal work. My regret is the money spent on the netbook specifically with the non-standard VGA out port to hook up to a standard LCD.

  9. I need to do a follow up on my comment– I’ve used the HP Mini VT now for a couple of weeks and… I’ve resolved my issues *sheepish*.

    Basically I increased the font on the Windows display as well as my internet browser. So now I’m good and very portable and I do all my legal work, office mail and light web browsing on my HP VT.

    I’ll hook this baby up to an LCD monitor one day maybe, but it would really be an extra I don’t need but would be nice for the office. My next target add-on for the HP VT is a 6 cell battery to last me for a while longer when I’m on the go and a 2GB RAM to speed things up. Although things are speedy enough as it is, no harm to speed up.