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Netbooks Are Back: Should You Pick Windows or a Chromebook?

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By William Peacock, Esq. on December 08, 2014 1:15 PM

Netbooks were a thing once. They became so popular that we even mention them in our post categories (Computers/Laptops/Netbooks). Care to guess when we last wrote about them?

It was probably a couple of years ago, to be honest. There was a rush of popularity for them, then tablets came out and took the low-end market, and then slowly, a little bit at a time, Google's Chromebooks (netbooks with Google's own operating system) chunked out a stakehold. We've advised lawyers to stay away from them, however.


Microsoft, perhaps sensing that there was market share to be gained, introduced a low-cost version of Windows 8.1 (the "With Bing!" edition, which merely sets Bing as the default search engine). Cheap Windows 8.1 means more cheap netbooks, which sets up today's showdown of $250 or less laptops.

Chromebook or Windows 8.1 With Bing Netbook? Which is better for traveling lawyers?

Arguments for Chromebook

I've used the latest and greatest iterations of these machines and they are fast. For those who have never used a Chromebook or Chromebox (the desktop variant), these are machines that run everything through a Google Chrome web browser on a stripped down operating system that offers little else.

Because there is no Windows, these machines are quick. Battery life is spectacular. And viruses and malware are nearly non-existent because hackers tend to target the largest audience possible -- Windows users.

Arguments for Netbook

Windows-based netbooks are a bit slower. They're also a bit less battery efficient. Why? Because it runs Windows, a full-blown operating system. Most, if not all, of your law firm software will work on these pokey, cheap plastic laptops, but Windows itself takes a lot of computing power.

But that right there is the entirety of the argument: Chromebooks run nearly anything that can run in a web browser -- and that's it. Most lawyers use Microsoft Office and other Windows-only programs.

Did we mention that Microsoft is bundling a year of Office 365 (which comes with 1 terabyte of cloud storage via OneDrive) with many of these machines?

Verdict: Netbook

I'm all about battery life, because a dead battery is a dead computer. But let's take a look at HP's Stream 11, a $200 Windows-based netbook: It doesn't get 12 hours of battery life like some Chromebooks or tablets. But it does get 8 hours, according to Engadget.

How often do you need more battery life than that? Isn't having the option of running real programs worth losing a few hours of battery life and waiting a few more seconds for the computer to boot?

For nearly all legal professionals, we'd advise a netbook over a Chromebook.

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