Computer lite: Netbooks are a viable alternative to laptops

Not everyone needs a fully functional laptop computer priced at $1,000 or $2,000 or more. Some consumers would like a cheaper alternative, and will accept limited functionality in exchange. In steps the "netbook," an inexpensive and small laptop that offers limited computing.

The netbook is smaller than a conventional laptop computer, but bigger than a smartphone, so it won't fit in your pocket. It's ultra-portable, but the user sacrifices processor speed and the comfort of a normal sized keyboard. On the flip side, the small size is welcome when traveling because the unit is easy to carry and fits well on an airplane tray table.

Small screens and keyboards may be only a small inconvenience when you consider the price of a netbook - - only about $300 to $500. The devices don't offer much in the way of storage space, but that's because their main goal was to offer internet access on the go. Check out this review of a few of the more popular netbook models if you're considering buying one. They seem like a good value if you're not bothered by the lack of features.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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