Nov 23 2011 - Netbooks are small laptops for those looking for a basic computer on the go but they lack many of the features that one gets in a full laptop PC. Because of this, there are a wide variety of peripherals that can be useful to an owner. If you have a netbook or know someone that has one, check out my list of useful accessories that help round out such a computer.
Pretty much every netbook that comes with Windows is restricted to just 1GB of memory because of Microsoft's licensing agreements. This limits the overall performance of netbooks in a variety of different tasks. Some netbooks can have their memory upgraded by replacing the existing 1GB memory module with a larger 2GB module. Crucial is a division of Micron Technologies that is one of the larger manufacturers of memory modules. Be sure to check with your user manuals before purchasing a memory upgrade to make sure that the memory can be upgraded and that it can use a 2GB module. Prices range from about $15 to $40. Some older netbooks use DDR2 memory. In these cases you will want to get the Crucial 2GB DDR3 module instead.
The biggest drawback to netbooks is their lack of an optical drive. This makes it hard to load software from CD or DVD, playback audio CDs or even watch a DVD movie. An external DVD drive makes a great addition to just about any netbook. Not only does it allow the system to install software, but it can also allow it to play DVD movies or even burn CDs or DVDs. Most external drives are made fully of plastic. The Rosewill ROD-EX002 is an affordable external drive that comes with an aluminum exterior case. This provides a very durable design that can be carried around with a netbook. Performance is good and the prices are very reasonable around $30.
Netbooks are extremely small and portable but they are susceptible to dings and dents. Since netbooks can be tossed into just about any type of bag, they are very prone to scratches and damage. Some models include a sleeve to protect them, but many do not. If you happen to own a netbook and don't have a sleeve, then you should really consider getting one. The Mobile Edge MESSU1-10 is a neoprene sleeve that fits most netbooks with 10-inch screens. One of the nice features on it though is the external pocket that allows one to also pack the power adapter and accessories that one frequently needs to carry with it. Pricing ranges from $17 to $30.
Almost every netbook on the market includes a slot for a flash memory card. These slots allow a card such as this 16GB SDHC card from A-DATA to be used to expand the storage capacity. This is very critical for netbooks that use solid state memory for storage and have limited storage such as 16GB of space. That provides just enough space for things like the OS and applications but very little room for data or extra applications. It is also important to get a high speed SDHC card that is rated at Class 6 such as the Turbo SDHC series so that the memory reads and writes to the card will be as fast as possible. Even if you have a hard drive based netbook, a SDHC card can be useful for transferring data between devices. Prices are around $25.
An external USB hard drive is useful to all netbooks whether they use a solid state drive or a hard drive. They expand the total amount of storage space or provide a place to back up your data. It can also be used as a means to transfer large amounts of data between a netbook and another primary computer such as a desktop or laptop. Western Digital has been producing some fabulous hard drives and the My Passport Essential series brings that to a portable format. The drive uses a USB 2.0 interface and is entirely powered by the USB connector thus not requiring any form of power adapter. The drives are also available in a wide range of colors if you wish to match it to your netbook. Prices start around $90.
The small size of netbook results in very small trackpads. They can also have awkwardly placed or difficult to use mouse buttons making them hard to use. Many people would rather use a separate mouse. For those wanting such a device, I recommend the Logitech M505. While not as compact as many laptop mice, it has the right balance of size and comfort. It uses a laser based tracking technology that can be used on a wide variety of surfaces. It is wireless and comes with an extremely small RF USB adapter. This does limit the range a bit more compared to a larger dongle that can be placed away from the netbook and its wireless networking antennae. Prices range from $40 to $50. (Those wanting to use Bluetooth can use a similar V470 Nano.)
As with any computer, having a printer so that you can actually print documents from web sites, word processor, spreadsheet and even photos is something that would be useful for a netbook. Epson offers a very reliable and high quality inkjet printer with their WorkForce 30. It may not look like much and doesn't have many fancy features but has some superb output quality on a wide variety of paper types and sizes. It also features a very compact design that won't take up much desk space. Prices are around $70.
Most of the peripheral devices that are used with a netbook require a USB 2.0 port. The average netbook only comes with three USB ports. In addition to this, the USB ports are often placed so close together than some devices such as flash drives can't be plugged in with other devices due to space conflicts. This is where a mobile USB hub will come in handy. A small hub such as the Syba CL-U2MNHUB-4B will be extremely useful for those requiring additional ports while on the go. The device is highly portable and does not require external power. The downside is that the hub will not power all USB devices that require a fully powered USB port. Prices are very low ranging from $7 to $10.
While netbooks are great for mobility, their small screens make them less than stellar for use in a home. The screens give a limited resolution that provides very little space for applications. Often they can be quite difficult to view over extended periods of time. Thankfully the netbooks generally include a VGA monitor connector for use with an external monitor. By hooking up a monitor, netbook users can dramatically increase the overall graphical workspace and give their eyes a much needed rest from straining at viewing such a small screen. The best LCD monitors in terms of their price for their size is the 22-inch class. Prices range from around $130 to $400 depending upon monitor features and brand.