Opinion Hub
Are Netbooks With Contracts Worth It?
November 12, 2009 11:29 PM

Netbook vs. Netbook w/ 3G
Netbooks have become a popular trend in recent years. They are popular amongst college students since they offer a great battery life and are affordable. Even many business customers purchase these as a complement to their regular machine for travel. Although the capabilities of these Netbooks are limited and they don’t offer nearly as much performance or features as a standard computer, it’s still an easy and affordable way for people to get online.

An average brand-name Netbook (e.g. Dell, HP) with a standard 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor and 1GB of RAM costs about $300. Cell Phone carriers including AT&T and Verizon now offer subsidized Netbooks with a 3G Wireless Broadband card built in. So the big question: “Is it worth purchasing a Netbook with a contract?” The simple answer is NO.

For example, let’s take a look at the HP Mini 110. It retails for about $300 excluding tax straight from HP.com. Verizon Wireless offers the same configuration of the Mini 110 for a subsidized price of $150. Half-off seems like a great deal, but it’s not. First there’s a $35 activation fee. Next you’ll have to sign-up for a data plan that costs $60 per month for just 5GB of data. I should note that there’s also a $40/month data plan that offers just 250MB of data. Considering that I feel 5GB itself is too little, 250MB is just ridiculous. Plus there’s also a 2-year contract associated with the device. To get out, you’ll have to pay the $175 early termination fee. So if you add that up here’s what you get:

$150 (HP Mini 110) + $35 (Activation Fee) + $1440 (5GB Plan, $60 x 24 Months) = $1625.

Keep in mind that I didn’t include tax either. That’s nearly the cost of a fairly high-end Dell XPS laptop or MacBook Pro. Although Netbooks are a great tool, it’s not a good idea to spend that much for one and be stuck with it for two years. The technology is evolving and new models that run faster and longer keep coming out. Dual Core Atom processors are probably going to hit Netbooks within the next few months. Your Netbook will be outdated in no time. Unless you need a computer with 3G Broadband at all times, it might be better just to use hotspots when you need access. If you decide to upgrade your netbook every year, you can do so and still end up paying less than half of what a contracted Netbook costs. If you really need broadband on the go, either try to add a tethering plan to your current phone, grab a MiFi that works with multiple devices, or a separate 3G USB Modem.

Links: AT&T Netbooks | Verizon Netbooks

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