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 Your Netbook will be outdated in no time.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
Nice little article- I always wondered about the cost effectiveness of these two options but never really looked into it!
Nice article! But, it occurred to me that this may be the wrong to look at this.
If one were interested in MOBILE Broadband, these charges are going to be there whether you buy this netbook or not. Instead of just getting the little USB thing, you get a whole working computer. I have seen the Acer Netbooks given away for free just like the USB thing!
Just my two cents!!!
Agreed, Sprint offers a Netbook through Best Buy for free. However it’s still a $60/month fee for just 5GB. Point being, mobile broadband prices are just crazy! The better alternative would be to use WiFi when you need it at let’s say Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, McDonalds, Panera Bread or any of those thousands of locations. A Netbook’s 3G connection is limited to just that single unit. And if you do need really need 3G Broadband, tethering plans for the iPhone and Droid both are just $30 extra for the same 5GB. What do you think?
I also agree… I could argue all day with the prices of mobile broadband. I have one of the Acer Netbooks with 3G. The price vs. bandwidth is just not fair.
I just disagree with thinking that the Netbook is part of the problem. I liked the fact that I got a whole computer for the same price.
To address the iPhone or Droid point. I have an iPhone 3G S, and cannot tether it to anything. I just don’t want to keep Jailbreaking this thing over an over again.
I actually don’t use the 3G service that much, I try to find free WIFI as much as possible. The overage costs just to much. The Sprint Broadband is much better in that respect.
I have looked on places like Craigslist and eBay to just buy outright one of the USB devices to move my data SIM card around to different Notebooks that I have.