A netbook is a subnotebook—a kind of laptop that is designed for basic web surfing and accessing other web applications. Unlike full featured desktops, netbooks are meant primarily for online activity, such as emailing, visiting webpages, watching videos online, chatting and accessing other online content. Because of this, a netbook is most useful when it has an Internet connection. But in spite of the wide coverage of public WiFi networks, it can often be difficult to secure a free Internet connection when you are out and about or traveling.
Enter the 4G netbook.
A 4G netbook lets you access the Internet from wherever you are. In contrast to a netbook that uses a WiFi connection to access wireless Internet, a 4G netbook uses the same data networks that are used by cell phones, smartphones and PDAs. This has a few key advantages, as well as some drawbacks that you should consider before buying a 4G netbook.
Connecting to public WiFi networks can be cumbersome and difficult for a number of reasons. Many stores and coffee shops do offer WiFi to their customers, but some charge a monthly, daily or hourly fee for this service. Furthermore, technical incompatibilities may prevent you from connecting to the Internet.
A 4G netbook doesn’t have any of these barriers. You don’t need to be within range of a wireless hotspot to connect to a 4G data netbook. Essentially, wherever you have cell phone reception, you’ll also have access to the Internet. This makes 4G netbooks useful on trains, in parks and in other areas that don’t typically have WiFi access points readily available.
The drawback of a 4G netbook is that, like a smartphone or cell phone, you must pay a monthly subscription to access the 4G network. Most 4G plans give you a set amount of data transfer, or an unlimited plan. If you have a limited data plan, you’ll incur overage charges for using more data than you were allotted, which can be very costly. If you have an unlimited plan, you’ll pay the same amount if you use your 4G netbook very little as you would if you used it heavily. Also, many 4G netbook plans come with contracts that lock you into service for 2 years or more.
Public WiFi access points pose a certain security risk. Hackers and other malicious users can use public WiFi areas to intercept data being transmitted from your computer, or in some cases, they may create a dummy public WiFi access point that does not provide Internet access, but instead harvests information from your computer or plants a worm or virus on your machine.
4G netbooks have greater security in this regard, since you won’t be reaching the Internet through an intermediary. You get a direct connection to the Internet that is more private and more secure.
While cellular data network coverage is often better in many areas when compared to WiFi access points, make sure to check the coverage map for the 4G provider and see if they have strong coverage in your area.