Netbooks are willfully big on portability and slim on features. While a bit underpowered in terms of a primary computer, these svelte little devices are excellent for slipping into a backpack or tote and taken on the road for basic web surfing and word processing. To that end, netbooks are barebones by design—you’ll have a eensy touchpad and an itty-bitty keyboard, and, if you’re lucky, some built-in speakers that can just barely be heard of the din of a busy airport. But to get the most out of your netbook, you may want to pack along some extras. Read on for a list of must-have netbook peripherals.
USB or Wireless Mouse
The touchpad is fine in a pinch, say, when you’re browsing through your movie collection in a Greyhound seat. But if you ever find yourself with the luxury of a tabletop, a travel mouse will make your life ten times easier. A wireless mouse cuts down on cord clutter, but a USB travel mouse will do as well. Using an external mouse lets you disable your touchpad, so your fingers can fly across the keyboard without errant clicks.
Netbooks tend to get low marks in terms of keyboards, simply because they have to be crammed into a tiny space. If you ever intend to do some serious word processing on your netbook, consider packing an external keyboard. It’ll give both your fingers and your spellchecker a rest.
External Hard Drive
Netbooks come with smaller hard drives than desktops, and an external hard drive or USB thumb drive goes a long way in picking up the slack. Not only will an external hard drive give you enough room for your pictures, music and videos, it’ll also provide a speedy avenue for swapping files between your main computer and your netbook.
External CD/DVD Drive
You won’t find a true netbook with an optical drive, given how much room a CD or DVD drive takes up. If you simply must read a disc—perhaps to install a program or rip a CD—then an external CD/DVD drive is the only way.
Already, we’ve listed four items that attach to your netbook via USB—yet most netbooks have three USB ports tops. Solution? A USB hub. Like a power strip for your peripherals, a USB hub will let you connect all of your gadgets at once, even if you only have one or two USB ports to spare.
Netbook speakers have all the volume and bass response of a pair of tin cans. If you want to catch the dialog without turning on subtitles or experience the full frequency of your music, headphones are a must. You can go with a standard pair of in-ear headphones, but a noise-cancelling set will be more helpful in filtering out the chatter from a noisy cafГ© or bustling city street.
In spite of how we titled articles, these netbook peripherals aren’t absolutely essential. But if you want to enjoy your netbook to the fullest and save your joints and sanity from the frustrations of a claustrophobic computing experience, adding these six inexpensive add-ons will make a big difference.