NPD: Consumers Are Dissatisfied with Netbooks

Posted by: Olga Kharif on June 22, 2009

A new survey shows that a lot of consumers who buy netbooks may be dissatisfied with their purchases. In late spring, consultant NPD surveyed 600 online consumers to gage their impressions of the popular mini-laptops called netbooks.

The survey yielded some suprizing results: Sixty percent of consumers thought that netbooks would function exactly like regular laptops. As a result, only 58% of consumers who purchased a netbook instead of a laptop were satisfied with their purchase (as a point of reference, about 70% of regular laptop buyers were satisfied with their purchases).

One of the reasons is, consumers aren’t using their netbooks as intended, for light Web browsing and e-mail via Wi-Fi or 3G wireless networks outside the home. Some 60% of the netbooks purchased never leave the house, according to NPD. After making their purchase, many users realize the netbooks’ chips aren’t as fast and capable as those of laptops, and don’t support video as well.

Clearly, PC makers and retailers need to do a better job explaining the differences in capabilities between netbooks and regular laptops to consumers. After having played with an HP Mini netbook for the past couple of months, I can attest to the fact that netbooks are great — if used for what they were intended. I loved using mine to quickly check Hotmail or to watch a video off of YouTube. But try multitasking, such as downloading a photo or a document while streaming a video off of YouTube, and their performance falls off the cliff. Consumers need to be made aware of this before they make their purchases.

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Reader Comments

Khengsiong

June 23, 2009 12:52 AM

Perhaps there is a market for more powerful netbooks. Such netbooks should feature 10-inch monitors, but use 'regular' Core processors instead of Atom, and have 2MB memory instead of 1MB.

steve

June 23, 2009 01:37 AM

I recently purchased an HP mini from costco (custom configured). The win xp was great. I loved everything about it except for one thing. Not only was the screen too small but it was too short and too wide. Why am I getting a 16:9 format screen if this thing has no dvd and is not intended for movie watching? I put away my reading glasses and went back to my 5 yr old HP notebook (XP) with a 15" "square" screen and am much happier. Costco/China took back the HP "mini". If your are over 45 look out for this "mini" screen. The weight was mini as was the price. Alas, I was sad that i could not become part of the mini-me generation. I am still looking for a sub $600, sub 3 lb low wattage "portable" but with a "big" screen. Come'on china make something for me so I can "stimulate" our economy [rather trade deficit].

gerrrg

June 23, 2009 03:10 AM

Having a single-core CPU running at 1.6 Ghz or lower makes for one lousy experience at running multiple apps. It's like stepping back 6 years to what computer speeds were like in 2003, to get an idea of how weak these netbooks are.

tom h.

June 23, 2009 05:42 AM

Intel, Microsoft and the PC makers want to kill off these unprofitable netbooks anyway, so this news is probably greeted with a sense of relief.

The Real Deal

June 23, 2009 06:42 AM

STUPID CONSUMERS.. now you realize

EnglishTeacher

June 23, 2009 08:06 AM


to gage their impressions = gauge

suprizing results = surprising

shows that a lot of consumers (delete 'that')

thought that netbooks would function (delete 'that')

Grammar = terrible!

Shame on you, BusinessWeek. In future, please try to write in English.

DanTe

June 23, 2009 08:17 AM

Light weight. Small footprint. Great for carrying around to classes or trouble shooting remote sites. Who needs DVD/CD players with USB drives at 16 gigs for $30? As for the folks whining about it's "unsuitability" - some folks are just too stupid to realize what an 8.9" screen footprint means even though it's staring them right in the face.

Scott

June 23, 2009 08:21 AM

I don't think I would buy a netbook unless the only thing I was going to do on it was check my email or browse the web. But if I wanted to do that, I could just use my cellphone.

Scott from Nova Scotia

Arthur

June 23, 2009 08:58 AM

@The Real Deal:

Yes I do realize. Back in August of 08, when I purchased my AAO (Acer Aspire One) I was ecstatic. Seriously it was great. After a few weeks of use as a stand alone computer, I just couldn't take it anymore. It is now sitting on my desk on a 24/7 basis. And I will purchase a Apple Macbook Pro to get that weight/power mix.

mjw149

June 23, 2009 09:04 AM

I don't think the satisfaction scores are that far off, considering the price differential. I doubt they controlled for the fact that the 70% satisfaction with 'regular' laptops is probably more due to spending another $300 on average for better quality.

And I wonder how many of these wind up in the hand of children? esp those original 8" ones, I can't see many adults sticking with those for much more than traveling.

mr dave

June 23, 2009 09:27 AM

Netbooks are trinkets and no more. I have been saying this ever since they came out a major problem is the Media doesn't mention that the performance is subpar, screens and keys are small and basically not useful for the average person. Granted the purchaser should have figured out that if you pay $299.00 you get $299.00 worth not $800.00 to $1000.00 worth. Manufacturers need to express this too. HP and Dell should clearly label them as light usage vehicles not performance laptops!

CK

June 23, 2009 09:34 AM

I bought an Escort and got it out on the highway and realized it's not as fast or as cool as a Mustang...Now I'm dissatisfied!!!

m. edgar

June 23, 2009 10:03 AM

I love my Asus EEE PC.

I bought it for quick e mail and home use. My palm treo 750wx was too slow for nightly web surfing.

The battery life is ok. I am not thrilled with the shorter screen size. But it works for me. The best part is that it weighs less than a bottle of Corona!

Also for $50 or so you can buy an external DVD that runs off of the usb port. (read no add'l brick).

I use the external drive about once every two months.

There is a niche for this computer. Prefect for schools.

LL

June 23, 2009 10:05 AM

I had a 7" EeePC. Classic early adopter.
It was great for travel, but with a screen that small, it was like looking at the world through binoculars. Also, you can only tolerate women saying,"It's so SMALL!" a certain number of times.
I sold it and got an iPod touch, which has much of the functionality, and left my 'proper' computing to my main laptop.

Forone

June 23, 2009 10:15 AM

The writer mistook the statistics in the survey: the linked report clearly says it was 58% dissatisfaction among notebook shoppers who bought a netbook instead, and 70% satisfaction among customers who were shopping for a netbook in the first place. I'd also be interested in a breakdown by OS - my sense is most XP buyers are surprised and delighted with how much they get for $350, while the learning curve frustrates newbie Linux buyers.

AK

June 23, 2009 10:26 AM

When Apple come with their tablet, at least it won't be confused with a Macbook. Now will it be a hit? That's another story...

Chris

June 23, 2009 10:50 AM

Maybe consumers should start being responsible for their purchases. Netbooks are much cheaper than regular laptops. Why, one should ask. Nobody invents the wheel again for half the price. If tomorrow somebody sold a "netcar" for USD 3'000.- wouldn't you ask where this difference might come from?

Judy S.

June 23, 2009 11:00 AM

I bought an HP mini with the sole idea of using it for taking notes in school - at over 50 and going back to college I need to carry less, not more. The mini I purchased has a 10" screen; I still need the readers but I do for just about everything I do. I also replaced the 1GB stick with a 2GB RAM stick, replaced the OS with Windows 7 RC. It runs just fine for what I bought it for: to replace a binder full of paper with a more efficient way to take notes in class. In fact my husband liked mine so much he got one he could take to the library to blog with!

Rom

June 23, 2009 11:08 AM

"One of the reasons is, consumers aren’t using their netbooks as intended".
It is a bit rich to reproach consumers, after the industry has made seriously exaggerated claims (and continues to do so for many products).

jiten

June 23, 2009 11:26 AM

BikerY

June 23, 2009 11:49 AM

I have 18 netbooks here at the office. They are used out in the field gathering data. They run Linux and work great. I have another 12 netbooks running XP and open office. They are used for Travel and meetings. Not a problem. I own on my own 2 netbooks, I use them all the time. All of these are Asus EEEPc's and they meet every task I have put them through. I do not expect them to be laptops or desktops. That is not what they were bought for. If this article would be in a car mag it would be about the Mazda Miata not being able to do the work of a Ford F150 pickup truck.

Eric

June 23, 2009 11:50 AM

I used one for a while and found that the display is quite troublesome. I felt 'blinded' after over 30 minutes of use and the screen had an overly 'bright' blue-ish tinged shimmerring quality to it, which I suspect is due to the LED backlighting. What I prefer is the comfortable flourescent backlighting of my old (2002) Sony Vaio - which also has a matte screen. I would buy a smaller regular laptop (12 inch preferred) but all of them sold nowadays have dumb glossy screens. I will not buy glossy - I mean, really? What are they thinking? Who wants to see reflections of lamps, people, sunlight, my own face, etc on the screen?? And they give all these dumb options like green, pink, cases, but not the option of a good matte no-glare display. What I would love to see for a netbook sized display is one like on the Kindle. Incredibly easy to read, no glare, no annoying backlighting. I can do without color for reading the news web pages and e-mails. That would be an innovation.

cy cabell

June 23, 2009 11:56 AM

The perfect netbook: a small, lightweight, portable device that allows the user to browse the web, send email, chat, view business documents and tweet. One that also has phone capabilities, a host of rich applications, fast performance, touchscreen capability and extended battery life. A video/still camera and MP3 player would also be nice...oh wait, that's the iPhone 3G S?!

cy cabell

June 23, 2009 11:57 AM

The perfect netbook: a small, lightweight, portable device that allows the user to browse the web, send email, chat, view business documents and tweet. One that also has phone capabilities, a host of rich applications, fast performance, touchscreen capability and extended battery life. A video/still camera and MP3 player would also be nice...oh wait, that's the iPhone 3G S?!

will

June 23, 2009 12:10 PM

I recently purchased a netbook, and I have no complaints.

it's not designed to perform same tasks as a notebook, and mfr.'s are clear in stating this.

Arthomis

June 23, 2009 12:31 PM

If people would read product specs before they bought it they would have avoided this problem.

m

June 23, 2009 01:27 PM


I agree with the real deal.

People are just stupid.

I have a netbook and love it, but I was smart enough to know it had limits BEFORE I bought it.

STUPID CONSUMERS.

My netbook rocks. Its 3lbs and tons of fun.

MikeM

June 23, 2009 01:43 PM

Expecting a netbook to function as a regular laptop is DUMB. I have yet to see a netbook advertised as anything but a lightweight, small email & browsing platform. Every review out there explains they are underpowered.
So I guess this article really means to say that 58% of buyers of the biggest selling PC segment are not very smart.
And, yes, I am biased. My netbook works brilliantly AS ADVERTISED.

Ron Smith

June 23, 2009 02:10 PM

Not trying to start a religious war but, linux is generally more efficient in this kind of an environment. Any word on how the linux-based netbooks compare to the windows version performance-wise.

Ed W.

June 23, 2009 02:42 PM

I suspect those netbook owners who are dissatisfied likely own Linux based netbooks. I own two netbooks, one Linux and one XP, and I like them both. However, I recall a few years ago Walmart was selling a real cheap desktop computer which was Linux based. It flopped, they said, because their customers were dissatisfied with Linux versus XP. My XP netbook is an ASUS Eee PC with 10 inch screen, 1GB memory, and 160BG HDD. It has more than enough performance. The trick to performance is to get a netbook with at least 1GB of memory.

Jonathan Rothman

June 23, 2009 03:05 PM

A COMPUTER IS A TOOL AND JUST LIKE ANY TOOL, ONE THAT DOES EVERYTHING DOESN'T EXIST. A LAPTOP HAS ITS PLACE AND SO DOES A PC. LIKEWISE, A NETBOOK HAS ITS PLACE AND ONE SHOULD NOT EXPECT IT TO PERFORM ALL "JOBS"/TASKS!
A FEW MONTHS AGO, I PURCHASED AN ASSUS EEE 1000HE AND ADDED A 2MG RAM CARD. IT'S VERY FAST AND I LIKE THE XP SYSTEM -- IT'S FAR MORE RELIABLE THAN VISTA!
I DID NOT PURCHASE THE NETBOOK TO REPLACE MY PC OR LAPTOP, BUT TO HAVE CONVENIENT, LIGHTWEIGHT ACCESS TO THE INTERNET WHEN AWAY FROM HOME: CONVENIENCE, CONNECTIVITY, IN A SM PKG!

Ed Dunn

June 23, 2009 03:06 PM

My netbooks replaces my PDA, not my laptop. It appears to me that netbooks were sold or perceived as cheaper laptops. I also want to know if this is a USA-based survey as netbooks may have good value in certain emerging markets.

Amu

June 23, 2009 03:29 PM

I guess with smart phones improving so much and many companies looking to build biz apps on iphone, netbooks will soon be a thing of the past.

Thin & Light

June 23, 2009 04:22 PM

My 2 year old Lenovo X60s has a 1.6GHz chip and 2GB or RAM. It runs great and does everything I need. I don't know the performance difference between mine and the 1.6GHz in the netbooks but I have a hard time understanding what high performance tasks the average consumer is doing.

Also, if the netbook isn't right for you check out a refurbished MacBook Air. I just bought one for my Mom and it was only $999, totally worth the extra $400.

ano

June 23, 2009 04:30 PM

This is crap. I bet this is just propoganda put out by the PC and Software industry to kill these things. I know plenty of people who have purchased netbooks, and enjoy them!

Richard

June 23, 2009 04:38 PM

Har Har.. as the old saying goes.. "you get what you pay for."

beedi

June 23, 2009 05:17 PM

@ Olga: if one wants to quickly check hotmail/email or youtube while on the go, smartphones are lighter, more portable and extremely tech-reliant. the netbook's extremely bulky by comparison.

@Steve: the new acer timeline comps are available at walmart for $598, they have 8+ hrs battery life, 15.6" widescreens and are superslim and superlight. just bought one and it's the wisest investment i've made (my battery life stands at 7.5 hrs max tho - still, wild!!). they also come with wimax and dvd players/recorders.

beedi

June 23, 2009 05:19 PM

oh, and steve... it's made in china too.

gp

June 23, 2009 05:21 PM

It's still too early for the average consumer to use a netbook effectively. Cloud computing isn't here yet, Ogg Theora video (HTML 5) isn't here yet, the internet just isn't ready for netbook efficacy. Soon, though; soon enough we'll all be carrying those itty bitty linux-modules everywhere we go.

lancest

June 23, 2009 06:34 PM

The problem is that XP loaded down with anti-virus,junkware, and it's awful performance degradation- makes the netbook experience unsuitable. By the way Linux runs much more perky on these by superior design. A netbook is suitable as second or third computer for me. Light pc users might have it as their only.

tony i

June 23, 2009 07:38 PM

net books are great for what they are intended to do
the form factor is convenient for travel

they function well if you just want to pop up a spreadsheet, or read email or browse the internet.

I have a eeepc 1008 / with a 1.66 atom chip and the computer works just as advertised and so my experience with netbooks, doing what they were intended to do, -- is that they are great!

sad to say its likely that many of those that are dissatisfied with the netbook are folks that were looking for a more robust computer platform to perform a wide range of resource intensive tasks, perhaps all at the same time, but wanted it on the cheap -- and either didn't or couldn't parse the difference between the configurations.

(the only thing is wish is that apple had a similar platform)
and to that point, if i really want to bring a laptop and do serious work i use my macbook pro.

need to drive a nail -- buy a hammer, don't complain that it doesn't turn screws.

want to read email and or browse the web, talk on skype or have a video chat with the folks at home while you are in some place working and don't want to lug 8 pounds of stuff with you-- buy a netbook.

eeefunboy

June 23, 2009 07:53 PM

I love mine. It runs Linux, but not the rather crappy distro Asus put on it. I put ubuntu on it, and it runs rings around my Mac Mini (a ppc model, the original $500 one actually), and I've been happy with the Mac Mini too. I'm not editing videos on it, but I have no problems multitasking; I routinely have 3 or 4 apps open with full desktop effects, and nary a sign of slowdown. I think the netbook is the perfect platform for Linux to shine compared to Windows. Because frankly, if people are having trouble watching a video and downloading something at the same time, it's Windows' fault, not the hardware! I have no trouble with that kind of workload on mine. I never wanted a laptop -- people lugging laptops around always reminded me of Pilgrim's Progress, it just looked like a miserable responsibility to bear. The netbook, however, is exactly what laptops always should have been -- small, light, efficient.

Tom

June 23, 2009 11:47 PM

I've used a Netbook for about a month now, and here's my feedback. The screen is too small (7") to be a true laptop replacement and, since it won't be replacing anything, it's really more of a niche geek toy. It's the kind of machine that lame-o geeks whip out at Starbucks and use to browse the Web. But I would hate to have to use one of these machines all day. Seriously, I would cut my wrists...

YOzefff

June 24, 2009 05:13 AM

yeah .. don't use your netbook as your primaire laptop ..

I have adell 9 Mini ... fitted with Mac OSX ;-) .. The screenresolution is small, so are the keys (like most netbooks). But hooking up a 17inch monitor and a apple usb keyboard solved everything. Just don't do any graphic/music stuff and you'll be fine. I even have the Iphone SDK running and it works just fine. In overall it's faster than XP

GRR

June 24, 2009 07:04 PM

I ahve purchased 4 netbooks from Woot for about $150 each and my wife and children love them.

Renard

June 26, 2009 04:36 PM

An iPhone with an 8" 800x600 screen would be a useful intermediate between a real computer and a PDA. 320x240 is just not enough for email and web use.

I don't see the point of Netbooks, but that's me. If you really just do web browsing, and have great vision and dexterity, then sure.

Lugging a laptop is a burden, but having a powerful computer I can use in social situations rather than stuck at home is more than worth it. I have no more use for desktops (except at work).

Olivier

June 27, 2009 01:01 PM

You gotta test your netbook with Windows 7. It runs pretty smoothly, even with several applications running at once. Did that on an Eee 1000HE. Very pleasant experience for road runners.

ankit

July 14, 2009 02:56 PM

I believe that netbooks will be of thing tomorrow..the simple reason is that future seems to be could computing..whether document like google docs or you tube...

and for the speed...remember your first Pentiums..how fast they were......steps are to be there for technology availability and demand will rise as the user experiences increase...its like crossing the chasm...

and its the consumer that should be aware of what they want...from their netbooks...nobody claims they are efficient as laptops...

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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