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If you've been without a computer for 32 months do you really need a laptop vs. a netbook? Heck, these days you can do most anything you'd need the computing power of a laptop for on the cloud anyway. About the only thing you're giving up is a disc drive, and now even some laptops are foregoing that. Size is a concern with netbooks (they tend to be smaller) but it seems to me that the two types will continue to merge into one category.

I'd ask the inverse question: why do you think you need a portable computer (laptop or netbook) rather than a standard desktop?

One thing with the portables is that each manufacturer tends to scale up EVERYTHING. Do you want a larger screen? It comes with a faster processor, more memory, an upgraded DVD/CD unit, better video hardware, and a higher-capacity hard drive - whether you want them or not. And of course, you pay more for them. Don't want to pay for them? Then you can't have the larger screen.

If you go to a local shop and have them build a custom desktop system for you, you can get what you want. Need a big screen but not a fast processor or high-speed graphics? No problem. And it'll be cheaper than a slight-overkill laptop. Heck, if smallness is a priority for you, they can probably do that too (although not to laptop level) with small-form-factor components. Maybe even have a handle on top, so you can pick it up and walk off with it...
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