Most netbooks are perfect for watching movies, but not with what’s normally included with them. In order to watch a DVD, the netbook must either come with a DVD player (which really doesn’t make it a netbook anymore), you have to connect an external DVD player or you have to convert a DVD to a format that can be put on a USB stick (thumb drive) and then played on the netbook.
One of the reasons I won’t buy an HP netbook (or mini laptop, as they call them) is because the resolution isn’t 1024×600 which, coincidentally, is the perfect size for viewing movies in the 16:9 aspect ratio standard.
As far as the research I’ve conducted so far, only the HP netbooks are missing the 24 pixels from the vertical resolution. There may be others, but I haven’t found any yet. Some netbooks may have a higher resolution and it’s important to check to see if that particular resolution conforms to the 16:9 standard or that the 16:9 ratio is viewable without any squishing of either vertical or horizontal resolutions.
If you have a high-resolution monitor on your standard PC or notebook computer, you can test the resolution of a particular netbook you’ve got your eye on by installing the web developer extension for Firefox and using the “Resize” tool. View any movie that uses the 16:9 aspect ratio, resize the Firefox window to the resolution in question and then adjust the movie player window to match. If you don’t have to squish anything, it’s good to go.
[Note: When I say squishing, I don't mean the aspect ratio changes. I'm really talking about fitting the entire movie on the screen without black bars at the top/bottom or on the sides. I'm sorry if it sounds like I was talking about the aspect ratio actually changing. With most videos, that missing 24 pixels won't even be noticeable, so take what I say with a grain of salt.]
If the netbook doesn’t have an optical drive and you don’t have an external DVD drive to plug into it, you can still watch movies on a decent-sized USB thumb drive. The catch is that you have to decrypt most DVDs to a hard drive in order to use the files they contain.
There’s a wealth of information available online on how to use the “.vob” files directly or convert a DVD to the DivX/XviD format as well as other formats so that you can play them with specific media players. I plan to publish how *I* do it in the near future (and just for hard drive storage) and I’ll point you to that location if it’s on another site. You can even find free movies online if you know where to look.
I know a few people (including my wife’s cousin) who bought portable DVD players at ridiculously high prices. Using a netbook with an external DVD drive or movies on a thumb drive is so much more inexpensive by comparison.