Over the weekend, our friend Kevin C. Tofel of jkOntheRun received a Best Buy flyer, advertising the availability of a subsidized Toshiba NB205 netbook with built-in 3G from either AT&T or Verizon. The NB205 is just the latest in a slew of netbooks that are available at a lower price if you sign up for 2 years of mobile broadband service.
Even though the Toshiba NB205 is one of the best netbooks of all time, you may want to think twice about going the subsidized route. First of all, you're not getting the latest NB205, as this version has the now-outdated Windows XP rather than Windows 7 Starter OS. Second, you're not saving much money off of the standard price of an NB205.
These days, the NB205-N330 with Windows 7 Starter costs $419.99 by itself, and the Windows XP version that Best Buy is selling can be had for a mere $378 at Amazon.com. If you sign up with AT&T you get that same $378 netbook for $299 and with Verizon it's $229. So you're saving between $80 and $150 off the purchase price, but committing $60 a month in mobile broadband fees for a total of $1440 over 24 months. If you feel like you want to use a Toshiba NB205 as your only mobile broadband computer over the next 2+ years, the Verizon version seems like the better deal.
However, given how fast technology changes, we recommend that you buy a removable 3G modem or portable hotspot like the MiFi. That way, you won't be locked into using your 3G service on only one device, a device that is very pleasant right now, but likely to seem dated in 2011.