Top Netbooks: the Eight Best Netbooks Compared

Tuesday Apr 21st 2009 by James Maguire
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The top netbooks all offer a similar feature set. So which small portable is the very best?

ALSO SEE: Top Netbooks Compared: the Eight Best Netbooks (May 2010)

Among the top netbooks, which one is the very best? Leave your comment below.

Picking the top netbook is a matter of choosing among small differences. After all, most of the bestselling netbooks offer remarkably similar features: the Intel Atom chip, a screen about 10 inches wide, and a low price that makes PC makers sob uncontrollably.

The factors that comprise the top netbook – for you – are less-than-huge differences in keyboard size (chiclet or almost full size), price (around $350), and a category loosely described as “special netbook options.” These include options like a slot for a TV tuner if you simply must watch Simon Cowell while you’re on the train.

But these simple options might not be so simple for long. The netbook market is changing – by the moment.

Why? Because netbooks are prompting a revolution that just might topple giants. The dominant Intel chip will soon be threatened by cheaper chips, like the cellphone ARM chip or Qualcom’s Snapdragon. The dominant Windows XP (which now runs about 80 percent of netbooks) will be challenged by Linux and Google's Andriod OS.

(Yes, the netbook might be the platform that finally delivers Linux to the masses. Or not, if reports of Windows' growing netbook market share are accurate.)

Consumers, meanwhile, face a blizzard of new netbooks. While early netbooks were designed for Third World children, these cheap portables quickly attracted more affluent users. When Asustek debuted the groundbreaking Eee PC in the fall of 2007, students and professionals alike responded like the second coming of Elvis.

The funky 7-inch machine flew off the shelves – more than 350,00 sold in mere months. Other PC makers saw the party and soon introduced a profusion of netbooks. By the end of 2008 users bought somewhere between ten to fourteen million netbooks, depending on who’s counting.

Zooming netbook sales taught the Dells and Toshibas of the world a sobering truth: consumer aren’t hungering for the old school, souped-up laptop. Instead they want a zippy hyper-mobile unit that delivers for cheap.

Or, actually, what they really want – and here’s where PC makers begin to cry – they want a great portable and they want it super cheap.

That, in a nutshell (or should it be ‘netshell’?) is the back story to the Netbook Revolution. It’s estimated that by 2010 netbooks will comprise a whopping 12 percent of the laptop market – from zero just a few years back.

The next step? Virtually free netbooks. AT&T, an unlikely radical, has already breached the barricades: a netbook for a measly $50 if you sign up for Net service. (Alas, it’s so far available only in Philadelphia and Atlanta.)

But no, you can’t wait for the offer to come to your town. You need one now. Based on the excitement, netbooks make you happier, healthier, even sexier; they’re as essential as fruit and vegetables – and far more fun; and soon, four out of five dentists will be recommending them.

So here’s a comparison of the top units. The question: which netbook is best for you?

ASUS 1000HE // Acer Aspire One // Samsung NC10 // Dell Inspiron Mini 9/Mini 10

HP 2140 Mini // Lenovo IdeaPad S10/S10e // MSI Wind // Sony Lifestyle PC

1) ASUS Eee PC 1000HE Netbook

Base price: $389

Check prices:

Google: ASUS Eee PC 1000HE

Amazon: ASUS Eee PC 1000HE

Product page: ASUS Eee PC 1000HE

For many netbook fans, the ASUS Eee PC 1000HE netbook is the top netbook: it’s the bestselling netbook on the market.

It’s odd that Asustek, having kicked off the netbook trend in 2007, still holds its grip on the top spot. You’d think that a bigger vendor – one that’s a household name in the U.S., unlike Asustek – would have pulled out all the stops to offer a better selling unit.

But no. In the same way that Honda and Toyota own the car market, and Nike says “athletic shoes,” ASUS sits supreme in netbooks, as this very hot 1000HE attests.

Major plus: this version of the Eee PC has an improved keyboard, 92 percent of full size, with keys more comfortably spaced. And the all-important right-shift key is moved to an ergonomic position. Plus, a series of function buttons above the keyboard helps you make changes quickly. Unlike some small units, the 1000HE has a decently sized touchpad.

This unit’s 10.1-inch screen is among the widest in the netbook world.

Another major plus: the ASUS 1000HE is known for its long battery life. The six-cell unit runs for more than six hours. Given that netbook life is all about on-the-go, this is a key factor.

The 1000HE comes with the Intel Atom N280 processor, which is marginally faster – though perhaps hardly noticeable – than the N270 chip in most netbooks.

If getting the smallest of the small units is your fondest netbook desire, the 1000HE isn’t your top choice. The Asus Eee PC has traditional been a bit tubbier. The HP Mini 1000 is lighter, and the high-priced Sony Lifestyle PC is the smallest of them all.

Another popular ASUS Eee PC choice is the 900HA, which has a 8.9-inch screen and shaves about $90 off the price.

Or, you might consider the hottest member of the Asus line. If you’re willing to pay for it, look the ASUS N10J-A1. It has high-end (for a netbook) descrete graphics, allowing you to be a gamer anywhere you have your netbook. Plus it’s got an Expresscard slot to hook in cool peripherals. Its current base price is in the hefty $675 range.

Netbook reviews: ASUS Eee PC 1000HE

The Asus 1000HE narrowly won Laptop magazine’s Netbook madness readers poll, besting ultra-hot competitor Samsung NC10. Mainly because “it’s cheaper and last more than a whooping hour longer on [battery] charge,” wrote Laptop.

CNET’s netbook review pronounces the ASUS 1000HE “very good,” noting that it’s “an overdue overhaul that offers a new CPU and great battery life.”

Specs: Intel Atom N280; 160 GB hard drive; comes with 10 GB of file-encrypted Eee Online Storage; 1 GM RAM: 1024 x 600 resolution; keyboard is 92% the size of full-size notebooks; six cell battery; Wi-Fi 802.11n (2.4GHz only); Eee Connect for an easy way to connect two or more users through a remote desktop feature for easy troubleshooting; 3 x USB 2.0 ports, 1 x VGA port, 2 x Audio input/output ports, 1 x RJ-45 port; built-in 1.3 megapixel webcam and Digital Array microphones.

Top netbooks: the best netbooks, Asus EEE PC 1000HE

Top netbooks, the best netbooks compared, Asus EEE PC 1000HE

The ASUS Eee PC 1000HE (photos courtesy of Asustek)

ASUS 1000HE // Acer Aspire One // Samsung NC10 // Dell Inspiron Mini 9/Mini 10

HP 2140 Mini // Lenovo IdeaPad S10/S10e // MSI Wind // Sony Lifestyle PC

Check out the list of top netbooks:

ASUS 1000HE // Acer Aspire One // Samsung NC10 // Dell Inspiron Mini 9/Mini 10

HP 2140 Mini // Lenovo IdeaPad S10/S10e // MSI Wind // Sony Lifestyle PC

2) Acer Aspire One Netbook

Base price: $349

Check latest price:

Google: Acer Aspire

Amazon: Acer Aspire

Product page: Acer Aspire One 10.1-Inch Netbook

It’s a deadly duel: the Acer Aspire One constantly vies with the ASUS 1000HE for “best selling netbook” honors. To be sure, the Acer Aspire is sweet choice. Price matters, and Acer has worked to keep the cost down: considering the price tag, the Aspire compares nicely with any netbook.

This second generation Acer netbook, the AOD150, touts a spacious and bright 10.1 inch screen. That’s a big improvement over the original 8.9-inch screen.

Weighing in at about three pounds, the Acer still suffers some downsides associated with netbooks. The mouse buttons and touch pad could be bigger. The keyboard is 89 percent full-size, which gives you virtually all the comfort of netbooks with 92 percent full size. Whether that matters is a question of how big your hands are. (The nice units for keyboard size are the HP Mini and the Samsung NC10.)

Downside to the Acer: unlike pricier netbooks, it doesn’t have an ExpressCard slot. And if a deluxe option like Bluetooth is high on your list, the Acer isn’t your netbook.

On the other hand, it’s hot looking: it’s a tad thinner than the ASUS and it’s got a shiny svelte cover. Plus, the six-cell battery provides in excess of six hours of mobile computing, which is toward the high end.

And again, in the netbook market, price is King, and this is one of the economically-priced units leading the big shift to sub-portables. Bottom line: you can’t go wrong with the Acer.

Here’s an interesting YouTube comparison between the Acer Aspire One vs. the Samsung NC10. It’s a nice side-by-side of the respective screen quality (the ACER is really bright) and the reviewer claims that the ACER runs hotter, with the Samsung offering better ventilation. The reviewer leans toward Linux on the netbook.

Newslash: Acer just released an Aspire One 11.6-Inch. Is a unit this big actually a “netbook”? No, probably not, but this unit boasts Bluetooth, a multicard reader and Dolby Pro Logic Sound. Fancy, huh?

Netbook reviews: Acer Aspire One

Laptop magazine calls the Acer Aspire One “affordable, stylish and compact” and notes that it ran Windows XP about 9 percent better than the average netbook. It also booted in 50 seconds, or about 5 seconds faster than average.

CNET praises the Acer Aspire One for including “plenty of slightly more expensive options that add polish” – and gives the unit kudos for keeping the price near the low end.

Specs:

1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 Processor, 6-cell battery; 1GB RAM; 160GB Hard Drive; 3 USB 2.0 ports; 54g Wi-Fi networking (802.11b/g); Acer Crystal Eye webcam; 10.1 inch screen, with 1024 x 600 resolution; multi-format memory card reader; Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950; Multi-in-one card reader; 1 headphone jack and 1 microphone jack.

Top netbooks: the best netbooks compared, Acer Aspire One

Top netbooks: the best netbooks compared, Acer Aspire One

The Acer Aspire One (photos courtesy of Acer)

Check out the list of top netbooks:

ASUS 1000HE // Acer Aspire One // Samsung NC10 // Dell Inspiron Mini 9/Mini 10

HP 2140 Mini // Lenovo IdeaPad S10/S10e // MSI Wind // Sony Lifestyle PC

Check out the list of top netbooks:

ASUS 1000HE // Acer Aspire One // Samsung NC10 // Dell Inspiron Mini 9/Mini 10

HP 2140 Mini // Lenovo IdeaPad S10/S10e // MSI Wind // Sony Lifestyle PC

3) Samsung NC10 Netbook

Base price: $419

Check latest price:

Google: Samsung NC10

Amazon: Samsung NC10

Product page: Samsung NC10 Netbook

The Samsung NC10 has plenty of faithful fans that think of it as “the best netbook.” At a tad over $400, it’s a nice combination of a slightly higher price and a top-notch feature set.

This netbook’s 10.2-inch screen is a veritable widescreen in the cramped netbook market. It’s a non-glossy screen that’s easy on the eyes, for those who feel the high gloss screens are too reflective for extended use. (But naturally this means that some users will find the screen’s visual to be slightly muted.)

The comparatively large keyboard – 93 percent full size – is a big winner. Of course this means the trackpad is a tad smaller, but you can’t have everything. It’s a netbook, remember?

The six-cell battery runs longer than six hours, and even gives the long running ASUS battery a run for the money.

Odd but nice feature: Samsung has covered this keyboard with an antibacterial layer, a microscopic coating of ionic silver particles that theoretically stops germs from breeding. That’s kind of freaky, but if it prevents colds, it’s a great idea.

You might consider the new Samsung NC20. It’s got a 12.1-inch screen and should sell for about $550. It offers a 1280 x 800 native resolution, which certainly aids Web surfing. This kind of small/medium-sized unit, which blurs the distinction between netbook and notebook, is the sweet spot for users who want a compact portable but don’t want to go all way down to the cramped Netbook World. Here are more details about the Samsung NC20.

Netbook reviews: Samsung NC10 Netbook

Here’s a benchmark test of the Samsung NC10 conducted by The Register. It shows that the unit runs just a wee bit faster than many netbook units. More impressive, the benchmark for the NC10’s battery life shows that it has the longest-lasting battery of any netbook tested.

By the way, The Register praises the Samsung NC10 for its “impressively large keys” – and let’s face it, a good-sized keyboard comes in handy unless you’re a dwarf or a middle school student.

For a video close-up, here’s Laptop’s YouTube review of the Samsung NC10. You’ll see the cool “mirrored look” on the side that gives the unit a futuristic look.

By the way, you might consider customizing your netbook. An insider’s trick for the Samsung NC10 (or many other netbooks): Go to a PC vendor and buy a 2GB RAM stick (at Newegg, for instance) and a faster 7200 rpm 320 disc drive. Yes, you’ve got to know what you’re doing to modify it, but with the right skills you can build a heroic Road Warrior machine capable of surviving the Red Eye to Las Vegas.

Specs:

10.2 inch Wide screen, 1024 x 600 resolution with an anti-reflection gloss coating display; 160GB capacity hard disk drive; Intel Atom processor N270; 6-Cell battery; 1 GB RAM; 802.11 b/g WiFi, 3 USB ports; 1.3 mega pixel webcam.

Top netbooks: the best netbooks compared, Samsung NC10

Top netbooks: the best netbooks compared, Samsung NC10

The Samsung NC10 netbook (photos courtesy of Samsung)

Check out the list of top netbooks:

ASUS 1000HE // Acer Aspire One // Samsung NC10 // Dell Inspiron Mini 9/Mini 10

HP 2140 Mini // Lenovo IdeaPad S10/S10e // MSI Wind // Sony Lifestyle PC

Check out the list of top netbooks:

ASUS 1000HE // Acer Aspire One // Samsung NC10 // Dell Inspiron Mini 9/Mini 10

HP 2140 Mini // Lenovo IdeaPad S10/S10e // MSI Wind // Sony Lifestyle PC

4) Dell Inspiron Mini 9 (Mini 10) Netbook

Base price: $349

Check latest price:

Google: Dell Mini 9 Inspiron

Amazon: Dell Mini 9 Inspiron

Product page: Inspiron Mini 9 Netbook

Here’s an odd fact about the Netbook market: Dell doesn’t own it. But why not? After all, Dell is a colossus in the laptop market; why are players like ASUS and Acer topping the mighty Dell in the rapidly growing netbook sector?

The answer, perhaps, is “just wait.” ASUS beat everyone to the bunch, but Dell may still be on the way to market dominance.

To whit: check out Dell’s Inspiron Mini 9 customization page. In famous Dell style, you can mix and match the components to build exactly the Inspiron Mini 9 you want. You can spend anywhere from a bare bones $279 to a jazzed up $434, with the bestseller arriving in the middle at $349. (But Dell offers a $50 off “Special savings” to knock it down to $299 – a tempting price for a hip netbook with 1GB of RAM and a built-in webcam.)

With an 8.9-inch screen (which is shiny and bright), the Inspiron is now on the smaller end of the netbook field; personally I like that extra inch of screen space. That’s certainly arguable, though. Some netbook aficionados contend that the 9-inch size is the true perfect for an on-the-go unit. Their reasoning: If you really want a larger screen, get a full-size laptop.

Its keyboard is 88 percent of full size; certainly big enough for some hands, but other units (MSI Wind, HP Mini Note, Samsung NC10, for instance) offer 92 percent, if your hands are on the beefy side.

The Mini 9 has a solid state drive, instead of a traditional spinning hard disk. The SSD’s aren’t known for their huge capacity, and Windows XP sucks up a decent amount of it. For this reason you might opt to spend a bit more and get the 16GB SSD on the Mini 9.

The Mini 9’s look is pretty straight ahead: it’s not trying to be flashy or particularly fashionable. (By the way, Apple, after dissing the netbook market by sniffing “we don’t know how to build a $500 notebook” is said to be entering the market. Certainly Apple will have the fashion angle covered.)

All in all, the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 is one decent, highly capable machine; the battery is smaller than many competitors’, but otherwise the feature set here is solid and useful.

Newsflash: in late February, 2009, Dell debuted the Inspiron Mini 10. The Mini 10 is an attractive unit. Its starting price of $399 gets you a 10.1 inch Widescreen Display (1024x576), a 16:9 aspect ratio, a 160 GB hard drive, a keyboard that’s 92 percent full size, with an optional internal TV tuner and a 6-cell battery. That’s a total package. (And that TV tuner is sexy – a tuner on a netbook may represent the final merger between the Web and old-fashioned TV.) Here’s the product page for the Dell Mini 10.

Check the latest prices: the Mini 10 starts around $350.

The Dell Mini 10 could be the netbook to beat. Engadget actually swoons, calling the Mini 10 “yummy.”

Laptop magazine is similarly enthused, saying the Mini 10 means Dell “seems to have finally gotten the netbook formula on the nose with a stunning 10-inch display, good sized keyboard and trackpad and some seriously different features.”

Netbook review: Dell Mini 9 Inspiron

PC Magazine opines that the Mini 9 Inspiron’s “mouse buttons are better engineered and easier to click than the competition’s.”

CNET praises the Mini 9 Inspiron as offering both XP and Linux options (Dell is in the forefront as a mainstream PC maker selling Linux pre-installed – if you want Ubuntu, Dell is happy to help). However, CNET notes that the Mini 9 offers nothing “radically different” from other netbooks.

Specs: (you can customize, but these specs are for the $349 version):

Intel Atom N270; glossy 8.9 inch LED display (1024X600); 1 GB RAM; Wireless 802.11g Mini Card; 32WHr Battery (4 cell); 1.3-megapixel webcam; Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 950; 8GB Solid State Drivel 3 USB 2.0 (the number of USBs may vary by price); 2.3 pounds; a 4-in-1 media card reader (SD, MS, MS Pro, MMC); VGA-out.

Top netbooks: the best netbooks compared, Dell Mini 9 Inspiron

The Dell Mini 9 Inspiron netbook (photo courtesy of Dell)

Check out the list of top netbooks:

ASUS 1000HE // Acer Aspire One // Samsung NC10 // Dell Inspiron Mini 9/Mini 10

HP 2140 Mini // Lenovo IdeaPad S10/S10e // MSI Wind // Sony Lifestyle PC

Check out the list of top netbooks:

ASUS 1000HE // Acer Aspire One // Samsung NC10 // Dell Inspiron Mini 9/Mini 10

HP 2140 Mini // Lenovo IdeaPad S10/S10e // MSI Wind // Sony Lifestyle PC

5) HP 2140 Mini Netbook

Base price: $499

Check latest price:

Google: HP 2140 Mini

Amazon: HP 2140 Mini

Product page: HP 2140 Mini-Note (HP allows some surprisingly candid user reviews on its product page; they’re worth checking out.)

First, realize that the 2140 is a big step past HP’s earlier netbook effort, the 2133 Mini-Note. It runs cooler and quieter than that earlier portable. More important, it now has the industry standard Intel Atom chip instead of the lackluster Via chip.

To be sure, this second generation netbook isn’t a budget option option; nope, it’s not the slacker-in-the-coffee-shop choice. Clearly on the pricey side, the HP 2140 Mini is aimed at the professional or serious student who’s willing to shell out a few more bucks for an impressive, feature-laden netbook.

First off, it’s got Vista, a fat OS that’s traditionally been too much of a resource hog to run on small netbooks. But reports suggest that Vista does okay on the HP 2140. (In theory you could always ask a techie friend to “downgrade” the 2140 to XP.)

One great feature: The HP Mini has an Expresscard 54 slot, a versatile expansion slot that allows you to plug in peripherals like mobile broadband, a TV tuner or an external drive. (Because of the Expresscard slot, the unit has only 2 USB instead of 3.) For a professional stuck on a plane or hoping to make a presentation without lugging a full-size unit, the HP Mini offers peripheral heaven. (Although with the AC adaptor it’s 3.8 pounds – or 3 pounds without it –– so it’s not the lightest netbook.)

For a bit more money, you can upgrade to 2 GB RAM, making the 2140 the equal (or better) of many full-size laptops.

The unit offers a 16:9 aspect ratio, so plug in an external DVD player and watch a movie in the proper display option. Your fellow train riders will be green with envy.

The HP Mini’s build is solid; it’s aluminum, not plastic. The glass screen is glossy and therefore attractive to the eye. Most compelling, the keyboard is nearly full-size, 92 percent, making it comfortable for your big paws. HP claims the keys are coated to make them resistant to wear, but is keyboard wear a major issue?

The six-cell battery provides an impressive battery life – its performance stands up to any netbook. However, the six-cell sticks out from the back, which is slightly awkward; you could opt for the three-cell, but then you’d be down to shorter (but still respectable) 3.5 hours.

In a nice touch, HP includes its Fast Charge technology with the 2140, which charges the battery 90 percent in 90 minutes.

Another nice option: HP loads the 2140 Mini full of security software, including a power-on password. Your privacy will be protected with this unit.

Netbook reviews: HP 2140 Mini

Hardware Central says the HP 2140 Mini has “one of the nicest, nearest-to-full-sized keyboards — 92 percent of full size — yet seen in the segment.” And the unit has “extra engineering done with reliability in mind, led by a technology HP calls 3D DriveGuard — a three-axis accelerometer that senses a sudden drop or shock and instantly parks the hard drive.”

CNET proclaims the HP 2140 Mini as “the netbook to beat.” (But the fact that the Mini is one of the pricier units didn't seem to figure in that calculation. The more expensive unit is supposed to be better, right?)

Laptop magazine calls the HP 2140 “our top netbook pick for road warriors.”

Specs:

Intel Atom N270 1.6 GHz Processor; 2 GB RAM; 160 GB HDD; Gigabit Ethernet - WLAN : Bluetooth 2.0 EDR, 802.11 a/b/g/n (draft); Vista Home Basic - 10.1" Widescreen TFT – camera; GMA 950 graphics; express card 54 slot; 2 USB ports; six-cell battery; Mobile Intel GMA 950 graphics card; mic in and mic out; A 0.3-megapixel camera and embedded stereo microphones

Top netbooks: the best netbooks compared, HP 2140 Mini

The HP 2140 Mini netbook (photo courtesy of HP)

Check out the list of top netbooks:

ASUS 1000HE // Acer Aspire One // Samsung NC10 // Dell Inspiron Mini 9/Mini 10

HP 2140 Mini // Lenovo IdeaPad S10/S10e // MSI Wind // Sony Lifestyle PC

Check out the list of top netbooks:

ASUS 1000HE // Acer Aspire One // Samsung NC10 // Dell Inspiron Mini 9/Mini 10

HP 2140 Mini // Lenovo IdeaPad S10/S10e // MSI Wind // Sony Lifestyle PC

6) Lenovo IdeaPad S10/S10e Netbook

Base price: $399

Check latest price:

Google: Lenovo IdeaPad S10

Amazon: Lenovo IdeaPad S10

Product page: Lenovo IdeaPad S10 netbook

Lenovo might not have as high a profile in the netbook world as, say, Asus or Acer, but the company has a respectable reputation. That reputation rests squarely on the S10, which offers a nice feature set for a competitive price. The unit combines a larger screen – a spacious 10.2 inches – with keys that are 85 percent full-size (or almost as large as the largest netbook keys).

About that screen: the big WSVGA display, with a matte surface, is clear and vibrant while being easy on the eyes. The matte surface will improve visibility under glare, like when you’re netbooking outside in the park.

A nice option: the trackpad is configurable. So you can assign various areas as “forward” or “back,” depending on your personal preferences.

Another nice option: the ExpressCard slot, which enables you to plug in the peripheral of your choice: Have ExpressCard slot, will travel. Also, the built-in Bluetooth allows you to use a wireless mouse or keyboard without needing plug into a USB.

The all-plastic construction is solid, with little status lights and a wire-mesh covered speakers that give it a touch of fashion. (Okay, it’s no Apple, but it’s thinner than the Asus Eee PC 1000H and the MSI Wind.)

A downside: even the top-end S10 has only a 3-cell battery. That’s a mystifying choice. Netbooks are supposed to be made for life on-the-go; battery life is key. Why not put out a six-cell netbook like everyone else?

Bottom line: apart from the small battery, this is a well-equipped unit for the price.

Newsflash: Lenovo came to its senses and released the Lenovo IdeaPad S10e, which has a longer battery life. It also has a Quick Start OS for fast boot up – a seriously nice option for mobile computing. Check Google prices for the Lenovo IdeaPad S10e; the base model is available for about $350.

Netbook review: Lenovo IdeaPad S10

Notebook Review praises the audio speakers on the Lenovo IdeaPad S10 as “reasonably impressive for a budget netbook” but says that “it's still possible to find a computer with more features and performance for almost the same price on sale.”

PCWorld disagrees, opining that the Lenovo IdeaPad S10 “speakers sound no better than those on most mini-notebooks: It delivers substandard sound that's barely audible since the maximum audio setting is fairly low.”

However, PCWorld give the Lenovo S10 an ultimate compliment, enthusing about its comparatively fast performance: “It's hardly a speed demon, but it's fairly fast when you consider that the nearest competitor, with the same guts, received only a 37 [benchmark score].”

Specs:

N270 Intel Atom; 1GB RAM; 10.2" WSVGA AntiGlare TFT with integrated camera 1024x600; 160GB 5400rpm hard drive; Intel GMA 950 Integrated Graphics; Broadcom 11b/g Wi-Fi wireless and Bluetooth; 4-in-1 Media card reader and ExpressCard slot; 3-Cell battery good for about 3 hours; 80GB hard drive; two USB slots.

Top netbooks: the best netbooks, Lenovo IdeaPad S10

Top netbooks: the best netbooks, Lenovo IdeaPad S10

The Lenovo IdeaPad S10 (photos courtesy of Lenovo)

Check out the list of top netbooks:

ASUS 1000HE // Acer Aspire One // Samsung NC10 // Dell Inspiron Mini 9/Mini 10

HP 2140 Mini // Lenovo IdeaPad S10/S10e // MSI Wind // Sony Lifestyle PC

Check out the list of top netbooks:

ASUS 1000HE // Acer Aspire One // Samsung NC10 // Dell Inspiron Mini 9/Mini 10

HP 2140 Mini // Lenovo IdeaPad S10/S10e // MSI Wind // Sony Lifestyle PC

7) MSI Wind

Base price: $419

Check latest price:

Google: MSI Wind

Amazon: MSI Wind

Product page: MSI Wind netbook

With a nearly full-size keyboard (92 percent) and a spacious 10-inch screen that’s visually crisp (with a matte display), the MSI Wind is a nicely designed machine. Fortunately the more recent release of this netbook provides a six-cell battery, so you’ll be equipped on the go.

A nice touch: in an effort to alleviate the strain of a small netbook screen, the MSI Wind comes with software that magnifies small text. Who says you can work with small detail on a netbook screen?

The MSI Wind has a bit of a cult following because it’s available pre-installed with SUSE Linux (though most commonly it’s sold with Windows XP). If you’re looking for the really low cost option, chose the smaller 8.9 inch screen and the Linux version. You’ll enjoy a big smile as your friends tell you how much more they spent.

Some users complain about the small trackpad (a mere 2. x 1.7 inches) and the mouse button, which uses a single surface as both the right and left click control. On the flip side, the Shift, Backspace and Enter keys are good-sized. And the MSI Wind is generally considered a visually attractive fashionable accessory, with a snazzy, compact design.

No, the MSI Wind doesn’t really offer any special feature that sets it above the competition, and yet this compact unit keeps up with the competition. The six-cell battery helps.

Netbook reviews: MSI Wind

In a significant honor, PC Magazine dubs the MSI Wind as the “Editor’s Choice” in the UMPC category.

Laptop magazine’s review praises the MSI Wind strongly, saying “f there were a Survivor: The Mini-Notebook series, and each of the ultra–low-cost notebooks were incrementally eliminated, the MSI Wind NB would be the one left standing.”

CNET is less glowing about the MSI Wind, but it does opine that the netbook “Strikes [the] optimal Netbook balance between portability and usability.”

Specs:

Intel Atom Processor; 1 GB RAM, 120 GB Hard Drive; six-cell Battery; 10-inch wide screen; 120 GB Hard Drive; Built-in 802.11b/g WLAN Card/Bluetooth Supported; 1.3 megapixel camera; 3 USB 2.0 Ports; an Ethernet jack; a 4-in-1 memory card reader; mic and headphone jacks; a VGA port.

Top netbooks: the best netbooks, MSI Wind

Top netbooks: the best netbooks, MSI Wind

The MSI Wind (photos courtesy of MSI)

Check out the list of top netbooks:

ASUS 1000HE // Acer Aspire One // Samsung NC10 // Dell Inspiron Mini 9/Mini 10

HP 2140 Mini // Lenovo IdeaPad S10/S10e // MSI Wind // Sony Lifestyle PC

Check out the list of top netbooks:

ASUS 1000HE // Acer Aspire One // Samsung NC10 // Dell Inspiron Mini 9/Mini 10

HP 2140 Mini // Lenovo IdeaPad S10/S10e // MSI Wind // Sony Lifestyle PC

8) Sony VAIO VGN-P588E Lifestyle PC

Base price: $1,199

Check latest price:

Google: Sony VAIO Lifestyle PC

Amazon: Sony VAIO Lifestyle PC

Product page: Sony VAIO Lifestyle PC

There are all the other netbooks, and then there’s…the Sony VAIO Lifestyle PC. While the other competitors strive to romance the bottom end of the market, the Lifestyle PC turns up its nose and offers pure luxury and ultra-fashionable design (well, that’s the idea, at least).

Indeed, Sony doesn’t even condescend to refer to this unit as a “netbook.” Netbooks, apparently, are for the unwashed masses. This machine is a “Lifestyle PC.” Goodness, where are the polo ponies?

The price tag of $1,200 is obviously only for those can’t be bothered by trifles like money. At about three times the cost of some netbooks, one looks at the Lifestyle PC and expects to be awestruck at the splendiferous wonder of this little bauble.

And, if you’re just looking at it across a crowded nightclub, and its holder is gorgeous creature who’s coiffed to the max, then the effect might work. With a shiny red garnet case (or other sexy colors), thin as a handful of diet crackers (less than one inch), and the sleek VAOI logo – in the right light, it just might be impressive.

The fitted leather case says “yes, I’m hot, so what?” At 1.4 pounds, this is as lightweight as any netbook.

The actual machine, though, is less concerned with function than form. The 8-inch screen is one of the smallest among the new posse of netbooks, meaning it fits well into a large handbag but is less useful for surfing. The small trackpoint navigation wins no awards for ergonomic ease of use.

Sony earns points for packing this tiny machine with 2 GB of RAM (then again, memory is cheap, and for $1,200 I’d expect it). Of course since the Lifestyle PC comes with Vista – which is too bulky for most pared-down netbooks – the extra RAM helps.

The Lifestyle PC also impresses with the built-in mobile broadband (though it does require a monthly contract with Verizon). A costly option, yes, but quite cool.

Bottom line: Until Apple releases a netbook, the Lifestyle PC (don’t you just love that name?) holds a firm but snazzy grip on the fashion option. But for this kind of money, it’s the ultra-deluxe choice.

Netbook reviews: Sony VAIO Lifestyle PC

Notebook Review glows that the Sony VAIO Lifestyle PC “fits inside your jacket pocket or your purse and packs an amazing amount of technology inside a tiny package…If you plan to purchase the VAIO P as a lightweight travel laptop it might just be the perfect laptop on the market.” However, the publication faults the unit for its weak processor.

CNET says the Lifestyle PC “has components of a cheaper machine but the design of a more expensive one.”

Specs:

Intel Atom Z520 1.33 GHz Processor; 2 USB; 8" LED backlit ultra-wide display; 2 GM RAM; 64 BG solid state drive; Mobile Intel 945GSE; Intel GMA 500 graphics; built-in GPS; 3G mobile-broadband antenna; headphone/microphone jacks; Ethernet (via dongle), 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, WWAN, six-cell battery runs about five hours; built-in webcam.

Top netbooks: the best netbooks, Sony Lifestyle PC

Top netbooks: the best netbooks, Sony Lifestyle PC

The Sony Lifestyle PC (photos courtesy of Sony)

Check out the list of top netbooks:

ASUS 1000HE // Acer Aspire One // Samsung NC10 // Dell Inspiron Mini 9/Mini 10

HP 2140 Mini // Lenovo IdeaPad S10/S10e // MSI Wind // Sony Lifestyle PC

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