Netbooks

Netbooks are perfect as travel companions or secondary systems for your basic computing needs. Most of them feature 10- to 12-inch screens and an almost identical combination of hardware under the hood -- an Intel Atom processor, 160 or 250GB hard drive and a single gig of RAM. They generally weigh less than 3 pounds, have no optical drive, and range in price from $300 to around $450. If you are on a tight budget and don't need much more than a portable machine with good battery life that is capable of emailing, web surfing, and simple document creation then this is the route to go.


Toshiba mini NB305

When it comes to netbooks we are used to seeing the same hardware being repackaged over and over again -- an Intel Atom processor, 160 or 250GB hard drive and a single gig of RAM. It's hard to tell which model is best by just looking at their specs, so it usually comes down to design, battery life and price. The Toshiba mini NB305 hits the mark with a sleek chassis and good quality construction, comfortable touchpad and keyboard, and over 8 hours of battery life.

The NB305 features a 10-inch widescreen at a 1024 x 600 resolution, the latest 1.66GHz Intel Atom N455 processor, and a 250GB hard drive that boots Windows 7 Starter. Performance is quite standard for a netbook, but the it does pack a few perks like multi-touch gesture controls on its touchpad, and a 'Sleep and Charge' USB 2.0 port, which allows you to charge your gadgets even when the machine is asleep. As you would expect, Intel's integrated graphics can handle standard-definition videos just fine, but for anything more demanding than that you're better off buying an Ion-based system.

Additional views:

Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $380
Processor: Intel Atom N55 1.66GHz Graphics: Intel GMA 3150
Memory: 1GB DDR3 (1 DIMM) Storage: 250GB 5,400RPM HDD
Display size: 10.1" (1024×600) Optical: none
Weight: 2.6 lbs (6-cell) Battery: 6-cell (~8 hours)



Asus Eee PC 1018PB

The 1018PB is one of the newest members of Asus' Eee PC family. Although not much has changed in terms of hardware compared to other netbooks in the market, this new model brings several improvements in terms of design. The 1018PB is thin and compact, with a new brushed metal casing that's more resistant to scratches, smudges or fingerprints. It has a 10.1-inch widescreen display with a 1024 x 600 native resolution, flat-topped, widely spaced island-style keys and a large trackpad.

Under the stylish exterior, however, is still the same hardware we've come to expect most netbooks released this year. There's a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor, 1GB of RAM, a 250GB hard drive and integrated Intel GMA 3150 graphics. The system's performance is right in line with what you'd expect from its standard set of components -- meaning it's fine for basic Internet surfing, office productivity, and watching streaming video. The Asus Eee PC has a pretty standard selection of ports and connectivity options, as well as a standard 6-cell battery for about around 8 hours of life.

Additional views:

Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $380
Processor: Intel Atom N50 1.66GHz Graphics: Intel GMA 3150
Memory: 1GB DDR3 (1 DIMM) Storage: 250GB 5,400RPM HDD
Display size: 10.1" (1024×600) Optical: none
Weight: 2.4 lbs (6-cell) Battery: 6-cell (~8 hours)



Asus Eee PC 1201N

Even though the Asus Eee PC 1201N doesn't use a new "Pine Trail" Atom N450 processor, as one of the few netbooks with a dual-core Atom N330 chip and Nvidia Ion graphics it offers superior performance compared to newer netbooks. With its 12-inch, 1366x768 display this unit treads dangerously close to thin and light territory, but at $480 the 1201N still represents a very good value. Other specs include 2GB of RAM, which can be expanded to 4GB, and a 250GB hard drive.

In terms of appearance, it sports the same glossy black plastic chassis and thin curves as other Eee PCs with Asus' Seashell design. The keyboard is comfortable enough for long typing sessions and the touchpad is rather small but accurate. Asus has loaded the Eee PC 1201N with all the ports you'd expect from a netbook, and then some. It has both VGA and HDMI ports, three USB 2.0 connections, audio in/out, a memory card reader, Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi and even Bluetooth. Battery life on the 1201N is definitely its weakest link at around 4 hours -- though some will consider it a fair trade off for the added performance.

Additional views:

Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $480
Processor: Intel Atom 330 1.60GHz Graphics: Nvidia Ion
Memory: 2GB DDR2 (1 DIMM) Storage: 250GB 5,400RPM HDD
Display size: 12.1" (1366×768) Optical: none
Weight: 3.2 lbs (6-cell) Battery: 6-cell (~4 hours)


Other noteworthy options in this category

Acer Aspire 721

The 11.6-inch Aspire One 721 performs better than the typical netbook and can handle HD video thanks to its AMD Neo II processor and ATI graphics. It's also quite portable at less than 3 pounds, but battery life is a bit lacking for a netbook.

Price range: $438

HP Mini 5102

The HP Mini 5102 features a durable all-metal design worthy of a business-class machine, as well as a comfortable keyboard and a whopping 10 hours of battery life.

Price range: $409