Netbooks have quite a few things going for them. They are extremely lightweight and portable, typically affordable, and more recent models come with full size keyboards, larger displays and great battery life. But for all their advantages and evolution in recent years, they still lack in one key category: processing power.

I know several people who have steered clear of netbooks for this reason alone, and with just cause. Anything more than basic tasks like word processing, Internet surfing, email, music or standard definition video playback and these systems will quickly begin to feel inadequate.

Fortunately, there is a middle ground for users who want something smaller than a standard 15-inch notebook, but require more processing power than what a netbook can offer. These types of notebooks are commonly referred to as ultraportables. And while they have been around for some time, their ridiculously high price premiums have kept them from making a splash in the marketplace.

Both Intel and AMD acknowledged this void at the beginning of the year and consequently introduced their respective CULV (Consumer Ultra-Low Voltage) and Yukon platforms -- the latter to be replaced by Congo in just a few more days.

Averatec is one out of numerous manufacturers that went the Intel route. Today we'll be taking a look at their affordable N3400 Series Ultraportable Notebook, a 13.3-inch model boasting an Intel dual-core processor and a thin aluminum shell that shares some styling cues from Apple’s MacBook Air.

Weighing in at only 3.8 pounds, the N3400 is powered by an Intel Pentium Dual Core T3400 CPU operating at 2.16 GHz, 3GB of DDR2 (expandable to 8GB), a 250GB hard drive spinning at 5400 RPM, 13.3" WXGA LCD display (1280 x 800), Intel GMA4500 graphics, 802.11n Wi-Fi and a 2-cell 5000mAh battery.

Along with the MSI X-340 (which we will be reviewing soon), we have no doubt Averatec won't mind having the N3400 being compared to the more expensive MacBook Air ($800 vs. $1500). While the N3400 is a bit thicker and heavier, it packs as much processing power, similar screen state, more memory, more storage capacity, and better connectivity. There are other compromises here and there as we will find out, but the pricing proposition for a capable lightweight machine is definitely there.