Laptop Advisor's Guide To Bite-Sized Laptops You Can Take Anywhere
Last Updated Feb. 12, 2010
By Joel Durham, Jr. It’s hard to say where netbooks got their start, but one of the first popular models was ASUS’ Eee PC. Since that tiny notebook came out in 2007, virtually every major laptop manufacturer has scrambled to make something similar. Early netbooks, which are basically pint-sized laptops that typically weigh less than 4 pounds, ran either a version of Linux or Windows XP (mainly because Windows Vista was too much of a resource hog to run well on such low-powered machines). Today's typical netbook features 10-inch screen (9 and 11-inch models are available as well) and runs Windows 7 on a low-power processor (commonly an Intel Atom processor). Because they're meant to be used on the go, they all feature WiFi connectivity and some even work with 3G networks (for a fee, of course).
Netbooks are typically a supplement to a larger laptop or desktop computer – a cheap, ultra-light computer with a keyboard to toss in a backpack and have handy in case something important came up. But because of the extremely low costs, consumers on a very limited budget sometimes turn to them as their primary machines; they're fine for very basic uses like web browsing and some office tasks, but users might find that the small screens and minimal power are frustrating for anything beyond that. Still, the sheer number of units sold speaks for itself: people want netbooks. Here are a few standout models, current as of February 2010.
ASUS Eee PC 1002HA: The Classic, Updated
A 10-inch display, a 160GB hard drive, and included 10GB of online backup storage highlight this winner from one of the first netbook lines in history. The Eee PC 1002HA runs for about five hours on a single battery charge thanks to SHE (Super Hybrid Engine), which sounds more like a feature of a Prius than a computer, but actually manages power consumption in real time to keep the 1002HA running for as long as possible. With a weight of about 2.6 pounds, this little netbook is easy to carry about and use to connect to the cloud from any Wi-Fi enabled coffee shop or bookstore. You can grab an Eee PC 1002HA for around $400.
Acer Aspire One D250: Pick A Configuration
Acer jumped into the netbook ring a few years ago and never looked back. The Aspire One D250 line features a 10.1-inch displays at a pixel resolution of 1024 x 600, Intel Atom processors as fast as 1.66GHz, and typically 1GB RAM. Outfitted with either Windows XP or Windows 7, the D250 is compatible with all your favorite software. Dolby Headphone technology makes listening to anything a pleasure provided you have a decent headset. Battery life depends on whether you opt for a 3- or 6-cell model (for about up to 3-6, or 5-9, hours of life, respectively), and maximum weight is 2.8 pounds, so a D250 won’t break your back in a backpack. There’s a huge range of D250 models that run from as little as $220 to more than $400, depending on feature set.
MSI Wind U135: Best Software of the Bunch
The MSI Wind U135, from a company known more for its components than its computers, runs around $325. For that, you get a sturdy design, a great keyboard, and more. The 1024x600 backlit LCD screen is bright and friendly. Its standout feature set isn’t its hardware (you’re saddled with a 1-button mouse if you opt for this model), but its software. The U135 comes with Microsoft Works, and, to its credit, a kid-friendly Web browser called Kido’z which makes the Web safe and fun for tots.