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 youre 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 Qualcoms Snapdragon. The dominant Windows XP (which now runs about 80 percent of netbooks) will be challenged by Linux and Google's Andriod OS.
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 whos counting.
Zooming netbook sales taught the Dells and Toshibas of the world a sobering truth: consumer arent 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 heres 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. Its 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, its so far available only in Philadelphia and Atlanta.)
But no, you cant wait for the offer to come to your town. You need one now. Based on the excitement, netbooks make you happier, healthier, even sexier; theyre as essential as fruit and vegetables and far more fun; and soon, four out of five dentists will be recommending them.
So heres a comparison of the top units. The question: which netbook is best for you?
Base price: $389
For many netbook fans, the ASUS Eee PC 1000HE netbook is the top netbook: its the bestselling netbook on the market.
Its odd that Asustek, having kicked off the netbook trend in 2007, still holds its grip on the top spot. Youd think that a bigger vendor one thats 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 units 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 isnt 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 youre 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 its got an Expresscard slot to hook in cool peripherals. Its current base price is in the hefty $675 range.
The Asus 1000HE narrowly won Laptop magazines Netbook madness readers poll, besting ultra-hot competitor Samsung NC10. Mainly because its cheaper and last more than a whooping hour longer on [battery] charge, wrote Laptop.
CNETs netbook review pronounces the ASUS 1000HE very good, noting that its 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.
The ASUS Eee PC 1000HE (photos courtesy of Asustek)