Top Netbooks Compared: the Eight Best Netbooks

With most top netbooks now offering similar specs, choosing the best netbook is a matter of selecting which features -- like keyboard design or battery life -- matter most to you.
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Among the top netbooks, which one is the very best? Leave your comment below.

Choosing the top netbook – that is, the top netbook for you – requires deciding which options are most important to you. In other words, the “best” netbook is the one that best fits your own individual fingers, budget, and desire for workplace or personal style.

Truth is (the netbook makers don’t admit this) most units have pretty similar specs. Today’s mini-laptops exist in a pretty narrow price and performance range. From the snazziest souped-up netbook to the bottom-end netbook, they offer (more or less) the same:

A 10.1-inch screen, 1 GB RAM, 160 GB hard drive, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Windows 7 Starter Edition, 3 USB ports, a Webcam, 1,024 x 600 pixel display and an Intel Atom N450 CPU.

On top of these industry-wide specs are the few distinguishing features. Some netbooks squeeze in a larger screen, say, an 11- or 12-inch, sometimes with High Def 1,366 x 768 resolution. Many units offer Bluetooth, a popular option that allows you to tether a smartphone and hook into mobile broadband.

Probably one of the biggest differences is the feel and layout of the keyboard and touchpad. Because of the cramped nature of netbooks, manufacturers have done all sorts of things with touchpads (odd shapes, built-in mouse buttons) to save space or improve the interface.

Key point: deciding what feels most comfortable for you requires actually laying your hands on the unit. I urge you to go to a store and type on your potential netbook before buying. The keyboards can feel awkward or quite suitable based on what you’re used to.

Obviously price is a big factor. You can pick up a basic netbook for around $300, or you can spend in excess of $500. Do you want a top netbook for professional presentations or merely a unit for coffeeshop browsing? Check them all out, read the reviews, take a look at the physical units, then take the plunge.

And remember, netbooks are fun. They’re light, portable, go-anywhere units, kind of cute, even -- dare we say it? -- a tad sexy. Have netbook, will travel.

And now, eight leading netbooks on the market today:

Asus 1005pe // HP Mini 210 // Toshiba Mini NB305 // Dell Inspiron Mini 10

Acer Aspire One // Samsung N210 // Lenovo IdeaPad S10 // MSI Wind U160

1) Asus Eee PC 1005PE

Base price: $365

Check prices:

Google: Asus Eee PC 1005PE

Amazon: Asus Eee PC 1005PE

Product page: ASUS Eee PC

Yes, Asus is amazing. The company is essentially synonymous with “netbook,” having released the pioneering clunky-funky EEC PC back in the prehistoric era of 2007. And they still make the netbooks that can be called the top boxes. The Eee PC 1005 is one of the very best-selling netbooks on the market.

The Eee PC 1005 netbook retails in the middle of the pack – not the cheapest nor most expensive. Perhaps its greatest claim to fame is its long-running batteries, which Asus touts is in excess of 10 hours. (Though in the real world it’s unlikely you’ll get that much.) If you need more than that, heck, go home and plug the thing in, would you?

The Asus Eee PC 1005PE includes Intel's Atom N450 processor, which gives it the edge in efficient power use on netbooks running the last generation’s Atom N270 and N280 chips. When shopping for a netbook, make sure you get one with the newer Atom N450.

Its displays is netbook standard, which is to say, suitable, not excellent. It has a 10.1-inch 1,024 x 600 pixel display, so if you were yearning for the High Def 1,36 x 768 pixel resolution screens found on some upper-end netbooks – good for movies – this isn’t the box for you.

The chiclet keyboard is classic netbook, meaning that the keys are just wide enough, unless your paws are those of a pro football lineman. Since we’ve all grown up with standard-size keyboards, just a dash of extra keyboard space really adds comfort; if that’s important to you, you might opt for an 11-inch netbook. The Asus Eee PC 1005PE’s touchpad is nothing to write home about: it’s functional but smaller than some of the more recent netbook touchpads.

Aesthetically, this netbook is blandly professional. Yes, its shiny pearlescent shell would look just fine at the office, though you wouldn’t impress anyone as a high-end netbook owner.

As a nice touch, the 1005PE comes with stereo speakers, 3 USB 2.0 ports, and a SD card reader. It has no expansion drive. To connect with the Web, it offers 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, along with Bluetooth. Its other specs are the standard 1 GB RAM (upgradeable to 2 GB), 250 GB hard drive, a Webcam and Windows 7 Starter OS.

Bottom line: All in all, a good package at a fair price, from a netbook maker that knows what it’s doing.

netbook, the asus 1005pe

The Asus 1005pe netbook (photo courtesy Asus)

Asus 1005pe // HP Mini 210 // Toshiba Mini NB305 // Dell Inspiron Mini 10

Acer Aspire One // Samsung N210 // Lenovo IdeaPad S10 // MSI Wind U160

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Tags: netbooks, Atom, keyboards, netbook review, Top netbook

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